The Power of Social Media; Does It Enhance or Swallow Up Relationships?
Today, absolutely everyone has been impacted by social media. Celebrities daily lives are among the first to be posted online, followed by our friends’ posts, then posts of others we may not even know.
However, having many online friends does not mean we truly know all of them. It is safe to assume that when one starts their social media account (e.g., Facebook, Twitter or Instagram), the person adds their real-life friends and family members first. As the person familiarizes themselves with social media, she/he begins to add friends of their friends, acquaintances, etc.
In terms of connecting; we do connect with our close friends on an emotional and interpersonal level, when we post or comment on each others’ social media updates, or upload photos of each other. What is posted can definitely cause any emotion in an individual, groups of individuals, and worldwide. However, if we are in the same room physically, and are browsing through social media feeds, that is when we are not connecting at all whatsoever.
It is without a doubt that social media does have the power to isolate people in an environment for community spirit. Take for example the photo above, where a group of women are looking at their own phones, instead of engaging in a conversation. This has been seen many times in other environments, such as movie theatres, parks, and the like.
Through social media, we tend to see the best moments our friends or family go through. It is not often when someone posts a bad experience they’ve had, or a photo of themselves that may not be so flattering. Curiously, there is a saying that goes that those who “show-off more”, tend to be the least happy. This can be said true for many people who constantly use social media. For instance, there have been many studies that have proven that happier couples do not find the need to post about being together on social media. They do no seek validation from others and do not feel like they have anything to prove. They deal with their conflicts offline because it is always better if a third party does not voice in their opinion, if they do not know all the details and cannot feel what the couple feels. It is natural that when you are happy with your life, you are more present to it.
There is no doubt that only by knowing and interacting with a person in real life does one truly know her/him and what they are going through. But we do not really know people we have met for the first time on social media.
Unfortunately, it is without question that social media platforms have been used for negative motives, among them bullying or cat fishing. Bullying can vary from commenting that someone is “too skinny”, or posting a video online that uses foul-language talking about someone else. Cat fishing entails pretending to be someone else. There is always a high risk of going on a “blind date”, and end up meeting someone who is completely different from what they posted on let’s say the Tinder app. Social media platforms may help deteriorate or build fake relationships.
Privacy in a Public World
It is necessary to have extra precaution when we add strangers to our social media platforms. Both adults and youth are highly recommended to keep all of their information as private as possible, because you never know who is behind another computer. For instances, there have been incidents where people have had others create a fake account, using their name and photos previously posted by the actual person. Or you expect to meet “the man/woman of your dreams” as depicted in their online profile photo, but he/she turns out to look completely different. Also, it is widely known that people’s accounts have been hacked before, unfortunately.
Celebrities are definitely not left out. From the celebrity hacks in 2014 to 2018’s sexual assault allegations, celebrities are affected by social media platforms as much as the general public. The biggest difference between celebrities and us is that their lives are known worldwide, so if their reputation is at stake, it is in the eyes of the whole world. One of the biggest celebrity hacks occurred on August 31, 2014. Imageboard 4chan leaked nude photos of celebrities (including those of Jennifer Lawrence, Jill Scott, and Kirsten Dunst), proving this false sense of security. Dubbed as the Fappening, this leak brought forth the issue of privacy and security to the forefront of media attention.
Reactions towards this incident came flooding in. Jennifer Lawrence received Josh Hutcherson’s support via US Weekly Magazine, he stated: “I just think all that stuff is ridiculous…It’s something you obviously don’t want to happen to you and it’s really unfortunate that it happens. I hate the way the world sort of views those sorts of issues.” Fortunately, this incident did not damage the friendship between Lawrence and Hutcherson. It actually strengthened it.
But this was not the same case during 2018’s sexual assault allegations. Many well-known public figures’ careers came to a rough halt after many actresses starting speaking up on sexual assault in Hollywood. Emma Thompson was among the first to make it well-known to the public, that Harvey Weinstein was “a bully and a predator” via The Guardian. After many more actresses started speaking up, like Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, Weinstein, who was a well-known film producer, was on the “top of the harassment ladder”. BAFTA suspended Weinstein’s membership around October 2018. Furthermore, during Elle’s Women in Hollywood Jennifer Lawrence revealed that early in her career, she had been made part of a “naked line-up”, standing with other women with only paste-ons covering their intimate parts. Lawrence stated: “After that degrading and humiliating lineup, the female producer told me I should use the naked photos of myself as inspiration for my diet.” Of course, all of these moments went viral online through social media platforms. This helped bond people that are against sexual assault in the workplace and beyond. It is clear that celebrities’ relationships with other people (personally and professionally) affect everyone, and that social media platforms have the capacity to spread news extremely fast.
