Social media: Tearing us apart or bringing us together?

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Social media: connecting us no matter where in the world we’re from. Image courtesy of Clarita, Morguefile.

There’s been a lot written lately about the topic of social media destroying human relationships. With some of us, we’re barely off social media at all: constantly taking selfies with Instagram, checking Facebook for updates or telling the world what we’re doing via Twitter or Foursquare. This can get annoying, especially when you’re attempting to have a meaningful conversation with somebody.

So I can see how some people feel that social media messes up our ability to have relationships and connect with each other. In some cases, social media had a direct impact on somebody’s relationship. A Wall Street Journal article notes that 80% of U.S. divorce attorneys say they’ve seen a rise in the number of cases using social networking. Ouch. Some couples are fighting over Twitter, too. Double ouch.

I would argue for the other side, though. In some ways, social media brings us together. Look at all of us on WordPress, for example. We’ve developed virtual friendships with each other through visiting each other’s blogs, leaving witty or insightful comments, offering sympathy to those bloggers who recount life’s more horrendous experiences and providing constructive support to the people going through tough times in their lives. Thousands of these conversations go on, every day.

It’s even gone further than that. Some bloggers choose to personally meet each other in a face-to-face meeting. From what I’ve read of the experience of other bloggers, it turns out well because both bloggers feel like they’ve gotten to know each other before they ever meet.

LinkedIn’s another interesting example. I’ve gotten to know some fascinating people doing fascinating work within my LinkedIn discussion groups. Yesterday, I had a long phone conversation with a new connection from another city. If it wasn’t for LinkedIn, we would have never met and gotten to know each other.

It’s happening on Twitter too. My Irish blogger buddy Liam O’Dell of The Life of A Thinker introduced me to British blogger Chelsea Lou Haden of Loving Life In Wellies via Twitter, and it’s been fun ever since.

But social media does the best at bringing us together when it’s something we can all relate to. It might be a funny video on YouTube, a once-in-a-lifetime photo preserved on Flickr or a life-changing WordPress post, but if it touches the universal human experience, it reaches everybody.

And isn’t that the whole point of social media? Enabling us to share experiences with each other and build relationships? What are your thoughts, blog readers?

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