The digital revolution is indeed an important phenomenon that completely changed humans’ lives. Before it, the communication between humans was limited to real-time face-to-face or phone conversations and written asynchronous communication (letters, pagers, phone texts). However, nowadays, people tend to communicate through social networks, text sessions, Snapchat, etc. (Wagner, 2015, p. 116). The human brain is not capable of evolving that quickly, so the communication through social media is not perceived as real; Wagner notices that the mirror neurons in the human brain allow us to feel sympathy towards each other, experience the situations of the other as if it were happening to us, while social media does not trigger such emotions; therefore, it is not completely ‘real’ (2015, p. 115). Although we think that we understand the human behind the profile picture, this feeling might be false, and the picture created by our imagination may not correspond to that of our online friend in real life. Wagner provides an example: the story about a football player whose Facebook-girlfriend turned out to be a man; the man used the profile picture of a stranger and altered his voice with software when he spoke to the football player by phone (2015, p. 118). I am sure this is not the only story about false friends, boyfriends or girlfriends in the world; the danger of social media is its dishonesty and insincerity: anyone can pretend to be whoever he or she wants. It is not always easy but still possible to detect a liar in real life because altering your identity and personality is much more troublesome here than on the Internet. Somehow humans treat others more openly in social media, although they cannot ever be sure whom they are talking to.
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The problem discussed above leads us to the second premise: the privacy issue that has been discussed at least for a decade. As Chambers points out, social media is often used to collect friends to “gain access to… a private profile… and their Friends-only blog posts, to allow others to see one’s… private profile, private blog” (2013, p. 50). While trying to create an online image, we often forget what information we put in there and how it can be used or even trespassed. I had come across several stories both on the Internet and in private life when relationships were ruined or spoiled because somebody shared sensitive information about the other; plus, profiles and accounts are being hacked day by day – nobody knows who gets this information and how they are going to profit from it. One cannot completely abandon the social media because it is often used at work or in college; at the same time, one should consider what information is put online and how it can be prevented from being mishandled. Snapchats, live streams, and geotagging may seem like useful and interesting features, but their potential harm is significant.
To conclude, social media might be helpful sometimes, but their ability to alter human communication and violate privacy makes them harmful to interpersonal relationships.
Chambers, D. (2013). Social media and personal relationships: Online intimacies and networked friendship. Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
Wagner, L. A. (2015). When your smartphone is too smart for your own good: How social media alters human relationships. The Journal of Individual Psychology, 71(2), 114-121.