As we have read in Baym, there are different qualities of communities echoed in social media. These include a sense of space, shared practice, shared resources and support, shared identities, and interpersonal relationships. We can look at these qualities to evaluate online relationships that are fostered or created using social media networks.
Different social media networks are meant as spaces for having an informal social life outside of what occurs in our real lives. But is this type of social life always a positive one? After watching Life 2.0, I have seen a very distorted reality. Second Life in this film is portrayed through following very heavy users of the site, who mainly have problems because of their online personas. We saw one couple that met on Second Life, forming an emotional relationship, portrayed as “true love.” However, when the online relationship became offline and in real life, it became evident that the honeymoon period was over. They started to be less like their online personalities, and were more so a hoax. Not only did this relationship come to an end, but also there was another relationship in the film that focused on an already established real life relationship, that was being destroyed by a user’s addiction to Second Life. When I was watching the film, I felt like David after the dentist, saying to myself “is this real life?” I feel the film was showing an exaggerated portrayal of users on Second Life. Yes it made the film more interesting, but it went towards a very extreme point of view. Not everyone using these type of sites are like this, there are a lot of varying degrees in which they’re used. This representation made me think as a viewer that Second Life was the cause of the damaged relationships rather than the users themselves. But I have come to understand the opposite when thinking more about social media.
A question that was brought up in class, and one that I mentioned on Twitter, was whether it’s the social media sites that destroy relationships, or is it the users’ fault. People are quick to blame sites like Facebook for reeking havoc on not only relationships with our significant others, but also with friendships, and even those we consider our enemies. Is Facebook really to blame? Yes, Facebook is a medium that presents different opportunities for us, given the various affordances provided by the site, but does Facebook have a soul? Is it the thing that is creating statuses, writing on their friends’ walls, or stalking people? People make their own decisions about what they do on Facebook or other social media sites. They create their profiles, and portray themselves as how they want to be seen (not including what their friends post about them because it can be taken out of context). People are the ones who use Facebook however they like, whether it be for stalking/lurking purposes, staying in touch with friends, forming new relationships, or as their personal diary for all of their friends to see. A video I found on YouTube actually discusses infidelity and Facebook. Rather than putting the blame on Facebook for unfaithfulness, the two speakers discuss how Facebook is a tool that a person uses to become “emotionally” attached to others. This is more damaging because people who become emotionally involved with others while in a relationship, can be considered more real than (though it’s happening online) a physical/sexual affair. When emotions become involved, it has more meaning behind it, creating deep feelings, which can prove to be worse when cheating on your significant other.
An article I found discusses what social media sites can do to relationships. Stacy Kaiser gives the warning that “social networking sites can open a Pandora’s box of relationship destroyers— unleashing everything from affairs, the rekindling of past toxic relationships, jealousy, imaginary online relationships that replace face-to-face intimacy, and online stalking, to name just a few.” The article explains the most common problems that arise out of these different social media networks. Sites like Facebook do provide people with the ability to look at their ex’s profiles, talking to others, etc. However, it is a person’s choice to take part in these acts. After all, who coined the term “stalking?” Was it Facebook? Facebook isn’t holding a gun to your head and saying “You must cheat on your boyfriend/girlfriend, OR ELSE!!!” Though the article doe s discuss the problems that can arise in relationships through the use of social media networks, it does give advice at the end of the article that I feel everyone should follow to prevent these issues from occurring. Kaiser says, “The power to find, build and maintain a quality intimate relationship lies within you, the individual.”