Kaiden Mortimer, senior and social media user, spends time checking her social media. Students like Mortimer, spend more time focused on their phones than their real-life relationships.

Photo by Ria Talukder

Beyond the screen

how social media limits relationships

October 6, 2017

Over 70 percent of both high school and college students spend time on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, according to the survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2015. These numbers prove that the majority of students are involved in the virtual world of social networking. While to many it may seem like students have strong relationships through social media, very few bonds go beyond the screen.

“I do believe that socially here at the high school, students feel the social pressure to keep up with social media just because everybody here uses it from Instagram, to Facebook, to Snapchat,” Natasha Rosenak, counselor, said. “I feel like [social media] is a way for you guys to communicate. If a student doesn’t have social media, they may feel left out of that.”

According to well-known American psychologist Abraham Maslow, as stated in his “Theory of Motivation” the social need of human beings is the third most important requirement after physical and safety needs. This is the main reason billions of people use social networking to stay connected, make friends, and satisfy their social desires, especially when it comes to school.

“If you’re in clubs and activities, you do need [platforms] to stay connected with them and know what is going on,” Kaiden Mortimer, social media user and senior, said. [This is] especially [for] Twitter because school so many things about what we are doing.”

Due to this seemingly necessary reliance on social media as Mortimer describes, Rosenak believes students’ real life relationships are being negatively affected.

“I think they miss that face to face time,” Rosenak said. “Back in the day, when I was growing up, we didn’t even have texting on our phones. We were still forced to talk to each other, and, I think, for students now it is easier for them to send a message rather than to have a face to face or even [an over-the-phone] conversation. That human interaction is something that I do feel is missing.”

Mortimer agrees that this limit of human interactions makes it then difficult to communicate in person.

“You have a text message conversation with someone, and then you have a real-life conversation with someone and it is not the same at all,” Mortimer said. “[When] texting, you kind of make up who they are in your head, but then you [meet] in person and it’s actually super awkward.”

This discrepancy between social media users online compared to in real life continues to be an issue because social networks provide students the freedom to do whatever they want — to upload what they want and talk to whom they want. As users create online identities, they may not match their real world personalities because users can provide the information they want to, according to The impact of social media on student life by Abhishek Karadkar.

“I have a lot more friends on my phone than I do in real life,” Mortimer said. “I Snapchat all these people, but 90 percent [of them] don’t actually talk to me. People are constantly texting me, ‘we should hang out,’ but we go through the entire year and no one asks me.”

The fake relationships Mortimer says she experiences online may be due to the way students portray themselves through social media, and Dani Morga, social media user and sophomore, sees this as well.

“I feel like, at times, people try to act differently on social media than who they are in person because they want to portray a different person, but in real life they are completely different,” Morga said. “On social media, I show a lot about my life, but in person I am very quiet and I don’t like to share a lot of stuff. It seems like I am more outgoing on social media, but, in reality, I am very shy towards a lot of people.”

This identity crisis is one of [social networking sites’] biggest problems, according to Professor S. Shyam Sunder, a renowned researcher at Penn State, and this can lead to misrepresentation.

“There’s a lot of peer pressure to be seen one way or another, so I think students may post things on [social media] that may not truly represent the person that they are. But, a lot of students use social media responsibly, and [their accounts do] represent who they are,” Rosenak said. “I think a lot of good can come from social media if it is used in a way that truly represents who [someone is] as a person.”

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