Social Media Relationships

I’ve become a regular at a cute diner in my neighborhood. There’s something cozy about the restaurant’s décor that reminds me of my grandparents’ kitchen. Similarly, I regularly visit Facebook, as there’s something about connecting with old friends and acquaintances that I enjoy. I am a creature of habit in my digital and non-digital life. Do I feel more connected or am I isolating myself? Some argue that social media isolates people. Users may have hundreds of friends on Facebook, but many of those people may not be strong social connections. I used to have a few hundred; seriously. Until I took a look and realized I didn’t “know” these people. Now I’m squarely at 45 and they all connect with my real life. Quality, not quantity is what counts.

Relationships formed through social networking sites may be positive and beneficial. According to the PEW Research Center  Facebook users were found to be more trusting than others and have closer relationships than the average “isolated” American. Technology makes it possible for us to maintain relationships with others in ways that were not possible a few decades ago. Conversely, that same technology has contributed to the decline of other technologies – when was the last time you saw a phone booth or used a traditional landline telephone?

Bernadette Longo (2014) in Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making points out that the way we use social media shapes us while we shape the media. Our digital world is now far more collaborative and interactive, and we expect that from all social media. At the same time, the world is shrinking and becoming “borderless” due to the opportunities new technologies afford us. This brings new challenges as different cultures bring very different perspectives. Where I may experience Facebook as a forum for sharing my individual life and experiences, someone from a more collectivist culture may see Facebook as a place to represent the community. The challenge is to recognize that there are multiple cultural perspectives and interpretations of technology and its uses.

Social Media HoneyComb2

(The Social Media HoneyComb, Business Insider, Jan Kietzmann)

Also, each social media platform fills a different role in our social lives. In Social Media? Get Serious! Jan Kietzmann, Kristopher Hermkens, Ian McCarthy, and Bruno Silvestre (2011) describe a framework for understanding social media through the seven functional building blocks: identity, conversations, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups.” (p. 243). Each platform allows users to experience these elements, but each platform gives users different tools that emphasize different building blocks. When Facebook added the feature of posting status updates, (and who doesn’t love seeing what someone cooked, or who’s at the dentist…) it began to emphasize the building block of presence and not just identity. One major building block of social media is the sense of community and how we connect with others. Longo (2014) states, “The desire for community seems to be so strong that we do not often consider how forming a community is as much an act of exclusion as it is of inclusion” (p. 25).

In many ways, social media connects to my life in a way that is different from my non-digital life; yet they clearly intersect. By positively reviewing my favorite diner online, I may help the business thrive and grow which may benefit my connections with the restaurant. Through my classes at Stout, my digital friendship with one classmate has turned into a “real” friendship and even though she graduated, we remain strongly connected. In speaking of the audience and tools of technology, Katz, 1992; Moses & Katz, 2006 stated “It is through processes such as this that we can come to greater understanding of the effects of social media on our relationships—how they extend our ability to engage people and how they impose a machine ethic on human relationships” (as cited in Longo, 2011, p.30). I may find technologies and social media frustrating at times, but I appreciate what it’s done for me. Without it I wouldn’t have found a new job opportunity, be completing my degree, or met a terrific new friend. And while that’s all really important, I have to go now.

Facebook needs an updated picture of my cat.

Buddy

Posted on November 8, 2015, in Blogs, Digital, Social Media, Technology. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Cute kitty, but it is too early to start decorating for Christmas! 😉

    I would agree that social media has changed many people’s lives for the better. My mother, who is not so great with technology, is slowly becoming internet savvy and brags about having 100+ friends. She enjoys the humorous and funny posts and she never feels alone anymore.

    If it was not for social media, my mother would not get so many photos of the family or be able to keep up on the news that many of us post. Life is too busy to select photos to have printed, wait for them to print, and then mail them. Also, with my life of work, family, homework, and a car accident injury, I rarely have time to be on the phone (or online), so 30-second photo or status update can really brighten my mother’s day.

    • No, no it’s not a Christmas tree and I agree its way too early. It’s simply a small tree with white lights (for now). I change the look throughout the year. Sometimes I hang lemons on it for spring, or photos of friends when I have a get-together. It is definitely not a Christmas tree until after Thanksgiving.

      As for finding time to talk, I simply do – I’m still a caller. So I use my commute time in the car to call friends and family. Nothing beats catching up by voice.

      (That’s Buddy, one of two feral cats I adopted. His sister’s name is Holly Berry, like the actress and season.)

  2. I like that you included Longo’s quote about “the desire for community.” I know I often evaluate my use of two different Twitter profiles, one for “everyone” and the other for undergraduates. I have a feeling one does exclude some folks who don’t like ALL of my interests. I think it’s because I created it in 2009 when I was a PhD student so it started with academic research in mind and that’s how I gained followers, but now post-tenure it can veer into more tweets about tv shows and 80s bands, which might exclude that “original audience.”
    Meanwhile, the account that I created with a student audience in mind focuses on writing and social media interests, and the followers are only expecting that content.

    Still, your post shines this week because of its inclusion of a cat photo because what is the internet without cat pics? 🙂

  3. Hey Dana –

    So what was it like de-friending all of those people? I think that is an interesting thought to handling social media accounts and connecting with people you really “know”. But is it people you know that you meet in real life? Or is it people you meet on line and then truly get to know them? In one respect, I think we can take this play for our own playbooks – this might be why I don’t actually friend people, I tell people they have to friend me and then in a few months when I check Facebook I will friend them. But I think it does go to the point that we should manage our connections in a way that allows us to actually connect with them.

    So whether you’re connecting with people you met in your human life or in your virtual life – as long as you’re connecting with them as you have found, then they could very well elicit positive and beneficial communications. I also really liked your point about the roles that social media platforms fulfill for individuals. Thinking of the roles and connections that can be driven from social media can potentially impact how we might address our personal or organizational communication strategy.

    Chelsea

    P.S. Love the cat picture! HA! That entire last though was so – SQUIRREL… moment.

    • Hi Chelsea,

      De-friending folks made me panic – “oh no, they’ll be mad and no one de-friends…” And it was so liberating to stop posting to be “interesting” to people who didn’t actually know me. Seriously, do I care what my high school classmates of 1980 are doing? No. I connect on Facebook only with people I actually know. It’s where I have fun. I connect on LinkedIn with people who are connections o colleagues – in order to network. Removing “non-essential” people from my FB reduced a sort of stress I didn’t know was happening with me. It’s all about balancing. For me, social media is ancillary to real life interactions and will never replace F2F.

      Buddy thanks you for the compliment.

      • Hi Dana, I can’t agree with you more! I think the stipulations with “de-friending” someone is a tad silly. Hence why I probably only friend people I know. But even so, it is interesting to see people “friend-request” – those people who were two years ahead of me in high school that I rarely talked to… That is probably why I refuse to add people and tell people (to their face) to friend me. **Wink** You’re welcome Buddy!

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