HowSocial Media Has Redefined Friendship
Inthe 21st century, the rapid pace of technological advancement haspaved the way for the creation of virtual means through which peoplecan communicate. An excerpt from PopularCulture: A User’s Guidebegins with this claim: “The impact of shifts in popular culturecan be seen in the society with the radical changes in culture thatin turn reshape how we experience it, where we experience it, andwhat our experience with it means as we socially engage others intheir daily interactions” (O’Brien et al.). This script talksabout how social media has significantly shifted the definition offriendship from the physical perception from which it has beendefined for centuries to a virtual conception of social connection.
Socialmedia is “forms of computer-mediated electronic communicationthrough which a large group of people can meetand create virtual communities online. Social media include (but arenot limited to) applications like Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, andTwitter” (Dana et al. 59). The primary purpose of social media is“to create and maintain social relationships between people nomatter how well or how little they know one another” (Bernie 119).All these mediums are designed to build a following where people canfoster more intimate friendships even if they have not physicallymet. This leaves many people asking: "Hassocial media redefined friendship?"
Todecipher how social media has redefined friendship, this script willfirst of all define friendship. Even if friendship is a state ofbeing friends,it can be defined as “a warm attachment between two or more people.The attachment can emerge from shared interests, a family bond, orthe existence of mutual trust between two or more people in asociety. This definition of friendship is based on the traditionalperception that “friendship is best established when people meetphysically” (Hjarvard).
Eventhough social media was designed to create bridges between people,the reality is entirely different. Instead of people maintainingfriendships, they are getting disconnected. Rather than using socialmedia as “a leisure and amusement tool, individuals in thecontemporary society are trading their physical, social lives for theintangible friendships they make on social media” (Authenius et al.345). What people don`t know is that by sharing texts, pictures, andvideos on social media, it creates a deceitful sense in their mindsthat friendships can be derived from sharing of different types ofelectronic information online.
Oneresearch carried out on university students found that “theindividuals who rely on social media are mostly people who live farfrom family and friends. In their world, social media acts as arepository for storing contacts and an interactive forum where theycan create new friendships and maintain old relationships” (Hyneset al. 351). In another study, it was revealed that the way peoplechose to communicate with their online friends through social mediais what directly impacts their friendships. These relations aredefined by “the messages people send to their friends because thosethat transmit personal messages tend to promote stronger friendships,while those broadcasting their messages to the general community tendto experience shallower friendships” (Bernie 128).
Researchconducted at the University of Chicago suggested that “social mediahas the power to influence friendship because of the social mediacontagion effect” (Dana et al. 61). The social networks studiesfound that feelings and sentiments can be transmitted through socialmedia. For instance, if someone in an individual`s online communityis hostile, lonely, or angry, and takes it out on them, they are morelikely to turn into emotional conductors and transmit the negativemood themselves. In such instances, “virtues like politeness andcourtesy, both of which outline an individual`s face-to-faceinteractions, can be deducted in the online community” (64).Therefore, social media can define friendships can by the negativesentiments that have the possibility of multiplying thousand fold toreal-life situations.
Aspeople exchange texts, videos, and photos on social media, they getto learn about how different their online friends live and conducttheir businesses. With the inrush of information, individuals tend tocompare themselves to what they see. The ripple effect is that peopleoften tend to disconnect with their real-life friendships becausethey make them feel like they cannot compete or match up to the livesother people on social media lead. Feeling the pressure to fit intocertain classes and personas, “people shun their real-liferelationships in pursuit of an online life to impress their friendsand followers. The swap of real-life friendships and relationshipsfor an online one negatively affects face-to-face friendships”(Hjarvard).
Sohow exactly has social media redefined friendship? As mentionedearlier, the traditional definition of friendship is a warmattachment between two or more people who either have commoninterests, are family members, or they share mutual trust betweeneach other. Most importantly, the traditional definition offriendship is premised on the physical interaction of two or morepeople. In light of this fact, it becomes evident that social mediahas caused a shift in the definition and practice of friendship inthe contemporary society.
Thefirst way in which social media has redefined friendship stems fromthe fact that it breaks away from the traditional premise of definingfriendship from a physical point of perspective. Indisputably, mostof the friends individuals have on social media are friends to theirfriends. They have thousands of followers and friends on Facebook,Instagram, and Twitter, but their close friends remain to be the onesthey interact with physically on a daily basis. Therefore, socialmedia has redefined the physical premise of the traditionaldefinition of friendship because it encourages the cultivation ofonline relationships between people who have never seen each otherand probably might never get the chance to meet in life.
Secondly,social media has redefined friendship in the contemporary society byaltering the basis on which friendship thrives. Bypassing thetraditional practice of friendship that thrives on face-to-faceinteractions, social media has shifted it to the mere online exchangeof texts, photos, and videos. On the same breadth, social media hasredefined friendship because it has encouraged the establishment offriendships in a virtual world. Getting lost in the virtual onlinecommunities is what makes people disconnect from their real-lifefriendships and engage in virtual interactions online. This way,social media has redefined friendship by shifting significance tovirtual interactions from real-life interactions.
What`smore, social media has redefined friendship in the contemporarysociety because it has substituted real-life friendships withfollowers, fans, and influencers. On social media, friendships areoften expressed by following and becoming a fan of a page or someonesimply by liking them. People are reduced to mere fans and followersinstead of real-life friends. As mentioned earlier, social media hasthe power to cause social contagion effects. On these platforms, anindividual can behave in an uncouth fashion out of the negativeinfluence of a friend in a certain social community. Sometimes,virtues like politeness and courtesy, both of which are important inan individual`s face-to-face interactions, can be deducted in anonline community. In such occasions, friendship is defined bynegative feelings and sentiments. To this effect, social mediaredefines friendship because it does not consider "warmattachments" as indispensable building blocks of friendship.
Moreover,social media has redefined friendship because it enables oneindividual to connect with more people than they would subjectivelyknow in a lifetime. On social media, people get to interact withmillions of people worldwide with the push of one button. Therefore,this has redefined friendship because it drifts away from theconservative tradition of getting to make new friends face-to-face.Lastly, social media has redefined contemporary friendship becauseinstead of creating meaningful relations where friends benefitmutually, many users engage in unhealthy practices of comparingthemselves with their virtual friends in online communities. It isthe pursuance of what people see on social media that causesdisconnection from real-life friendships which redefines thedefinition and benefits of friendship.
Inthe 21stcentury, the rapid pace of technological development has caused asignificant shift in the social fabric of humanity. The impacts ofthese shifts have led to alterations in culture because they havereshaped how people experience it, where they experience it, and whattheir experience with culture means. As this script has exemplified,the culture of friendship has been redefined because social media hascompletely changed how people experience friendship, where theyexperience friendship, and what the friendly interactions with othersmeans. Social media has redefined friendship because it hasencouraged associations between complete strangers, has altered thebasis on which friendship thrives, has substituted real-life friendsfor online fans and followers, and has enabled the instantaneousconnection of millions of people worldwide regardless of theirphysical location. Essentially, social media has caused shifts in theculture of friendship because it breaks away from the physical tenetsalong which the society has defined friendship for centuries. Itis important for people to mark the difference between using socialmedia as an entertainment tool and making it a way of life because ithas huge potential for changing each and every aspect of humanexistence.
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