Just a few short years ago, it was almost impossible to keep up with someone once you moved on and were no longer local to one another. If a coworker and friend moved on to a new job, you would miss them for a time, but eventually, you’d move on. Childhood friends were just that: best left to childhood. They might be remembered fondly as you nostalgically looked over mementos from the past, but you wouldn’t have had the means to check up on their lives. If you did stay in touch, it was over the phone, and that connection would gradually wane as you made fewer phone calls, sent fewer letters, and made fewer visits to the place where you once connected with one another. People grew apart as a result of simple geography.
Facebook has changed all of that. Now, anyone on your friends list is easily accessible every time you turn on your computer or your phone. You’re a part of those important moments in their lives: births, deaths, marriages, and even finding out what they ate for breakfast, should they consider it Facebook-worthy. Everyone has a friend who posts that kind of information, right? While you might not care about the little moments, you do care about the big ones, and you’re eager to support your friends throughout their new endeavors. Even better, Facebook makes it simple: a swift comment, a quick “like,” and you can feel as though you’ve contributed to the relationship and participated in that important moment without actually having to do anything or go anywhere. You don’t even have to be anywhere near the same time zone or on the same schedule: whenever you log into Facebook, there’s an opportunity to reconnect with your friend. So what if hours pass in between comments in your conversation? You’re able to remain involved with one another’s lives.
Reminders of the Past
Even on Facebook, you’re rarely bombarded with people that you forgot about a long time ago. If you aren’t regularly interacting with their posts–liking, sharing, and commenting–then you’ll stop seeing their information in your newsfeed. Then there are those people that you blocked a long time ago: you stay “friends” because you’re too lazy to remove them, or perhaps because there are complications with “unfriending” that individual, but have no real interest in what they have to say. The launch of apps like TimeHop and On This Day, however, is bringing those people back to your newsfeed.
That friend that you haven’t seen in five years, but who you once regularly chatted with on your posts? Those comments will return to your screen, reminding you of that one-time friendship. Old pictures may even remind you of people that you’re no longer connected with even through social media. You don’t have the option to just let someone quietly drop out of your life when you’re reminded of them every time you check out your Facebook memories.
Making New Connections
Facebook is an amazing tool for reconnecting with old acquaintances and staying in touch with friends, but many people also find that it’s the ideal place to make new connections, too. From romantic relationships that began in a singles group to friendships born out of mommy groups or shared interests, Facebook offers people the opportunity to come together across the world to connect to one another. Making friends in your own community can be rough, but that’s okay! Online, you can make dozens or even hundreds of friends, all of whom are fascinated by what you have to say and are ready to dive in and support you no matter what problems life throws at you. For the chronically lonely, this is an incredible blessing. Where else can they go to meet up with people who are just as lonely as they are? It’s even better for people seeking out romantic relationships: there are plenty of people on Facebook looking for exactly the same thing they are. Hundreds of romantic relationships have now started on Facebook, making it one of the most popular locations for meeting that special someone.
By the Numbers
Research shows that one in three new couples began their relationship online. Twenty percent of those marriages happened, not on a dating site, but on a social media account. With a little more than 2 million marriages each year, more than 140,000 couples annually–or almost one and a half million in the last ten years alone–owe their happiness to social media. If you assume that these families follow national statistics, which indicate that around 71% of couples in their childbearing years go on to have children, that could be more than a million children who owe their existence to social media, depending on the number of children each family has. That’s a lot of lives changed by the power of social media connection!
People who met and got married through social media accounts also tended to be more satisfied with their relationship in general. One theory? People tend to be more honest and open on social media than they are in person, with their pages reflecting a better picture of who they are. Social media also tends to offer people the opportunity to meet through shared activities and interests, which can help bind people together: a mutual love of photography, like one of the happy couples mentioned here, or a mutual faith or a goal of raising a family in a positive way.
As social media becomes increasingly popular, it’s entirely possible that even more couples will ascribe their relationship’s success to those popular sites. More than two-thirds of American adults have social media accounts and use them on a regular basis. As today’s young people, who have been raised in a social media-rich environment, grow into adulthood, those numbers will continue to rise, offering even more opportunities for growing connections.
Like everything else, Facebook relationships have their downside. Sure, you can meet new people, stay in touch with old friends, and share the most important events in your life with dozens of your closest “friends.” At the same time, however, Facebook is replacing genuine interaction in many friendships and relationships. People assume that a “like” or a “comment” is the same as being there for a friend–but even the most detailed Facebook conversation will never replace getting together for coffee and a face-to-face chat.
It’s so complicated that there are lists of the things you shouldn’t do on Facebook if you’re in a relationship: logical things that most people do automatically (not posting photos of exes, for example) to things that you might not have thought about (discussing your “relationship status” with your partner before you change it). Others are finding that there are benefits to keeping a relationship quiet instead of going “Facebook official.” Navigating the complicated waters of Facebook can make relationships even more difficult than they already are–and everyone on both your friends’ list can watch every moment unfold.
There are plenty of relationships that owe their existence or continuing intensity to Facebook. Equally, there are plenty of relationships that have met an early death due to social media. By finding a balance between the two, you can make the most of everything that Facebook has to offer without sacrificing your personal, real-life relationships for it. Looking for more information about the effect Facebook has on relationships? Feel free to contact us to learn more.