Can You Build Meaningful Relationships With Social Media?
When I ask people what they get out of their social media, the answers usually go something like this: “I have reconnected with people I haven’t seen in years, and it’s great to do that and see pictures of their kids.” Other answers include: “I only check in occasionally” and “I’m not on Facebook, I don’t have time.”
Fair enough. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for social media, and you’re not going to hear me proclaim, as many do, that everyone should be there. It’s a matter of taste and preference as to what sites you use, or whether you are there at all. That said, here are a few answers – always delivered in a patronizing tone – that make me want to scream: “Well, I don’t like it because it’s flat and one dimensional.” or “It’s a waste of time” and the ultimate eyeroller: “I want to focus on real life meaningful relationships.”
As for the “flat and one dimensional” characterization, I see that. But can’t that be said about any written communication? That some types of communication are more meaningful and should be done in person, or at least over the telephone, where you can look into someones’ eyes and hear voice inflection, is a given. But that doesn’t mean written communication can’t pack a punch and carry great depth and meaning. Think of all the relationships that started by written communication. Or those sustained during wars by letters. How about that cherished letter from Grandma, tattered and frayed by repeated reading because it means so much? The written word has long been a tie that binds when people are separated by time and distance. Today, it just occurs electronically more often than by parcel post. Ah, technology.
I’d argue that it is our communication with people in its’ many forms, and taken as a whole, that enables us to develop meaningful relationships with them. As for the arguments that one can get too isolated by social media and that it is no substitute for physically being with people, or that people can misunderstand or be misunderstood due to its flat nature, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been misunderstood more than once. I’ve also been very fortunate to sustain relationships, as well meet people through social media that I later met in person. In some cases, that has led to real life encounters and true friendships, business relationships, or both. At the heart of of these relationships is three core components: Trust, respect, and the fact that I like them. In some cases communication has not, as yet, progressed far beyond the online world. I still have a good rapport and common interests with these people – and that’s fine. ‘Meaningful’ has many layers, and I am happy to partake in all of them.
Now you know my position; I’d like to hear yours: Can you build meaningful relationships through social media? What has your experience been? What are your challenges? Rewards?