The internet is the greatest invention of all time, but aspects of it, mainly social media is ruining our relationships. I thought of this because recently, at a family gathering, one of my siblings brought up some social media ideas. As a result, the conversation got heated, and everyone was upset with each other.
One of the great things, but also what causes many of the problems, is the ability to find a niche and stick to it with the strictest precision.
This is amplified by websites like Reddit, where many niches are located in the same place. At least in the past, different niches existed in various places on other websites.
One of the internet’s original goals was to create a place for open communication and the sharing of ideas. In principle, this is a great idea, and it indeed is a noble and worthy cause. But when it came to practice, it seems to have had the opposite effect.
Many of these problems didn’t exist in the early iterations of the internet but were rather things that developed as more people started using the internet.
In the earlier days of the internet, things were much more decentralized. For example, in high school, a friend of mine had a message board on his website. Our group of friends all used to leave messages and chat there. These days, teenagers follow each other on centralized social media websites and apps. This move from decentralized to centralized has changed the dynamics of communications. In many ways, which we will discuss, social media ruins relationships because of this centralization.
People tend to be attracted or friendly to people who are like them. In the real world, this translates into us befriend people who share some of our interests. In some ways, this may be isolating, as we can’t often find people who have all the same interests as us. For this reason, we intermingle with people who share some of our interests, enough so that we get along, but not everything.
Whether or not that is a good thing is for someone else to decide, but I can say that at least it forces us to broaden our horizons when it comes to our friends.
In a real-world relationship, you may be a Toronto Blue Jays fan while your friend is a Yankees fan. When the two teams are playing each other, this might cause some conflict, but otherwise, you both like baseball, so you can connect on that.
In real-world relationships, our friends may share an interest in a specific sport or team, but there is more diversity in other communication topics. For this reason, in real-world relationships, we are forced to find people who share some of our interests, but not all of them. But thinking of off-line relationships this way, we can see how online relationships are much different, especially when they focus on centralized social networks, which explains why social media ruins relationships.
Social Media Relationships
On the other side of the spectrum, when interests are on social media, they transcend geographic barriers. This allows people with similar interests from all around the world to connect in one place. Because of this global market, the range of people who share the interest is focused on the extreme, but there are also many in one place.
This means anyone who has the interest can be a part of the conversation on social media. As a result, online groups tend to self-select members who share all the same ideas. On the other hand, people who leave because of some disagreement can often find another group that shares their thoughts. This is the opposite of real-world relationships because if you drop your group of friends, you might not find new ones.
Over time groups on social media grow, but at the same time, they tend to consist of only the most extreme members.
Over time, the topics of conversation become stricter, focused and more limited. As the group grows and becomes more dominant by ideology, there is less exposure to different ideas and opinions. People who suggest new or different ideas might even be ostracized from the group. This process further consolidating the conversation and ensure conformity.
Social media groups tend to form around specific niches; thus, their focus is by necessity narrow.
But at the same time, this causes problems because it cuts down on the diversity of opinions, thoughts and ideas. This extreme focus also shapes the people’s views who are a part of the group, and that focus tends to slip into their real-world relationships.
How Social Media Ruins Relationships
In real-world relationships, a greater range of topics tend to come up in the conversation as a group spends more time together. But on the internet, with so many specific social media groups, the opposite happens. Because of these bubbles, people need to be members of different groups to hear diverse ideas, but this rarely happens.
On top of this, specialized groups tend to develop language games, which means that words begin to gain unique and specific meanings to the group.
This, in turn, leads to difficulty in understanding conversations with people outside of the groups. When our words’ implications change too much, we lose the ability to understand other people and their views.
At first, this doesn’t seem like it should be a problem, as it tends to stay online. But in times like these, when so much is going on, there are extremes on every topic, which causes real-life problems. This is especially a problem when there are controversial topics in the news every day.
As I mentioned earlier, at a recent family get together, people got angry because of the information someone was getting from their social media feeds.
In many ways, our social media bubbles are causing clashing in our real lives.
We could go on for ages about all the problems that social media causes online, but here we will focus on the issues it causes in the real world. It might seem that what is online stays online, but that isn’t always the case, as social media ruins relationships that aren’t on the internet as well.
But What Can We Do?
The internet’s most fantastic offer was the ability to spread information, but our tendency to stick to people like us highjacked that process. As a result, our ideas have become more saturated and social media is causing us to lose touch with information or ideas outside of our bubbles.
Because of this, people are becoming more and more intolerant of alternative ideas. In part, this is because they only hear the views of people with who they already agree. Also, other people’s ideas seem to become more and more strange and unacceptable because of this saturation.
It is easy to get caught up in this game, as we are risking it every time we go online. Often, we don’t even realize it is happening until we take a step back, but that isn’t easy.
What makes it even harder is that technology companies take advantage of our basic needs and manipulate us to the max.
The internet was supposed to liberate our minds, but instead, it created a seemingly infinite number of rabbit holes. On top of this, our hyper-connectivity has made it even worse, as we’ve lost the ability to understand groups that we aren’t a part of. Our social media bubbles make it seem like the other side doesn’t exist or is completely crazy. Simultaneously, because all the evidence we see supports our ideas, we become more confident of what we already believe.
If we want to expand our minds, better our lives and improve our relationships, we need to step back and realize the echo chambers we are stuck in. With this realization in mind, we can free ourselves from cognitive biases and social media blackholes.
The worst prisons are the ones we don’t realize we are in.
Because of this, once we become aware of the traps we have fallen into, we will wonder how we ever got into them in the first place.
Once we realize that social media ruins relationships, we can start to step back from those silos. The easiest way to do this is to delete social media from your phone, it won’t be easy at first, but you will quickly feel better.
Once you have freed yourself from the grips of social media, you can start seeking out relationships in real life again.
Relationships, where we are forced to be more balanced, will be better for us in the long run. It is only a matter of taking the first step and freeing ourselves from social media.