Social media affecting relationships in more and more ways

By Taylor Kearns - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - These days you can find just about anything on the Internet, and that includes love. Social media is making it easier to find and share your relationships with the world. But sometimes that comes at a high cost.

Social media has become so commonplace many have a hard time even thinking how they'd live without it. "We're getting reliant on Facebook to keep us updated," said Malia Griggs, editor of the University of South Carolina's student magazine.

Griggs wrote an article last year taking a satirical jab at how Facebook is changing the way we communicate. Personal relationships, she says, are now a matter of public discourse. "It's less personal its less between you and that person, now there's room for others to come in and comment on it," said Griggs. "There's a lot more room for feedback from your friends and people who aren't even your close friends."
You can tap into it anywhere, any time -- an online existence so vast and absorbing, most offices have policies against it.

But not at David Shea's law practice. "In divorce cases, it's amazing how often we use this now," said Shea. "We're on Facebook several times a day."

Websites intended to connect people are used to split them up. Nearly half of his cases involve elements mined from social networks. "I've found photos of individuals sitting with a bottle of liquor in a chair passed out, in the middle of a custody case," said Shea.

Information Shea says is easy to find as users get more comfortable uploading their relationships to the world. These days, "poking" is the new handshake and wall postings are the new love letter. "Dating is kind of dead," said Griggs. "Now it's a series of flirting online."

Griggs says her research shows a growing reliance on social media, including the need to make relationships an online and very public experience. "It's kind of like 'do you wanna be my friend, do you wanna date, well lets put it on Facebook,'" said Griggs. "There's the decision, that's what seals it you're not wearing his varsity letters, it's on Facebook. It's like a declaration."

An interaction that in the 'good old days' took place face to face. "You're seeing what they're posting to their statuses and what photos they're putting up, you're seeing what they want you to see, but you're not actually sitting down and talking to them on a deeper level," said Griggs.

Dr. Jennifer Reynolds is an associate professor of anthropology at USC. She says as a culture, we've always used popular mediums to show our affection. "Often times it's these forms that are the most culturally conventional where emotion is most connected to them, because they're most shared," said Reynolds.

Reynolds also points out that reaching out online might seem cold and inpersonal, but consider sending flowers. It's culturally recognized as a way to say 'I like you,' but how much does it reveal about who you really are?

"When an individual is venturing out to show their emotional vulnerability, it's through forms that aren't very revealing of the individual," said Reynolds.
It's clear, though, that many are learning the hard way of what aspects of relationships should and should not be shared with the world. Sometimes it lands them in the office of David Shea.

"I think it has become a lot more comfortable, when email was new there were people who didn't email a lot now email is so commonplace we couldn't live without it," said Shea. "Facebook and other social media are becoming that way."

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