Social media is a powerful marketing tool for any business. But in order to better understand its wider impact, we should recognize the extent to which social media can also shape our personal lives. There are so many aspects of our everyday reality which can be influenced by the way we engage with social media, and relationships would come near the top of that list.
Creation of our “digital self”
No matter how honest, straightforward and unpretentious you are, when you post content on social media, consciously or subconsciously, you will be performing a degree of self-censorship. We select the pictures where we look our best, preventing the world from seeing any unflattering details. We post photos designed to make our trip seem as entertaining as possible. We would never conceive sharing information which highlighted our failures, mistakes, or faults. In creating and maintaining a web presence, we portray the most positive picture of ourselves, eradicating one of the most human aspects of all: our flaws. Of course, some of us go much further than that – we openly lie about activities, achievements, and whereabouts to online followers.
Will these digitally biased alter-egos remain a fixture of the virtual world? They mostly do not. At some point, someone whose impression of you is based on your social media profile is likely to meet the real you. The online version will be confronted by the offline reality.
Another important question is this: how much do we tend to believe these digital images of our real selves? Though most of us are able to filter the most obvious enhancements, we still expect someone to stand up to his or her virtual self-presentation. In practice, this leads to a lot of confusion, disappointment, and misunderstanding.
Social media form a virtual playground where people of all nations, genders, orientations and social statuses interact. It creates exciting opportunities for those, who want to meet singles online, and it has been warmly welcomed by those too occupied or shy to find a partner in some more traditional manner.
But cheaters also seize on social media for the degree of anonymity it offers when it comes to meeting someone outside their existing partnership. Does it really count as cheating, when you flirt online? Can someone trace your affair if you communicate only through social media and erase all messages thoroughly? The overall ease of flirting through social media has made cheating more possible, even tempting some who might have remained monogamous in the ‘real world.’ This creates an ambivalent approach towards relationships, or what has been referred to as an ‘all-doors-open’ philosophy.
Another threat to fidelity comes with the possibility to be randomly contacted on social media. It means that even if you deliberately avoid engaging in some high-risk activities in real life (such as solo trips to bars and clubs) you still can be approached and seduced by someone online.
Simplification that can be addictive
All these factors influence social media users to perceive relationships in a significantly simplified manner. Pushing “like”, swiping someone “right”, blocking a person you don´t like anymore are human interactions which can reduce the complexity of relationships to the status of one large game.
Generation Y is under particular threat of not being able to withstand the complications and consequences of real-life relationships anymore. In fact, various studies suggest youth often prefer virtual interaction through social media for this very reason. It’s easy, fast, unbinding, and it allows you to keep your distance and avoid the aftermath of your actions.
However, most of the youngsters who grow up on social media will have to face reality at some point. How will they be able to cope with it? That’s a good question. Some sociologists believe this will lead to a significant increase in age averages for establishing serious relationships, marriages or families. People who were shaped in their youth by this oversimplified version of relationships simply won’t be prepared to face all the ups and downs of real relationships.