The Effects of Social Media on Relationships
Social media made its debut on the Internet in 1997. Since then, it has boomed and influenced almost every aspect of people’s lives especially the lives of young adults. It has become a powerful tool for communication replacing or diminishing several older forms of building networks. Consequently, nowadays, social interaction increasingly takes place on social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook . Such a revolution has changed relationships on several levels including personal, organizational, etc. For example, businesses have made a bold shift to marketing using the power of social media to reach the young generation. Moreover, this transformation in relationships has led to online social networking sites (SNS) re-creating face-to-face interactions on the web allowing people to interact publicly and privately .
In general, social media are referred to as a selection of Internet-based communication channels dedicated to community interaction and collaboration. They provide individuals with numerous benefits. People share career interests, ideas, and their emotions via them. The most popular social media sites include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumbler, Meetup, Whatsapp, LinkedIn, and Snapchat.
However, other than making positive contributions to relationships, there have also been cases of negative impact of social media. It has been claimed that their use can cause physical and mental damage to people, such as stress, mental medical problems and food disorders. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to show the influence of the social media on such types of relationships as friendship relations, romantic, businesses and online gaming ones. First, the kinds of relations will be specified with some examples of applications that are used for them. Next, the study will explain the negative and the positive effects of having a relationship through social media. After that, some advice concerning safe interaction in social media will be given. Lastly, the summary of the main findings and suggestions for future research will be presented.
The Main Types of Relationships in Social Media
According to Farrugia , there are four types of relationships in social media. They are friendship relationships, romantic ones, gaming relations, and professional relationships. The friendship relationships are those that mostly involve people who use social media to have a small chat and build a network with familiar and unknown people. The most popular apps for these purposes are Facebook, Myspace, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Deviant Art and Xanga. In fact, any application that enables individuals to send with friendship request and start communicating is a good one.
Another type of relations in social media is the romantic ones. It turns out they are the most common compared to other kinds . Their popularity can be explained by the fact that it is much easier to have them through the Internet as they make a user fearless since they can hide their identity and other things they want to keep secret. All of the apps with no exceptions can help to build such relations as long as there is an option of private direct messaging. Interestingly, they are common even with some adults who seek companionship.
On the other hand, gaming relationships are most spread among teenagers. Most of them start from something called massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). There are numerous apps for this kind of relations, because in every online game, there is a way for players to communicate. The most popular ones are World of Warcraft, EverQuest, SecondLife, Final Fantasy Online, and Minecraft.
Professional relationships are the last type of online relations. They can be typically built between businesspeople who have the same beneficial interests. In this case, the apps that can be used are limited to the ones that can aid businessmen to have meetings and save time through the Internet. A good example is Skype that provides a possibility to have face to face meetings. Consequently, business professionals can make important decisions without seeing each other physically .
The Advantages of Social Network Relationships
There are a lot of beneficial effects of online relationships on the people’s lives . For example, they provide individuals with supportive interaction, perceived social support, sense of community, and life satisfaction . Families that are far apart due to work, separation or any other issues can keep in touch through video calls, instant messaging or sharing locations and pictures in social media chats. Such online relationships have even led to the creation of virtual communities that have sparked activism and offered effective solutions to those involved. Furthermore, human rights movements have also fostered links on social media platforms, and rallied people together to provide justice to the weak persons in the society.
Additionally, there are some people who resort to social media to hide their weakness in communication, and it significantly boosts their confidence. Such individuals use online relationships to avoid many things such as face to face talks in which they can be not very strong. They have found writing in social networks can be more comfortable to express their feelings without embarrassing themselves. The perceived social support that individuals get from the interaction on the web has led to improved life satisfaction .
Furthermore, many global and local brands have also used social media in their daily operations. This has led to their massive growth and higher levels of trust among their customers of all ages. In this regard, they have shown that social media relationships can save a lot of time, both for businesses and individuals . For instance, using social media to have meetings for can be helpful for business relations. If a manager is on holiday in the Gulf of Mexico, he/she does not have to suspend his/her vacation to attend an urgent meeting. A video conference on Skype would save him and the company a lot of time and resources.
The Side Effects of Social Network Relationships
Baym, Zhang and Lin  have found out that there are many adverse effects of online relationships that can harm people. The negative impacts can be broken down into two main kinds: mental and physical. These may leave an individual devastated, and sometimes, with suicidal thoughts. Speaking about the mental consequences, social media relationships often result in a situation when users mistake these virtual relations for the real ones. Moreover, many victims of these relationships show full self-disclosure, providing sensitive personal information to strangers. However, they forget that their “partner” may either hide identity or give false information, only showing what would act as bait for the unsuspecting victims . It is usually too late when they find out that the relationship was built on lies. Other mental effects include stress, mixed emotions, sad feelings and lack of self-esteem. Furthermore, the absence of the tone of voice or the body language can lead to wrong impressions which can result in lies and, later, cause mental issues . With regard to this, Valkenburg and his colleagues  suggest that if two users want a long-term relationship, they should consider factors that always have negative impact on them such as effective exchange, stable exchange, surveillance, jealousy, trust issues, revised self-disclosure, and limitations.
In addition, as stated above, online interactions sometimes pose extreme physical danger. Firstly, being online can expose one’s location and real name which can lead to a harmful effect especially if the other person is unknown. Revealing vital personal information on social media can make the tracking of a one’s whereabouts easier leading to an attack that can include sexual abuse, kidnapping, and robbery . Another serious physical negative impact of social media is its influence on health. In particular, Valkenburg, Peter and Schouten  have discovered that spending long hours building relationships online can also result in eye damage, rounded shoulders, spinal curvatures, vertebrate disorders. Moreover, neck pain and headaches could be a consequence of the attention one pays to social media relationships sitting in front of the screen .
The Ways to Secure Social Media Relationships
Numerous researches suggest that there are ways of building a safe and healthy social media relationship. Obviously, before sending a friendship request, every user of social networking sites has to be careful and follow a few precautions. Firstly, it is essential to use only trusted apps. It ensures that one does not expose his/her personal information such as location and real name to potential attackers. Secondly, it is vital to remember that the other user is unknown. Therefore, believing every word they say and making decisions based on their tips can hurt emotionally when you finally find out that what they have said was not true. Finally, another way to be safe is by limiting the amount of personal information that is revealed. For example, individuals should never share their credit card number or private pictures with strangers.
To sum up, the importance of social media in daily communication, both for individuals and companies, cannot be underestimated. The given research has shown the various types of relationships that are commonly fostered through the Internet: friendship, romantic, gaming, and professional ones. All these are made possible by the power of social media. However, each of the mentioned kinds of relations has both positive and negative impacts on the individuals that use them.
The positive effects of social media are evident, especially to cautious users and the established companies. However, the analysis of the articles and data on the topic has shown that despite numerous benefits, much exposure to social media is dangerous for individuals. Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites interferes with many aspects of daily life. It is also evident that social media are the most dangerous for vulnerable, unsuspecting individuals. Therefore, the given paper also discusses the precautions that are necessary to observe to stay safe while interacting on the web. Overall, it can be concluded that in any relationship, whether it is online or in real life, its type and impact primarily depends on the person or the user.
Regarding future research, it definitely should be done to discover the reasons that drive young people to use social media for communication. This will aid to establish whether they prefer the real-time nature of this type of interaction, or there is something else that attracts them. This information might help the social media developers to improve the apps they offer for people.
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