What is the effect of Social Media on relationships?

As a lover of social media and the brightness of its future in business and social connecting, this post is one which I have given much thought on and realised the potential of the brightness to totally blind its users.
The benefits of #socialmedia are just fantastic! Facebook has helped many people reconnect with old classmates, maintain long-distance relationships and enhanced people’s lifestyles in many ways. That can’t be denied. People are connecting more and making ‘friends’ at a greater pace than if they were physically placed in a room full of strangers. Shy people are able to chat via IM’s , emails and SMS as they are removed from the agonizing part of actually stepping up to say hello to a stranger. We are connecting more every second and minute through the various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, G+, MySpace, Path, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. Some are also using these platforms in the hope of finding that ‘dreamgirl or boy’. I have received a few messages via LinkedIn that were mild forms of dating proposals. Same via Twitter. So what is wrong with these great connections, you would ask, after all we are networking and there is no harm being done. True. But like everything else have you wondered about the adverse effect social media could be having on our relationships? Are people getting addicted to their gadgets due to social media?
In the average Ghanaian family, every member of the family has a gadget of some sort. Either both parents have a BlackBerry or another smartphone whilst the two teenagers have cellphones plus an iDevice, gaming device or some form of tablet which they got as Christmas gifts. These are great items to have but are slowly replacing face-to-face conversations with our ‘need’ to connect. Some families have even stopped having dinner together because someone has to reply to an ‘Urgent’ email sent by the company boss, the kids have seen new comments on their status and have to ‘Like’ or comment back, instead of cooking the mother buys takeaway because she has to comment on the GroupChat created by her old students ’76 Year Group. But even if there is dinner, everyone has their gadget with them and heads keep bowing as if in prayer just so as to stay connected. I have been reprimanded a few times on that. *ashamed*
People are spending more time on Facebook than they would at sitting at lunch with their friends. The worst is seeing a couple having lunch but both are engrossed in the BBM chats or Whatsapp GroupChats. The lunch ever so often would be interrupted with pings, beeps and tweets. So then how would they be able to have an intimate conversation about their relationship? People are using these gadgets to also avoid having to discuss serious matters that are going on in the relationship. They hide in cyberspace to avoid confrontations with the hope that when they resurface its all gone away. No it doesn’t. I found an article by Sherry Turkle ‘Flight from Conversation’ very relevant and insightful how conversation is dying slowly by the throttling hands of technology and the new art of connecting.  I was listening to JoyFm last Sunday night on addictions being suffered by some Ghanaians if not all. It ranged from movies, music, gadgets, shopping etc. One guy who was interviewed on his addiction to his BlackBerry, admitted his addiction and recalls one time when he was chatting on his BBM and his child started crying, he yelled to his wife, 'cant you hear that the child is crying?' Meanwhile he could have put down the phone and attended to the distressed child. Gadget came before family.  
Is social media turning people into zombies? I think so. Test it out and see. Go to the mall for example and just sit still and observe the shoppers. Most people would have their head bowed whilst walking towards their destination as if knowing that other persons would see them coming and get out of the way. Even a group of girlfriends who have agreed to hangout at the mall would be more engrossed to their other  social ‘friends’ more than the physical ones around them.  We are not looking up to see our world anymore, the touch screen and mini keyboard is now the world we want to live in. We tap, poke and swipe to get further into virtual society. Tap, poke and swipe…Tap, poke and swipe… Check out this infographic from Mashable on Facebook Effect on Relationships.
Gone are the days when a friend would buy you a birthday card that sings when you open it. Now you get HBD on your timeline and that’s it. Forget Christmas. Gone are the days of wedding invitation cards being dropped off at your office or home inviting you to that special event, you would now get a wedding event notification dropping into your Facebook homepage. Some would say its cheaper but then so are phonecalls.
I think the way social media is being used relationally is peaking to a destructive level as it slowly replaces conversations. As we sink more into telling the world ‘what’s on your mind?’  we are slowly reducing the ability to actually tell others what is really on our minds via the face-to-face interaction. I remember how difficult it was to have a chat with my teenage cousin who I would drop off at school every morning. Her head would be bowed down texting furiously at whatever message had dropped through her Nokia and any question i asked was replied to with a single word.

Whatsapp, Skype, emails, Facebook, Twitter and whereever we can IM has not helped and is not helping our grammar one bit. Lol, Rotfl, ttyl, ikr, tk, hbd, brb, jm, lmao, ily, kmt, smh are just examples of #techslang used when people chat. Children who learn these very soon will not be passing their English exams. And you would wonder why.
What kind of world are our children growing into? I have seen two year olds use tablets as if its nothing new to them and would be so focused on the gadget that any attempt to take it away would result in uncontrolled yelling and crying. They would grow up eventually isolating their parents and the physical world regarding their need to connect of higher essence. They would mistake digital intimacy for real intimacy.
Isn’t it interesting how we scream out when our smartphones fall and how we laugh when our friends fall? Or when we forget our phones/gadgets at home and drive all the way back through traffic for it and yet when we leave our Bibles at home we still head off to church?
We need to be careful to ensure social media will not take the place of building intimate relationships with our family and friends, we need to control our use of gadgets in our everyday lives and actually learn to switch them off every now and then to enjoy human relationships and the natural environment. I will be posting up on how to control your addiction to social media and technology. We will both benefit from it. :)
I have written too much. But its not too much to not share. J

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