A Conclusion of Social Media and Relationships

To conclude this blog, it is clear that there is a strong mutual shaping between social media and relationships. This is apparent from looking at social networking sites and how we display our relationships due to a social pressure we feel, which effects the content that is being uploaded and shared. Furthermore, social networking sites can also lead to causing relationships to end due to issues such as jealousy, which can also effect how and what we use social media for. Finally, social networking sites were made to make us more social by widening our connections, however, we have changed this by mainly being connected to people who are geographically close to us, although we cannot necessarily consider them friends as we still feel that we need to have an offline connection.



Facebook “Friends”

Social media has created higher connectivity and increased sociability. This is because of an increased number in social contacts and effectively friends. However, this may mean that we have a large number of social contacts, leaving us with only a small percentage of social media connections who are real, close friends.

Social networking sites include common features, such as profiles, a list of connections, commenting, and private messaging. On one hand, people argue that computer mediated communication on social media may be a more positive way for people to communicate as they’re more likely to be their true selves on-line (Whitty, 2008). However, it has been found that the people in our list of connections may not actually be considered friends by the user (boyd & Ellison, 2007). Social media controls our connections in different ways, for example Twitter uses ‘followers and ‘following’, so one user can connect with someone independently, without the other user having to return or complete the connection. Whereas, LinkedIn requires a link to be agreed by both users.

So, how many Facebook friends do you have, and how many of these can you call your friends? According to Robin Dunbar (1998), there is in fact a maximum number of relationships of which a person can maintain, which is limited by the size of our brain. This is referred to as Dunbar’s number and is 150.

dunbars(Wittman, 2013)

We can maintain an “inner circle” of fewer than 20 people of our closest family and friends, and of those we can only have 5 really close friends (Dunbar, 1998).

Although the limited number of friendships we can maintain is 150, the average person has a lot more friends on Facebook. So, why do we feel that we need to have people who aren’t our friends knowing about our personal lives through social media? And will Dunbar’s number increase the more we adapt to the ways of social media?

I’ll leave you with a short video which explains a little more about Dunbar’s theory by Rocketboom (2011):

Stay Connected

Social media is a way to stay connected, either publicly or privately. It allows us to maintain relationships over geographical distance, and provides as somewhere for relationships to be maintained and built between people from a wide ranged demographic.

Due to the number of people using the internet grew during the 90’s, internet researcher had more opportunity to study communities and networks that were developing on-line. They started to notice the “continuity of offline relationships and behaviours of users…amplifying the importance of social context” (Hinton & Hijorth, 2013). For example, Barry Wellman and Caroline Haythornthwaite (1998 & 2002) studied computer scientists working in Universities, and how they used computer networking as part of their work and social communication. They found that over all, people communicated more depending how strong their offline connections were. They discovered that people who were on these networks more, were people who were already friends, or who’d developed relationships through their work (Haythornthwaite & Wellman, 1998). They began understanding that on-line communities, where offline factors were recognised, as having a crucial role in on-line communication (Wellman and Haythornthwaite, 2002).

Similarly, Daniel Miller and Don Slater (2001) researched how Trinidadians used the internet, specifically looking at their on-line behaviour and how it is put into context with other cultural, offline activities. They saw that in order to understand Trinidadian use of the internet, it’s important to consider their geographical place and their offline social world. They describe their approach to see how Trinidadians use the internet as “one that sees it embedded in a specific place, which it also transforms” (Miller and Slater, 2001. p.21). In other words, being Trinidadian played a key factor in how and why the people in Trinidad went on-line, and is some cases, the on-line environment gave them a space where people could be Trinidadian. This shows how “the internet shapes, and is shaped by the cultural context in which it is performed” (Hinton and Hijorth, 2013. pg 38.).

Futhermore, Parks (2001) examined MySpace users, looking at how often people logged in, how many times they updated their profiles, and how many people they were connected to. Other than finding that most accounts were unused and had very few on-line friends, he noticed that people with a large amount of friends on MySpace mostly were connected with people in a fairly small geographical distance from themselves (Parks, 2011). Therefore people are using Facebook to maintain and stay connected with existing offline connections and local relationships. He discovered that offline and on-line relationships are closely linked.

So, in different ways and by using different case studies and people to study, Wellman and Haythornthwaite (1998 & 2002), Miller and Slater (2001), and Parks (2011) all discovered that mutual shaping can be seen through how connections and relationships are maintained using social media by the intertwining of offline and on-line social relationships and activities.


 (Getty Images, n.d.)