Consent is a key issue on social media and relationships. During these 2014 and 2018 incidents, consent was not given at all. These people did not give consent to get their pictures shared all over social media platforms, and sexual assault was definitely uncalled for.
Social Media’s Positive Outcomes
On another note, social media platforms also offer many benefits. For instance, it has helped childhood best friends reunite after years of not knowing about the other (speaking from personal experience). It has also allowed people access to online dating sites, which have been reported to pair up lasting relationships. As reported by The HuffPost: “New research suggests that one in three Americans now meet their spouses online, and that those marriages are more satisfying and less likely to end in divorce than those that begin in traditional, offline venues.” It further states that out of nearly 20,000 respondents, 35 percent met their spouses online. This study was conducted by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, and funded by eHarmony.
There have also been fandoms who have communicated and met each other by joining the same communities online, such as @TomHollandFansM on Facebook, or interacting for the same video game on Playstation Community. Social media platforms have also opened the doors for advocates of diverse causes. For instance, there have been those who backlash campaigns that portray false or almost impossible body images. Around 2014, retail company Victoria’s Secret had to change its campaign name, “The Perfect Body”, to “A Body for Everybody”, after a Change.org petition circulated around the web, which received about 27,000 signatures. This demonstrates the positive reinforcement that online campaigns can achieve and at a great scale.
Another example of positivity through social media platforms is during Barbie’s “Imagine The Possibilities” campaign, which demonstrates a video of young girls working in a variety of professional fields. One girl is a professor, while another one is a veterinarian. The video starts out with the question “What happens when girls are free to imagine they can be anything?” A little girl walks into a college-classroom and states “Hello my name is Gwen and I will be your professor today. And I will be talking about the brain”. This is encouraging young girls to “be anything”. Not only does this encourage young girls, it also helps build relationships between them and people that are strong supporters of this cause.
Actors like Hugh Jackman also help bring positivity to social media. He recently posted on his Instagram account, a picture of himself with a group of young students from Harlem Village Academies, stating: “I get to sing with these amazing kids from the @harlemvillageacademies tonight [May 9, 2018]. I love them all!” He used his social media platform and connections to share and support a positive cause (HVA Benefit).
A more recent event that has caused an uprising beyond social media is the case against lawyer Aaron Schlossberg. He threatened a Hispanic immigrant and employee of Fresh Kitchen in New York City earlier this week, by telling her he will call federal immigration officials to take her away for speaking in Spanish in front of him, when she should be speaking in English. The employee filmed him as he verbally discriminated her. City residents spoke up and have since bombarded Schlossberg’s Yelp Reviews with negative comments on his actions. Even city officials such as Congressman Adriano Espaillat filed their complaints against Schlossberg, which has caused Schlossberg to get kicked out of his work space. If Schlossberg damaged anyone’s reputation, it was his own, and demonstrated the power of the people through social media and beyond.
Is There Such A Thing As, “Using and Knowing Too Much Social Media?”
Sometimes, it is best to take a break from social media platforms. There are always those who constantly post what they are doing. It may not be absolutely everything that they do, but it can more than a good amount of material. Leonardo DiCaprio is well-known for keeping to himself to a good degree. He may have an Instagram account, but he posts for environmental causes, not about his personal life. Also, Psychology Today revealed that much research evidence suggests that “excessive use of the Internet by one partner in a relationship can negatively affect relationship quality.” Even more so, using social media a lot can prevent you from getting your daily activities done, such as exercising, finishing a good book, or even doing your everyday chores.
The excessive use of media has caused some psychologists to link some mental disorders to it. One of the mental disorders that have been linked to the excessive use of social media is the Narcissistic Personality Disorder. According to Mayo Clinic Staff on their online website, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a “mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and lack of empathy for others.” But behind this inflated sense of self-importance, there is a fragile self-esteem from people who usually take constant selfies. They have a need for people’s “likes” and comments, to help boost their self-esteem.
Since media is so engrained into our lives, a new field of research has been emerging in order to understand how media impacts us; it is called “Media Psychology”. This new emerging branch of psychology focuses on the relationship between human behavior and media. Some of the major sub areas of interest are identity, body image, social life, and an individual’s life goals.
Ultimately, one should ask oneself: “Will this enhance my life and my relationships, or will this potentially feed into negativity?” It is your job to decide what to post, who to share it with, when to post, and the impact it will have.
What do you think? Leave a comment.