Social media has significantly impacted our daily lives. Within minutes, we can get news and updates on our friends’ lives. It’s much easier to stay in contact through DMs or text messages or ‘Likes’. On the flip side, it can be much harder to have meaningful connections virtually.
Too many to count
“Nowadays, social media has become the primary way of networking and connecting with our loved ones. Due to the modern and busy lifestyle especially after COVID-19, we are hardly in touch with anyone on a personal level,” says psychologist and relationships expert Dr Nisha Khanna. “We have hundreds and thousands of friends on Facebook and as Instagram followers, but it is impossible to give attention to each and every person on a human level,” she points out. Acknowledging the plus-points of social media, Aparna Reddy, entrepreneur and founder Petals Lifestyle and exhibitions says, “I get to connect with people who I would not have thought I would ever have a link to. I might not talk to them, but just knowing that they are present is enough,” she says. But by its very nature, social media encourages a level of faking. “We become stressed thinking that other people are having a better life than us. This prevents us from enjoying the things that we have, and take them for granted,” notes Aparna. “What we don’t realise is that the other person, who conveys that her world is beautiful, might be battling various issues.”
An unreal reality
Agreeing with this view, Dr Nisha says, “Most people portray a superficial reality on these platforms that shows their ideal selves to the world rather than their real selves. We are all falling into this trap. We can’t see body language and gestures that speak more than words. They even make fake IDs which lure us to interact with them. Even to form new relationships and maintain them, we are dependent on these apps,” Social media promotes other detrimental behaviour too. “Sitting in a restaurant with family and friends, people are on social media, rather than conversing with their companions. This diminishes the IQ. A study shows that social media changes neurones in our brain, indirectly affecting our intelligence,” according to Aparna.
Experts say relationships can be nurtured best with face-to-face interactions, hugs, real conversations and outings. “While our brains can tell the difference between chatting online and in-person social interaction, it’s unlikely we’ve developed more — or a separate set of — energy just for social media use,” says Dr Nisha. Furthermore, we are losing the true essence of relationships, we are slowly disconnecting emotionally while being connected virtually. “In real life, when we meet a person, a bond is formed based on our true selves. Hugs, touches and eye contact work as moral support in a person’s hour of need, and people empathise through verbal and non-verbal means. Physical intimacy too helps to create emotional bonds, explains Dr Nisha.
FB friends vs. close friends
Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford University, researched how Facebook and real-life friendships co-relate, and found that of the 150 Facebook friends an average user has, only 15 can be counted as actual friends and just five of those as close friends. Even though contact on social media prevents a friendship from dying out, occasional face-to-face interactions are required to keep the relationship alive. “During the pandemic, social media distracted people for a while from the strictures of the lockdown. As long as we knew it was only for a short period of time, it was okay. But as this period grew prolonged, the anxiousness to meet people increased. We understood first-hand the truth in the statement that ‘man is a social animal’. It’s next to impossible to stay without social interaction and physical contact for a long period. Hugging a loved one, shaking hands with a colleague — these are scenarios that are beginning to sound like ‘once-upon-a-time’ scenes. We took hugs and handshakes for granted, and treated them as mere rituals of greeting, but they’re emotional anchors,” says Sona Chatwani, principal designer and the creative force behind her firm SC Design Studio.