Effects of social media on relationships and communication

Oswald Pio Vas

Social Media may only be a decade old, but it has been very influential to our modern society and – more importantly – it is changing the way we build our interpersonal relationships with our fellow human beings. 

As humans our real method of communication should be through authentic communication that is face to face. Most of our communication is based on non-verbal body language while a small percentage is based on written or verbal language. So what happens when we do not communicate physically?

Our interactions in social media tend to be weak ties—that is, we don’t feel as personally connected to the people at the other end of communication as we do when we’re face-to-face. “So while we’re communicating more, we may not necessarily be building relationships as strongly,” says Dr. Paul Booth, PhD, and assistant professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago.


We are losing the art of communication. In fact by a wide margin electronic communication has overtaken face-to-face and voice-to-voice communication. “I’m fine” in a text message may not always mean they are fine at all. This is where social media could get dicy. People tend to create an image or an illusion of their choosing. They can be whoever they want to be. It is easier for them to hide behind the text, the emails, the facebook, etc. The more we think we are connecting the more we are actually disconnecting from the real world.

A few days ago I watched a video on Business Insider where Dr. Dan Siegel, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, reveals how social media is actually physically rewiring our brains. He says that since the brain is the social organ of the body, we can understand why the social media and the brain could go hand in hand. That’s why social media took off because the brain is social and people really want to connect with each other. As social media keeps creating itself, the social media will be shaping our brain.

On the other hand when people meet face to face there are about seven signals to take note of which take place while communicating: eye contact, facial expression, tone of voice, posture, gesture, timing (of what they do) and intensity. Whereas these signs are missing in email, texting and social media.

A lot of relationships have been ruined due to social media addiction. When people meet face to face, they have nothing to talk about because they have said everything through text on social media or they have looked at each other’s social media feeds. “Status updates” or “text messaging” could also create a lot of misunderstanding among couples, friends, parents, etc. 

However while there is nothing wrong with the use of social media if it is used in the right way, but if it replaces face-to-face communication and makes people less expressive, it could be a real threat to future generations.

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