By Carolyn Cho
81% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 17 use social media sites according to the Pew Research Center. We cannot help but wonder how influential these platforms are in our everyday lives. Clearly, social media sites have dramatically changed the way majority of teens communicate with one another, but are these sites relevant enough to change the way we meet or bond with new friends?
Our society is too reliant on these platforms. Now, following or sending a friend request is almost a prerequisite many must complete before becoming “real” friends. Meet a new potential friend? Add and follow them. Join a new class? Start a group on Facebook, then follow them. It’s as if the unspoken rule is to befriend or follow your new acquaintance before making any progress in the real relationship.
With the strong presence of social media sites, there are definite benefits that come along with these platforms when meeting new friends. It is much easier now, with the likes of Facebook or Twitter, to discover common connections with a new friend. Through these similarities, people can find multiple bonding contingencies, such as binge-watching “Breaking Bad” or a passion for photography. These few seconds of scrolling make it possible and easy to grasp what kind of person your new friend is. Naturally, you’ll never admit to checking someone’s profile online, but the next time you bump into that person, it’ll be much easier to start a conversation and connect.
Just as there are great aspects to these platforms there are more drawbacks that may limit our circle of friends. Having a tendency to bond through social media sites unintentionally excludes people who do not have or use these platforms. Sure, maybe these platform-free people may be missing out on the pleasures of Instagram or Twitter, but we might be the ones who are missing out on meeting or becoming better friends with these people we would have met offline.
Our reliance on social media dictates who we end up being close to, both a frightening thought and a power of choice we should never give up.
A profile can accurately display a person’s likes and dislikes, but it cannot compare to the power of a short conversation when it comes to assessing the person’s personality. At the end of the day, it’s not about how many shared “likes” you have with the person, but it is who the person is and his or her character that defines whether or not you will end up as simple acquaintances or die-hard best friends.
We all know that these platforms can only provide a shallow understanding of who that person is, so why are we allowing these sites to hold so much power over how we get closer to one another? Social media sites are fun and helpful, but nothing beats a simple face-to-face conversation when it comes to truly getting to know someone better.