Social media was completely unheard of two decades ago, but today it is an integral part of most people’s lives. Social media theorists have different opinions on how the internet affects our relationships. Some of these social media theorists claim that the internet has improved relationships while other theorists claim that that the internet has a negative effect on real world relationships.

The truth is that the theorists on both sides of the question are right. Here’s why.

How Social Media and the Internet Can Aid Relationships

Social media and the internet have the ability to aid relationships in the following ways. It helps family members and friends stay in touch, even when there is a huge gap in distance and time between them. Even for those people who live a busy life, staying in touch through emails and texts is a quick way to let those people you care about know that you are thinking of them, while connecting through social media means that you have a means of keeping up on what is going on in their life. While it may not be ideal, it is a way for people to be able to hold onto the bonds they built with important people in their lives.

In addition, the internet and social media gives you the opportunity to get to know people; you would never get the chance to “meet” any other way. Although these friendships aren’t based on shared activities, they give you the opportunity to get to know people that you would otherwise never get the chance to get to know and form friendships based on common interests. So social media theorists who claim the internet can benefit relationships are right.

How Social Media and the Internet Can Harm Relationships

On the other hand, some social media theorists are quick to point out all of the ways that our growing dependence on social media has harmed our real world relationships. First, it has become more comfortable to interact with people online than in person, even those people who live in the same town or even on the same block. This prevents people from forming a real in depth relationship with the people around them.

In addition, when we do have quarrel with people in our lives, venting on social media to groups of people can make getting over the argument and forgiving one another more difficult, since things that are often said cannot be taken back, and doing all this venting has the potential of destroying one person’s trust in another.

The truth is that it can be difficult to connect with people in the real world when you are always on your cell phone sending a text to someone who you have never met in person.

So those social media theorists who claim that social media and the internet can ruin relationships are also right.

Despite what all those social media theorists say, it is up to individuals to find a balance between maintaining real world relationships and building those social media relationships so that each gets equal time to develop.