Real friendship may soon be replaced by interactions online, new studies show. Teenagers are now replacing social interaction with online play and “lurking” – that is, looking at other friend’s post on their dashboard or wall via Twitter or Facebook. Some sixty percent of students studied say that interactions online make them “feel better,” and that online interactions with people they rarely see in person got them through tough situations and life problems. Teenagers aged 13-17 are finding new and inventive ways of creating friendships online or through video games. However, this development may cause social impairment, or worse; teenagers lurk on social media for some kind of quasi-involvement: When they notice what others are saying, they feel part of a group or conversation, even if they have not contributed.
Involvement in social media creates a kind of replacement for actual social interaction. There is the same lift one would get from real interaction, as if they are awarded real attention and solace, but at the end they may see that it is only an illusion. After checking statuses and perhaps liking them or responding in some way, they will find themselves lonelier at the end of the day, having less meaningful friendships than what the computer screen seems to promise. “Many teenagers,” Amanda Lenhart, a major figure in the recent pew studies says, “can’t choose to go to be physically with their friends.” This may be for any number of reasons, from demanding studies to unsafe neighborhoods. Too, many teenagers say they met online, and there was no social interaction in the first place. Just twenty percent of those studied say they met their friends in person. The rest say they met online.
There are many dangers to this development, as we have seen. Some of those reported are a feeling of exclusion or even friends posting things meant to be a bit more private. Teenagers not invited to parties may feel even more excluded now that they are privy to pictures of what goes on there – it may make them feel more hurt by not “fitting in” – a desire felt by all teenagers since the invention of the word. Teenagers hardly ever meet in person anymore, and the social media platforms do not end with Twitter or Instagram, and so on – new innovations cause new relationships and friendships, and this becomes the basis of conversation, to say nothing of gaming.
This speaks nothing to further detriments having to do with image. Not only are teenagers constantly changing their image, but they also have to keep a positive image for future relationships or jobs, even. Keeping an image that is consistent is hard even for adults – how much more for teenagers?
“Eventually, you may not be seen as an authentic member of your generation without some sort of unfortunate online history,” Amanda Lenhart said concerning social media. Sadly, this is true, and according to recent Pew research, a fifth of high school students say they hang out more often online than in person. In a recent study, one student reported she takes 100 selfies – only to decide which of them she likes well enough to show to her friends online.
Teenagers are bombarded with a host of social media and video gaming platforms, which makes their environment rife with bullying, negative social activity, and yes – vanity. Such problems can even lead to suicide or depression. One Madison Holleron, a first-year student at the University of Pennsylvania took her own life for feeling so sad and overwhelmed at her friends’ pictures on Instagram. Many teenagers are facing problems with popularity, self-image, and friendship as well.
Teenagers are facing great obstacles in today’s world. Not only do teenagers need to face social problems with their own peers, but also with adults – when pursuing a job or interacting with relatives with respect to social media or embarrassing interactions. Teenagers spend more time online and with video games – how then will the next generation be socially healthy?
The answer is not quite clear. One thing is for certain, however: Social media is not going anywhere, and the explosion of its use may be a serious problem in future generations. Its benefits are many, but quite possibly its problems are more.