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The darker side of social media


Social media gives users the freedom to communicate with their loved ones – however it could also damage real-life relationships. Research from Kaspersky Lab shows that a third of people have less face-to-face communication with loved ones, and 21% of parents admit that relationships with their children have been damaged as a result of them being seen in a compromising situation on social media.
With people’s tendency to post photos of themselves or others under the influence of alcohol, wearing something revealing or even naked in order to get more “likes”, it is evident that social media can damage offline relationships.
But than a fifth of parents admit that their relationship with their children worsened after they had seen their parents in compromising circumstances on social media.
In contrast, only 14% of parents said they were annoyed by their children’s online behaviour.
In addition, around one-in-five (16%) people also said that their relationship with their spouse or partner has been damaged as a result of them being seen in a compromising situation on social media.
Relationships with family, friends and colleagues are changing as people communicate less face-to-face as a result of social media. A significant third of people admitted that they now communicate less with their parents (31%), children (33%), partners (23%), and friends (35%) because they can see and communicate with them via social media.
Dr Astrid Carolus, media psychologist at the University of Würzburg, comments: “Studies show that today digital communication complements real-life communication. We live in a globalised and highly mobile world resulting in distances between partners and family members.
“Digital communication is an opportunity to bridge the gaps in our modern lives caused by living in different cities or countries. However, digital communication cannot replace face-to-face communication – at least not always and not completely. Digital communication is less rich in terms of sensory channels affected, resulting in ‘reduced’ sensory quality.”
Although people communicate less face-to-face, around half of respondents believe that the quality of their relationships does not suffer at all and is even better as a result of being connected with their loved ones online. Dr Carolus warns that, although it seems that the quality of our relationships is improving, people cannot always evaluate their online communication objectively.
“Under certain circumstances they perceive their online communication as ‘hyper-personal communication’ and thus they can misread and over-interpret the messages on social media. We feel especially close, we blind out the rather negative, focus on the possible positive intentions behind a message, and over-interpret.”
The study finds that, although social media can help ease communication channels and bridge time zones and distance barriers, it doesn’t always make people happy. It can strain relationships as well as leaving people feeling down and upset, as they constantly compare their lives to those of others.
The hunt for “likes” and social validation leads people to share increasing amounts of private information on social media platforms, putting not only themselves but also their friends, family and colleagues at risk.
For those who decide to shut themselves off from social media, the reality of losing a lifetime of digital memories, including photos and interactions, can make it difficult to do.
In order to protect themselves and their relationships, people need to be more cautious and cyber-savvy about the information they share on social media. That will not only help to mitigate the risks of the online world, but prevent relationship damage in the offline world.