Face-to-face conversations are crucial in creating deep connections and more authentic personal relationships.

Part I: Is Social Media Killing Meaningful Real-life Relationships?

After the discovery of the internet, the world became “a global village”. You might have heard this cliché several times than you care to count already.

What it means is that sharing of information has become much faster than it used to be, just over a decade ago. We all agree that social media has completely revolutionized the way we interact with each other.

Most of the breaking news now happens online, even before it hits the mainstream media newsrooms.

It is now easier to meet and make thousands of virtual “friends”, from all corners of the world, most of whom you will never have a chance to physically meet in this lifetime.

What is more, even family members who used to meet regularly are increasingly turning to the internet to catch up with each other. This is all thanks to online platforms such zoom, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, just to name but a few.

Yet we all know that online meetings can never effectively substitute the need to be physically present for our loved ones.

Growing up, the only thing that came close to social media was the greetings people sent through radio.

One community in Kenya (name withheld) was famous for this kind of greetings, popularly referred to as “nusu ya kuonana,” (which loosely translates to – partially meeting with each other).

But even then, the odds of missing the “salamus” were high since you needed to be near a radio, at the right time, for you to get the greetings read out by the radio presenter first-hand.

Otherwise, you would have to get the news of your radio greetings from your neighbours. Also, back then, few people could afford to send greetings on the radio or even own radios.

While social media has made it much easier for people to instantaneously interact and check on each other, without having to move an inch, its biggest casualty is the genuine and meaningful relationships that we need most in life.

Sadly enough, whenever you require real friends by your side, your online “friends” are likely to suddenly scatter to the four winds of this world. Very few of your online friends are your genuine friends.

Social media is the only place where you can have over 5000 “friends”, but still feel lonely. Yet, most people spend more time with their electronic gadgets, catching up with “friends” on social media.

Social media might easily give you the false impression that you’ve many friends, until you’re in a situation where you need real friends by your side.

Today, it’s amazing that many people chat and do stuff online, more than they interact with the real people surrounding them – including the ones they are with in the same house!

Unfortunately, having deep and meaningful conversations is a culture that is slowly dying in our homes. Gone with it is the true fireplace bonding, which our forefathers used to enjoy.

The less often people hold deep and meaningful, face-to-face conversations, the more difficult it is to open up to each other. This makes it even more difficult to develop authentic trust, which is the glue that holds strong, personal relationships together.

It is now common to step into a house, where over five family members are sitting in the same room, but each one of them is busy on social media. Though these people are together in the same room, each of them is literally alone in their small online world!

Such a scenario must have inspired Professor Sherry Turkle when she wrote a book that she aptly named: “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”

In her book, Turkle masterfully tackles the existential threat posed by technology, (especially social media) on our real-life relationships.

With online “friends” available at the click of a button, we are no longer connected based on how close we are to each other, but how available our mobile devices are to us at the moment.

Since we always carry our smartphones with us, we end up with this false impression that we are always connected.
Today, many people have thousands of online friends, yet a majority of them feel lonely and hollow inside!

Have you ever paused to deeply reflect on how social media has affected your day-to-day life?
My next article delves into “Why Social Media has become a Fake, Make-believe World.” Watch out for it.

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