The recent global technological advancements have led to many changes in the ways people interact due to the development of social networking sites. A social networking site refers to a web-based service that allows people to create semi-public or public profiles, connect with other users of the website besides viewing and traversing their list of connections and those made by others within the website’s system.
The first social networking site to be established was ‘Friendster’ in 2002 followed by ‘LinkedIn’ and ‘Bebo’. Others include ‘Facebook’ and ‘MySpace’ invented in 2004 and 2005 respectively. The sites are growing exponentially in popularity around the globe as millions of people continue to join the internet community. Despite the popularity of the social networking sites, I have not considered using any of them in the near future since the use of social networking sites has a negative effect on relationships.
When used for a prolonged period, the sites enhance social isolation although they seem to bring people closer through their web-based interactions. The sole factor that causes the social isolation is the satisfaction that people tend to get through the sites once they communicate with their friends and family especially in cases of geographical separation. This communication hinders face-to-face interactions among people.
With time, the bond associated with one-on-one communication weakens. Research has shown that, this form of isolation can lead to psychological, mental as well as mental problems such as depression, anxiety and somatic complaints among others. For instance, couples in long distance romantic relationships will tend to be unfaithful if they rely exclusively on web-based communication over the social sites for a long period.
Social networking sites are time consuming. The users of social sites spend a lot of time updating their profiles and communicating with the other users within their social circle. This detracts them form the time they should have spend in other activities. Instead of concentrating on the activities assigned by their parents, most teens spend most of their time in the social networking sites posing a risk to their relationship with their parents.
For students, increased use of the social sites leads to poor academic performance, which negatively affects their relationship with not only their teachers but also with their parents. People who tend to use most of their time in web-based communications may become addicted. Just like any other form of addiction, the social site(s) detaches one from the rest of the society including his/her family.
Though social networking sites promise to protect an individual’s information, this is not always the case. The privacy settings of most of the sites are dynamic. Owing to the fact that many people are in constant search of a fake identity, they may get access to a user’s information. Such people use one’s personal information such as name, area of residence and education level to fake their identity-profile.
They may use the stolen identity to post illegal materials as well as other inappropriate materials in the website. This tarnishes the image of the victim(s), which may lead to the development of a sour relationship with his/her friends. The inappropriate use of one’s identity has made many marriages around the globe to break. It is unfortunate that it takes a relatively long time before on realizes that someone else has stolen his/her identity for some illegal or rather inappropriate reasons.
In addition, identity theft leads to the development of sour relationships between employers and employees. This occurs when one posts certain information to social networking sites that may tarnish the image of a given organization or an employer. It creates enmity between the victim and his/her employer, which may lead to the loss of his/her job in the organization. Children may unknowingly post confidential information about their family on the sites without the knowledge of the parents.
Once the parents discover that their child exposed some family secrets, the child may face a hard time trying to explain it to the parents. Researchers have reported that many family secrets have found their way to the internet, which has had a negative impact on the relationship between parents and their children. Some parents have forced their children to close their accounts in the social networking sites in an attempt to restore the broken relationship.
In the recent past, researchers have reported increased cases of cyber bullying. Interactions over the social networking sites are the basis of most forms of cyber bullying.
It involves the use of social networking sites to threaten and embarrass other people. It is a common phenomenon among teens. In adults, such acts are referred to as cyber-harassment or cyber stalking which have legal implications. Research has shown that one in every three teens has been a victim of cyber bullying. The cyber bullies could be classmates or even neighbors.
They cause a lot of emotional and psychological stress to the victims. In the extreme cases, the victims may end up committing suicide. The impact is not only on the victims but also on the bullies since they are bound to undergo some form of punishment either within the family or within the institution in question. It is therefore evident that the use of social networking sites has a negative effect on relationships not only within family settings but also within other institutions/organizations in the society.