Social Relationships: Friendships or “Fiend”ships?
Every day the media shares a new story about the danger or damage from bad decisions or ugly use of social media for teens and adults. Too often social media is used to bully, spread hate, ostracize, sext, or break a heart via a text message or ghosting. Social media can also create a false persona conveying that popular or glamorous kids have better lives, more fun, and tons of friends. Often times, that perfect life is only an illusion, but it can be intimidating and hurtful to kids on the outside looking in.
The positives are powerful.
But there is another side that we don’t recognize enough, and that is social media’s ability to connect us with friends, make us feel loved, spread good news, be comforted and counseled, and celebrate great times. Teens often feel isolated and “left out of the clique” in school and team circles, and group chats and shared experiences can help alleviate some of that angst and sadness. Social media can also provide a look-back diary that reminds us where we have been and what we have accomplished alone and together. Students can stay in touch throughout the day with family and friends, share more decisions, discuss more issues that matter, and support each other through fabulous and rotten school days, practices and family challenges. Mobile social media also provides ways to connect privately or anonymously with counselors and crisis text lines through social and texting when the going gets tough and kids feel there is nowhere else to turn.
Interesting research from the PEW Foundation shows that two-thirds of teens make new friends through social media:
Social media is an important venue for interaction and conversation among America’s youth. Fully 76% of all teens use social media. Facebook is the dominant platform, with 71% of all teens using it. Instagram and Snapchat also have become increasingly important, with 52% of teens using Instagram and 41% using Snapchat. One-third of American teens use Twitter and another third use Google Plus. Fewer teens use Vine or Tumblr.
Social media plays a critical role in connecting teens to new friends, allowing teens to learn more about new friends and get to know them better.
Nearly two-thirds (64%) of teens who have made a new friend online say they have met new friends on a social media platform. Two-thirds (62%) of teens say they’ve shared their social media username with a brand new friend as a way to stay in touch.
Beyond making new friends, social media is major way that teens interact with their existing friends. More than nine-in-ten teens (94%) say they spend time with friends on social media. Fully 30% say they spend time with friends on social media every day, and another third (37%) say they do so every few days. When asked to rank the ways they communicate with friends, social media sites like Facebook or Twitter are one of the top ways of communicating with friends for two-thirds (66%) of teens. ( Teens, Technology and Friendships, Ch. 4, Social Media and Friendships. Amanda Lenhart 8/6/16)
More friends. More often.
Many teens say that they meet new friends more easily through apps Snapchat and Instagram, even VSCO, because these apps offer low-pressure channels to get to know what a person is about, acquire some validation that he or she is a good person from mutual friends, and casually chat and get to know each other without awkward, forced-feeling face-to-face conversations at school or a party. Snapchat has made it fun and simple to stay in touch in its in-your-face, always-there-for-you way.
Because of social media, many students have more friend interaction and know more friends from other schools, teams and friend groups. It isn’t all just liking and following; for some, social media has become an extension of a hug.
Share your experiences of making and keeping friends with social media and ideas for kids who want to improve or develop more friendships using #AlwaysThere.