Social Media: How it affects Personal Relationship

My previous blog “Social Media: Are we connecting people” explored social media and the different facets of social relationships. In this blog, I will focus on social media and its impact on psychological well-being.

All of us nowadays own smartphones, tablets, wearable gadgets, laptop, or personal computers. These devices are incorporated in our daily life. Take the case of smartphones. We feel like something is missing if we forget them because we don’t know what is happening around the world. It is common to see people taking public transport are glued to their screen without minding other people on the bus or train. Likewise, it is no surprise to see someone taking a photo on the bus and post it on social media. However, I was amused one time when I saw someone reading a newspaper on the bus because we can access the online news anytime and print media almost have late coverage because of the time it will take to print and distribute it.

A study conducted by Goodman-Deane, et al. (2016, p. 225–226) on online participants from Australia, UK and the US noted that although some communication technologies have some impact on human relationships, face-to-face communication is important because it allows for instant feedback, cues, body language and intonation. The study also observed that there is a negative association between social networking use and overall satisfaction due to the potential influence of social media on comparing lives with other people.

So why do we use social media if there is a potential implication on our social life? Do we have to keep up with the Joneses? Or do we like to express ourselves freely in an online forum without thinking the impact of our posts?

Chapin (2016, p. 726) observed that adolescents use Facebook to create an identity, sharing photos, random thoughts, and collecting friend. When teenagers move to college, social media provides an easy way to stay connected with friends and family.

Most often, teens’ online friends are actual friends at school, family members and other relatives. Their posts are an accurate reflection of their feelings because there is a blurred line between virtual and the real world. On the other hand, they are also testing the freedom of expression that is not often the case when talking personally to their friends. As a result, they are opening themselves to a level of bullying on social media.

Fousiani, Dimitropoulou, Michaelides, & Van Petegem, S. (2016, p. 2120) noted that “cyber bullying is characterized by certain unique features from traditional bullying such as the possible anonymity of the offender and the distancing effect that technological devices ensure, rendering cyberbullies more unaware about the consequences of their behaviors — a fact that, in turn, may reduce potential empathy towards their victims”.

Chapin (2016, p. 720) observed that the “most common types of cyberbullying reported were telling lies about a person, threatening to hurt someone, and revenge for perceived mistreatment. Students believe cyber bullying is caused by romantic relationships (breaking up, rejection, jealousy), followed by being picked on for non-conformity, and revenge”.

In a random sample of students are cyberbullied at a Midwestern school in the US, 31% of the students in their lifetime. To minimise the potential effect of social media on teenagers, Fousiani, Dimitropoulou, Michaelides, & Van Petegem, S. (2016, p. 2127) suggested that parents should:

  • Discuss with children the usage of social networking sites
  • Form rules for online behaviours, or
  • Propose other media that they might enjoy

In 2015, New Zealand enacted the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. The purpose of this Act is to —

(a) deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and

(b) provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.

Some sectors argue that the new Bill will impact the freedom of speech by providing power to complainants. However, I think we should be mindful of the balance between protecting potential victims from harmful contents versus free speech. The content provider should also implement policies to review comments or feedback without affecting privacy.


Goodman-Deane, Mieczakowski, Johnson, Goldhaber, & Clarkson. (2016). The impact of communication technologies on life and relationship satisfaction. Computers in Human Behavior, 57, 219–229.

Chapin, J. (2016). Adolescents and Cyber Bullying: The Precaution Adoption Process Model. Education and Information Technologies, 21(4), 719–728.

Fousiani, K., Dimitropoulou, P., Michaelides, M. P., & Van Petegem, S. (2016). Perceived Parenting and Adolescent Cyber-Bullying: Examining the Intervening Role of Autonomy and Relatedness Need Satisfaction, Empathic Concern and Recognition of Humanness. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(7), 2120–2129.

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