Agree or Disagree: Media Reduce Meaningful Interaction Between People

There is a statement that social media diminish meaningful interaction between their users. In the next paragraphs I will explaine to what extend do I agree or disagree with it; this essay will discuss if social media is making interactions between users less meaningful or not. This will be done by, firstly, showing the difference between strong ties and weak ties. And second, by giving the examples of adolescents and military wives to show the positive impact that social media has on their interactions. Some studies showed that maybe the internet has helped to change people’s interactions, making them less meaningful, temporary and weak, reducing their sociability. However, a number of studies showed that the link between the internet and the individual net is neutral or even positive. It is needed to consider strong and weak connections separately since they are and work differently. 

Some people can think and defend that the internet, social media, helps to weaken relationships. Maybe because, normally, a person has more weak relationships than strong relationships. This is due to the fact that strong relationships involve confidence and reciprocity, and this needs more time and more emotional investment to create than a weak connection. Since they have these differences, they work with different purposes.

The weak relationships are more diverse. They create the possibility of making new connections, even if weak, with different people. People with different backgrounds or age or race. Having this possibility of making connections with people that are different from each other it is called “bridging”. “Bridging” give the opportunity to the person to meet people and get different perspectives about different topics. And this would be more difficult to happen without the internet. This type of interactions is easy to maintain since they do not need as much investment as a strong tie. Using the internet, for example, Facebook, let people approach different types of people and create new contacts.

However, meaningful relationships help the person to trust the other with delicate information and to look for and believe in their opinions. They also bring any support the person may need, whereas it is emotional or financial for example. Studies about strong relationships are divided into three hypotheses. The reinforcement hypothesis that believes that the use of internet reinforces the already strong connection. Since people have more opportunities to communicate and to fortify the bond that they already have. This communication can lead to creating plans to be face-to-face. The displacement hypothesis that defends that since people are using the internet they do not have enough time to spend face-to-face time with their strong relationships. Also, since they have access to meet different people from all around the world, they reduce their investment in their strong ties what can weaken them. The third hypothesis is the no impact hypothesis. Researches showed that there is no considerable difference between internet users or non-users and their strong connections. They also showed that the time spent with people’s strong relationships do not change even if people use the internet or not.

Some factors that may help to not decrease the numbers of meaningful relationships online are that normally these relationships already exist and online communication it is just another method to communicate with each other. Another factor is the previous investment that the relation had before using the internet, so using it is a way to reinforce the strong tie.

Let’s consider the example of adolescents. Their participation online may create some concerns, such as being exposed to cyberbullying or having interactions with strangers that may ask for unappropriated pictures or to try to arrange meetings to hurt them. However, the internet, social media. is also a place where they can find support from their peers, find and connect with other adolescents that may deal with the same issues, creating a bond and a strong tie. Internet is also a place where they can develop their identity. Where they can learn from others and their feedback towards their pictures or conversation themes that may occur. Online communication can help adolescents to create intimate and strong connections. Normally, they would do it face-to-face with their close friends. However, according to various researches, some people feel ashamed to share intimate information face-to-face, so they prefer to do it online. This may be due to the fact that online, they can control what they are going to say and how. And if the adolescent is shy this make him/her feel more secure, while face-to-face this is less plausible. Another advantage of using online communication is to maintain a strong tie with friends that may not be able to be present in their lives. According to Valkenburg and Peter, there are two hypotheses concerning the creation of friendships online. The “rich-get-richer” hypothesis defends that the adolescents that are going to benefit from online communications to create relationships are the ones that have the facility to do it face-to-face. The other hypothesis is the social compensation hypothesis. This one describes that the adolescents that benefit from online communication are socially anxious and lonely ones. As mentioned before, this may be due to the fact that they can control what they are going to say and how. This control can make them open to others and lead to strong ties with their peers. However, this feeling of security and by consequence the increase of their strong ties only happen if the person on the other side is not communicating anonymously. Earlier, Valkenburg and Peter, made research that explains how self-disclosure is linked to the positive effects of online communication. Adolescents feel safe to expose themselves when communicating online with their peers and while this exposition and trust continues, it promotes the quality of their connection since they are sharing and support each other. Even if some studies try to argue that the constant use of the internet to create more new contacts and to communicate with weak ties can diminish the quality of strong ties. In this case, for adolescents, it is more accessible to maintain and reinforce their meaningful relationships using the internet.

Another example of one group in specific where it is easier for them to maintain and reinforce their strong relationships using the internet is the military wifes. Military spouses can suffer from psychological distress due to their husbands being deployed. When the couple does not communicate frequently, this can create disagreements and it is more difficult to solve them since there is limited communication. It can also diminish the couple’s intimacy. Online communication can have a positive impact and help to reduce this distress by making it possible for the couple to communicate while separated. Even if communication is not always available, when it is it helps to maintain a strong connection. Military spouses use social media and some online platforms to make their communications. Some researches propose that social media is a basic need for the family life of this group. It helps the family to maintain contact with the deployed military. The spouse can use Skype, for example, to communicate by video what can give a sense of face-to-face communication. The fact that they can communicate with their deployed husband enhanced their well-being and happiness. The fact that they can see that they are okay or if they are hurt if it is serious or not, may help them to feel this way. According to Rea et al., one of the spouses that participate in their study expressed “If social media didn’t exist, I don’t know how I would communicate with my spouse [during deployments]”. Social media provide them with a way to maintain their bond throughout the long period separated from each other.

Additionally, to help them to communicate with their husband, they can also find support among other military spouses. They can turn to the other military spouses to find comfort and support since they are all going through the same situation. Even that the use of social media may raise some concerns to some military spouses about the husband’s fidelity or vice versa, the positive effects outcome these type of concerns.

Concluding, this essay demonstrates that even that social media may have some negative aspects, such as cyberbullying for adolescents our raising concerns about spouse fidelity in case of military spouses or their deployed spouses. Social media do not diminish meaningful relationships, in this case, it allows to do the opposite. Through social media and the use of the internet it is possible to maintain and fortify the existing connections and to create new ones. In the case of adolescents, it gives them the opportunity to self-disclosure to their peers. And with to military spouses gives them the opportunity to communicate frequently with their deployed spouses helping to maintain their bond.

Reference list

  • Chen, W. (2013). Internet Use, Online Communication, and Ties in Americans’ Networks. Social Science Computer Review, 31(4), 404-423.
  • Glover, T.D. (2018). All the Lonely People: Social Isolation and the Promise and Pitfalls of Leisure. Leisure Sciences, 40:1-2, 25-35.
  • Rea, J.; Behnke, A.; Huff, N.; Allen, K. (2015). The Role of Online Communication in the Lives of Military Spouses. Contemporary Family Therapy, 37(3), 329-339.
  • Valkenburg, P.M.; Peter, J. (2011). Online Communication Among Adolescents: An Integrated Model of Its Attraction, Opportunities, and Risks. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(2), 121-127.
23 March 2023
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