‘Social networking sites don’t deepen friendships’


Science correspondant James Randerson (2007) writes about relationships in terms of friendships on social media in an article in The Guardian, ‘Social networking sites don’t deepen friendships’.

It discusses that researchers believe although social media helps people collect hundreds, and perhaps thousands of connections, social networking sites do not infact help you make more genuine close friends. They believe that to form a truly close friendship, face to face or offline contact is always neccessary.


In my next blog posts, Stay Connected and Online ‘Friends’ I will discuss the mutual shaping of social networks and friendships.

Facebook Jealousy

Modern couples using Social Networking Sites may experience jealousy issues. Utz and Bukeboom (2011) state that there are three types of jealousy:

  • Reactive – an emotional reaction due to a partners unfaithfulness,
  • Anxiety – the fear of your partner being unfaithful,
  • and Possessive – monitoring your partners behaviour, and trying to control their other relationships.

Social networking sites make it easy for people to monitor their partners by what information they’re posting, which can result in trust issues.

Watch the video below from YouTube about the stress which Social Media can cause in romantic relationships according to the Cleveland Clinic (2012) :

The video explains that discovering things about your partner on social media, such as them having a friend request from an ex partner, or revealing information and photos on their profile. The Cleveland Clinic explains that we’re not emotionally able to deal with this kind of competition, but with the rise of social media, we will soon adapt to this.

The use of the media has changed the way people connect with each other, and has made people more nosy (Darvell et al., 2011). People monitoring their partners is the second most reported act on Facebook (Tonkunaga, 2011). Ultz and Buekeboom (2011) agree saying that monitoring a partner through Facebook has become ‘almost’ acceptable. This means social networking sites can cause higher anxiety and jealousy, which can essentially threaten the existence of the romantic relationship (Marshall et al., 2012).

Using social networking sites to monitor your partner has an advantage, which can often be unintentional, because you can be anonymous. However, whatever has happened on social media will always affect your offline life, and  relationships in the offline life will effect social networking sites and how society uses them. “Facebook increases exposure to information about one’s partner that may arouse jealousy, and jealousy in turn may increase the time spent on Facebook in search of relationship-relevant information” (Marshall et al., 2012, p.2)

I’m going to leave you with a YouTube video made by Vlogger GoziTV (2013). Although the video is obviously humorous, she makes some interesting points about how people can over react about their partner ‘liking’ something on Facebook, and the extremes people can go to, to monitor how their partner uses social media.




Pressure on Romantic Relationships


 (Sodahead, 2012)

After looking at the article by Richard Adams (2011) from The Guardian that I posted on my last blog post, ‘Facebook is a top cause of relationship trouble, says US lawyers’, I wanted to consider why that is, and how mutual shaping is involved. Traditionally, relationships deal with love, trust, commitment, passion and honesty; but now they have to deal with much more (Marshall et al., 2012). Now that relationships have branched on-line to social media environments, the components of a relationship have to deal with new influences.

Firstly, because we use social media to get others attention, we post about our personal lives and opinions to get feedback from our ‘Friends’, as this gives us a sense of validation about our lives. Rau, Gao & Ding (2008) argue that social networking sites “expect to gratify social-emotional needs rather than informational needs, and they are connected in a person-to-person manner which is more direct and interpersonal”. Romantic relationships are pressured by this and tend to display their relationships by posting photos of themselves and their partner as their ‘profile picture’, so that it can be seen on their main profile page. Clark, Lee and Boyer (2007) proposed that more than half of Facebook users post photos of themselves in a romantic  situation, as they feel that by displaying affection that they are adding value to their relationship. Social media requires certain kinds of social performance, which make intimacy public (Hinton & Hjorth, 2013). The mutual shaping of this, is that without the need for society to feel like they need acceptance and attention for our private relationships, Facebook wouldn’t need to display our relationship status and pictures, or give us the option for us to ‘like’ and comment on these.


 (Meme Generator, n.d.)

Read my next blog post Facebook Jealousy to see why else relationships are suffering because of social media.

‘Facebook a top cause of relationship trouble, say US lawyers’


An article by Richard Adams (2011) which featured in The Guardian on-line, says that lawyers from the US are stating that the popular social networking site, Facebook, has become a primary source of evidence in the court, particularly in divorce proceeding and custody battles. It is argued that although the divorce rate has almost remained stable since the early 2000′s, Facebook has become a main cause of relationship problems.

Facebook-Divorce-2(Halsbury’s Law Exchange, 2013)

Read Pressure and Romantic Relationships and Facebook Jealousy to find out more about relationship problems caused by social media.