Facebook has become a major part of most of our lives. We wake up and we check our social media accounts with the expectation that something has changed since we last checked them before bed. We use Facebook to keep in touch with long distance friends, close friends, and sometimes to meet complete strangers. But will becoming so social in our social media lives create anti-social behavior in our real lives? Will the next generation, born into social media, lack the social skills that the previous generations had no choice but to acquire?
Edward is on Facebook and notices a status posted by his Facebook friend and real life acquaintance, Tommy. The status reads, “Popped a Molly I’m sweatin’…amazing night.” Edward has now learned something about Tommy that he did not know; that he does drugs. At this point Edward comments on the status, “really mature, grow up”, and unbeknownst to Tommy, Edward immediately defriends him because he does not want to be associated with that type of behavior. The next time that Edward sees Tommy in person, he completely ignores him and their virtual and real friendship ceases to exist.
Before the existence of Facebook, Edward would have either never found out about Tommy’s drug use or learned through Tommy himself. In the former situation, Tommy and Edward would likely still be friends. In the latter situation Edward would have told Tommy to his face what he had said in the comment and would have told him that he no longer wanted to be friends. Facebook has allowed people to end relationships with the click of a button. Social media subscribers no longer have to approach a person face to face and can easily avoid an uncomfortable situation, if they choose. This can be beneficial in situations where the individual is known to be aggressive or violent and social media can be an alternative outlet in dealing with confrontation. But this reliance on Facebook also has its detriments.
A major concern is how the dependence on social media will, in the long run, affect the way in which we conduct ourselves in real time, face to face, in the real world. Those of us who have lived for most of our lives without social media have already learned the importance of relationships and the skills needed to conduct ourselves socially. Having lived without social media for the most critical years in our development and learning social etiquette is something we will retain no matter how much social media we use. But what about children who do not know a life without social media? Clearly, children are becoming social media users at a younger age. Children are saying things on social media that they probably would not in the real world. How will social media effect future generations? Will these generations still be able to grasp and utilize social skills regardless of their life long use of social media?