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Social media strengthens inter-personal ties. First of all, it facilitates contact between friends, relatives, and strangers. The social media platforms offer a fusion of online and physical environments while also providing opportunities for fostering and maintaining relationships that have already begun in the real world. In particular, friendships and family ties are strengthened by the media. The user is already familiar with the majority of their social acquaintances offline; online, their relationship statuses are simply enhanced. By establishing connections with both known and unknown people as well as groups online, people can also form interpersonal ties.
This paper's main claim is that social media enhances interpersonal connections. The argument is inductive, and will utilize available premises to strongly defend it and prove that the conclusion is true. When time and space does not allow for close contact and interaction between friends and family, these individuals opt for alternative means of communication, which becomes facilitated by social media. Depending on the network adopted, the users have video functions, instant messages, chat options and group formations at their disposal, which make it easier for them to interact (Dainton, 2013). This enables the transfer of real world interactions online, providing a convergence of online and offline spaces, allowing the individual to interact with others (Giffords, 2009). However, this transfer has been touted to isolate and alienate people (Holt-Lunstad, 2010), downplay the essence of real life communication and interactions (Reid & Reid, 2007), and promote competition and jealousy (Muise, 2009).
Social media makes communication easier between friends and family. Ideally, friends and families may be living in distant spatial locations that make hinder face-to-face communication that may have been frequent of such individuals were living close to one another. As a result, social media recreates the traditional ties by offering connectivity by bolstering their communication. Facebook and Twitter, for instance, have varied functionalities that enable users to communicate with other online contacts, through online groups, message inboxes, and comments and likes, thereby improving communication. Sites like Skype have video functionalities that imitate the face-to-face dialogue reminiscent of real life conversations. These aspects confirm the thesis statement regarding social media’s reinforcement of interpersonal relationships.
The convergence of online and offline space is possible with social media. Most of the user’s real world social contacts have personal and group profiles on the various networking sites. The overlap between the virtual and real space allows for the transfer of offline experiences online and the subsequent offsetting of conversations regarding the same. Dainton (2013) argues that most of the Facebook users gain social contacts online after meeting face-to-face. This premise means that most of the online contacts are former real life social contacts that are added online to enable the recreation of those offline experiences in the virtual space, thereby reinforcing the interactions for long term appeal.
Besides, social media enables the development of new interpersonal relationships. The various social sites provide avenues where users can interact with others, whether personally known or unknown to them. The act of sending a friend request to known and anonymous online users in Facebook allows the individual to form new social contacts online that enable them to interact, share ideas and other personal cues that resemble face-to-face interactions (Giffords, 2009). Those new friends share values, views, needs or experiences that are important interpersonal attributes for relational development. Dainton (2013) observes that some the users perceive these relationships to be very real, just like their offline relationships, invoking the relational improvement of interpersonal relationships.
Additionally, such type of media strengthens existing relationships. These relationships can be familial, romantic or just friendship (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). When the individuals meet in the real world, the preformed relationship status is transferred online for further development and maintenance. This aspect means that users can disclose their personal information to their discretion, allowing them to become more attached or entangled in each other’s life. According to Dainton (2013), these aspects generally strengthen the young people’s existing interpersonal relationships.
However, despite existing research showing that social media strengthens interpersonal relationships, part of it suggests that this type of media negatively affects the interpersonal interactions. Some of the claims are that social media isolates and alienates people, downplays the sincerity and integrity of face-to-face communication and interactions, and is a source of competition and jealousy, which potentiates mental health issues of anxiety and other disorders. On isolation and alienation of people, research indicates that this type of media infuses less personal and authentic relationships. According to Holt-Lunstad (2010), the frequent use of social media disrupts real life social interaction by offering the user an escape into the superficial artificial world of virtual technology. The isolationist philosophy from the increased social media presence impairs the person’s ability to nurture real interpersonal relationships, resulting in their loneliness and out of touch with real relationships. Besides, social media communication has been touted to be of low quality, given the lack of nonverbal cues during online dialogue. The unavailability of some of the important communication cues means that the overall communique is low quality. Reid and Reid (2007) contend that the low communication quality might mediate the hasty relationship formation and development, as individuals quickly move to personal topics and related messages. On social media’s predisposition to negative emotions, Muse (2009), highlights that the picture sharing and status updates regarding some of success highlights elicit comparison and competition, which predisposes the individual to mental health issues. The associated anxiety and mental challenges hinder quality interpersonal relationships.
Nonetheless, despite these rebuttals, existing research supports the import of social media in strengthening interpersonal relationships. These rebuttals do not account for the role played by social media in distant relationships, be it familial, friendships, or romantic types. The era of globalization and international migrations enables the individuals to work and study in spatial locations far away from their immediate social contacts. Although these individuals can communicate via telephone, fax, or letter-writing, these media are generally slow and may take several days for the message to reach the intended target. Social media bridges the time and distance by offering quick and instantaneous communication that upholds these initial interpersonal interactions, thereby reinforcing such relationships (Dainton, 2013). On the issue of low communication quality associated with social media, various sites have functional domains that enable users to use the video function, emoji, and even voice calls for user appeal and communication efficiency. Besides, on the issue of competition and comparison among the user’s social contacts, Giffords (2009) contends that users connect with individuals with shared values, views, needs and experiences that mirror real life interactions, downplaying some of the jealousy and comparison.
The conclusion following these arguments is that the premises supporting social media’s role in developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships are strong. Hardy et al. (2015) explains that for an inductive argument, the premises must be strong enough to warrant the conclusion to be true. Given that the premises on social media’s improvement of the quality of interpersonal relationships outweigh the rebuttals, it is unlikely that the conclusion in which social is implicated in the strengthening of interpersonal relationships is false.
Dainton, M. (2013). Relationship maintenance on Facebook: Development of a measure, relationship to general maintenance, and relationship satisfaction. College Student Journal, 47(1), 113-121.
Ellison, N., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends”: Exploring the relationship between college students “use of online social networks & social capital” in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(3):1143-1168.
Giffords, E. D. (2009). The internet and social work: the next generation. Families inSociety: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 90(4), 413-418.
Hardy, J., Foster, C., & Zúñiga, Y., & Postigo, G. (2015). With good reason: A guide to critical thinking [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Med, 7(7), e1000316.
Muise, A., Christofides, E., & Desmarais, S. (2009). More information than you ever wanted: Does Facebook bring out the green-eyed monster of jealousy?. CyberPsychology & behavior, 12(4), 441-444.
Reid, D. J., & Reid, F. J. (2007). Text or talk? Social anxiety, loneliness, and divergent preferences for cell phone use. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(3), 424-435.
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