Interacting Online

Using social media to connect with people is a huge part of teenage and young adult communication. We can’t talk about social skills or think about the ways that young people interact without talking about social networks.  Since it is such an important part of the teenage years and young adulthood, it’s important to know the benefits and challenges of building and maintaining relationships via social media. Let’s start with the benefits:

  • Speed. It offers us an incredibly easy and quick way to connect with people. Through posts, pictures, snaps, etc. we can have so much information at our fingertips about our friends online.
  • Courage. It allows us to share ideas and feelings that we might be hesitant to share in person. The phone and the screen appear to offer a layer of protection.
  • Creativity. It gives us new and creative ways to express ourselves (think: emojis, pictures, filters and hashtags).
  • Time. It creates some time for us to think before we speak (or type) so we can get out everything we’d like to share in a way that we think others will enjoy.
  • Convenience. You don’t have to go anywhere to connect with people near and far. It helps us maintain connections, which is good for our emotional health and happiness.

Social media offers so many opportunities to connect but there are challenges and issues that can come up when we rely on social media too much:

  • Missing social cues. Using social media is not the same as interacting with someone in person. You miss out on social cues, tone of voice and immediate reactions. These elements help us learn how other people are responding to us, both in positive and negative ways.
  • Lack of skills. The more time spent on social media the less time we spend learning to interact in person. Less practice can make in-person interactions feel difficult and scary. It’s important to feel comfortable talking to people in person, making phone calls and occasionally approaching people that we don’t know – these are all things that are necessary as you grow up.
  • Less quality. Relying on social media might increase the amount of connections that we have but it rarely improves the quality of our relationships. The best friendships and relationships are developed in person.
  • Hard to sign off. When we depend on social media, it can make it difficult to disconnect from it when we are actually with people we care about.
  • Risky behavior. If we feel that the phone or screen offers a layer of protection, it might make us more likely to act and behave in ways online that we might not in “real” relationships and situations. Learn more about that here.

You might have noticed that some of the benefits of social media listed above are also related to some of the challenges. It’s important to remember that moderation is important. Social media is likely a big part of your social life so it doesn’t make sense to stop using it. The point is to remember that there are other very important ways of being with people too.  If you rely too heavily on social media for socializing you will miss out on some important social skills and experiences.

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