Social networking has its pros and cons when it comes to relationships…

In a recent article, ABC News published an article about how SNSs can both help and hurt relationships. In the article, Barbara Smith discusses the pros and cons of social network sites, especially when it comes to dating. One interviewee agrees that while sites like Facebook are great for keeping up with old friends, they aren’t necessarily the best for forging a relationship with a potential love interest. Lynette Williams, a life coach, argues that while online daters may get along fabulously online, the only way to know if there’s genuine chemistry is to meet in person. A survey of Utahns taken on Valentine’s Day shows that most people agree with the fact that nothing can compare to face-to-face interaction.

In addition, Williams points out that it is easy to get yourself in trouble on an SNS. It is easy to fall prey to someone falsely representing themselves. Reconnecting with someone can rekindle an old flame and/or cause trust issues with a current romantic partner. Over-sharing information by venting online can also have damaging effects. Most times, it’s much better to say it to the person’s face or not at all. Under-sharing information can also be damaging. Someone not listing a current relationship or fully disclosing other important personal information when on a dating site can be just as harmful or even more so. Williams argues that if your romantic partner refuses to list your relationship, to take it as a red flag.

SNSs have quickly become a big part of our social lives, both virtual and physical. After reading Nancy Baym‘s Personal Connections in the Digital Age, it is easy to see that this article examines SNSs from a social shaping perspective. This perspective can be seen in the title, “Social Networking Can Help And Hurt Relationships.” Smith discusses sites like Facebook as though they will greatly affect our relationships for better or for worse, “with the click of a key”. The technology itself isn’t seen as a detrimental or helpful tool by itself, but rather it is the user who determines how a relationship is helped (or hurt) through the use of an SNS.

This article gives lots of credit to the user in helping or hurting relationships. However, I think that this article is presented in a very logical way, and it is done through the social shaping discourse of new media. Social shaping acknowledges that the technology is powerful, but that the user/existing social forces are equally as powerful. Together, these two elements create the power that social media has in our relationships. I think it was very wise to shape the story in this way rather than through technological determinism or social construction of technology. In my opinion, both of these discourses give too much power to either the technology or pre-existing social forces. This is not a world where technology makes the rules, nor is technology completely shaped by its users. It’s definitely a combination of the two, and this article demonstrates that.

What Smith fails to acknowledge is how the SNSs themselves can add to or detract from our social lives regardless of what we post on them. In Life 2.0, we saw numerous relationships start or deteriorate because of the users’ addiction to the SNS itself. This perspective lends more to the technological determinist perspective, but it is an important aspect to examine. This article gives a lot of credit to the user’s use of the SNS, but when it comes to an actual addiction such as those seen in the film, the user gives up some of their power to their addiction. Needless to say, addiction to any SNS ultimately results in the demise of face-to-face interpersonal relationships. Watching the movie really helped me clearly see the negative affects that SNSs can have on our relationships. Before, I never thought of the consequences of “bad” use of SNSs to be so great, but it is clearly an issue that needs to be examined further.

Overall, I thought that this article did a good job of revealing the ways in which users fail to use SNSs correctly, which can lead to a damaged relationship. So much of the media today blames the technology for the harm done, but the people involved are just as responsible if not more so.

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2 Comments

  1. lauraportwoodstacer

     /  February 22, 2012

    I thought your point about using SNSs “correctly” was interesting. Makes me wonder where it is we all learn the rights and wrongs of new media technologies! Seems like articles like the one you mention don’t just report cultural standards, but could maybe even shape them for us.

    Reply
  2. I like how you found an article that isn’t just putting the blame on the technology. Rather, it is a combination of social constructs and SNS. I think ultimately the person has the power to decide how they want to act on these sites, but it is the affordances that allow them to do so. As I was reading your post, I was also thinking about Life 2.0 as well. The article you discuss, talks about how SNS can be detrimental to relationships while face to face interaction is better for them. I tend to agree with this. For example, we saw in Life 2.0, the couple who met on Second Life (who were already married) and formed this “perfect” relationship, or so they had believed. However, when they finally moved in together they realized there relationship wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. Their face to face interaction showed the couple they weren’t the people they thought they met on the gaming website. It’s interesting to think what different factors of SNS play a role in breaking or forming a relationship.

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