NationalVOLUME 17 ISSUE # 52

Social media and its impact on friendships

It is simply a part of human nature to seek out companions, those who can comfort and entertain them. But the notion that social media causes these relationships to deteriorate may be flawed to the core. People are many a time found complaining that their close-ones may be aware of everything happening in the world through social media, but not of the mental and physical condition of those sitting in the same room or sharing the same roof with them.

However, such complaints might not prove genuine if looked into closely. In reality, the rise of social media and this new age of networking have led to the avenues that previously seemed only a distant dream. On the one hand, individuals have been able to cultivate social circles that they could never have imagined, by virtue of the internet. And on the other hand, social media has enabled constant communication and broadcasting, and given this ability to every person with a smart-phone and an internet connection.

Furthermore, people scattered across the globe now have the capacity to remain in touch with their friends, no matter what their geographical location is. And perhaps one of the most crucial roles the social media has played in the lives of those who were previously disadvantaged in traditional social scenarios, whether they are physically disabled, or socially inept.

The mere fact that social media has enabled such broad networking that there is nothing to scoff at. Yet, social hierarchies and the basic wiring of a person’s brain may render all this moot. Whether online or offline, individuals are only able to maintain a set amount of relationships, but the common conviction is that people tend to have more friends online. This may in part be due to the ease of contact online, where constant updates, messages and posts make one feel well connected to more people, or because social media allows for keeping in touch with a larger amount of people regularly. It is, however, important to note that the majority of these interactions are lacking in a true connection, and often become far too diluted to be called real ‘friendships’.

Still, we have seen the results of solely digital interactions, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As corporations closed and schools shut down, basically everyone, no matter where, was forced to adapt to an internet-centric lifestyle, only being able to reach the rest of the world through a screen. It was observed that while always reachable, people felt more distant than ever, as a video call or an email is no replacement to interpersonal conversation. Whether it be at work or at school, even the most dreaded interactions contribute to a person’s mental wellbeing, which is why cases of anxiety and depression skyrocketed amidst lockdowns. Various research reports said that during the COVID-19 pandemic, people experienced more stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and loneliness. And their mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression, worsened.

All such reports aside, what we must realise is the fact that the social media should not be taken in means of black and white, as it is as gray as something can get. Where we find countless benefits of social media, we will also find deep scars and tales of agonies, all caused by the same thing. The crux of the matter is striking an appropriate balance between the online world and the real one. To outlaw all social media and eliminate devices will be a folly, but so will be the case with neglecting the real world, and the consequent relationships, if not more so.

The essence of social media makes it an invaluable resource for all people, but also makes it very easily exploitable for those who are not careful. If we are to progress as a people, then we must understand the impacts of the said media, and how we can learn to work around it. In this way, we can truly move toward becoming a society of the future, a utopia.


The writer is currently studying at Aitchison College Lahore. [email protected]