How Our Interpersonal Relationships are Impacted by Social Media 

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Interpersonal communication is a fragment of our interactions exemplified by the creation of a link between individuals. And it is through the nature of our interactions with technology and social media, that we are continuously changing the way we interact with the outside world, people around us, and the different values and things we seek in interpersonal relationships. By gaining a greater sense of how our interactions with the wide scope of media channels available to us take place, one can understand their impact on our ability to form, maintain and interact in interpersonal relationships.

The first form of interpersonal communication and relationship to be examined would be of significant others. More modernly associated with “online dating”, a notorious industry in our modern-day. “There Are Plenty of Fish in The Sea: The Effects of Choice Overload and Reversibility on Online Daters’ Satisfaction With Selected Partners” is a study by “Jonathan D. D’Angelo”, and “Catalina L. Toma” at UW-Madison, is a study that captures the many side effects created by the various social dating templates that have made interpersonal communication into a factory, aiming to mass-produce relationships. The study considers the two aspects of partner choice on online dating applications. One of which is known as “reversibility”, which is the degree to which online applications provide daters with the ability to easily change their minds and undo certain actions on dating templates. Such an option has shaped many of our interpersonal relationships in the modern day, as it is a feature found in many of our social templates that involve erasing one’s interaction with individuals by simply deleting the individual’s information or the whole application. Through this extremely unrealistic option, people are more inclined to pursue meaningless relationships. However, such a negative feature is often concealed by the notion of comfort associated with it, the comfort to make mistakes viewing the option of reversibility as a cushion to their faults, subsequently reducing one’s motivation to put effort into the maintenance of a relationship. And eventually reflecting negatively on an individual’s ability to create and maintain meaningful interpersonal relationships. The second aspect considered is “quantity”. Online dating applications are notoriously known for embodying the saying “There is Plenty of Fish in The Sea” by presenting an unlimited scope of options to a potential love seeker, a feature that has served to boost the popularity of such apps, appearing to be a great idea in increasing one’s chances of finding love. The study, however, notes that the excessive availability of choice is not always so beneficial, especially in interpersonal communication. This is as it can ultimately impact “interpersonal evaluations” which refers to an individual’s ability to make clear and correct judgments when given the choice to create interpersonal relationships. This theory is further supported in a study by (Ellison, Heino, & Gibbs, 2006), which captures how such a wide pool of choice may not be so beneficial after all, as it can potentially make daters “reluctant to commit to just one person”. For example: when one is provided with unlimited options, they tend to feel conflicted and overwhelmed by such a wide pool, which essentially blinds their ability to make accurate and correct judgments and might lead them to pursue multiple options. Such a challenge is perfectly illustrated in the unlimited quantity featured in online templates. When faced with a wide choice, many people are likely to pursue multiple relationships at once, unable to settle or decide and come to a conclusion that they desire. As a result, reducing the quality and longevity of interpersonal relationships spearheaded by online dating sites. Online dating tools could also be blamed for stripping the interconnectedness of souls and personalities from interpersonal communication. According to (Walther, Slovaceck, and Tidwell, 2001) it was recorded that “the presence or absence of a personal photo has been shown to affect the perceived social attractiveness”, subsequently impacting one’s chances of finding a “match”. Such a study serves to capture the unrealistic relational standards set by social dating templates, that base interpersonal relations and interaction on physical attraction rather than compatibility of personalities, subsequently resulting in weak interpersonal relationships based on shallow and exterior factors.

Social media pierces all aspects of people’s lives, as well as many aspects of their relationships. One of the most prominently impaired relationships by social media is between a parent and child. “The dark sides of sharing” is a study by “Andra Siibak”, and “Keily Traks” at the University of Tartu, That serves to capture all the dark sides of parental oversharing on social media also known as “sharenting”, a recently coined term that defines the excessive forms of online sharing made by parents on social media, as well as their desire to be seen as a good parent in the eyes of the world (Damkjaer 2018). Along with many, this study has concluded that sharenting has become a primary part of a child’s life before they are even born. This could primarily be seen in parents sharing ultrasounds, as well as broadcasting their parental journey, implanting their children’s digital imprint before they are even born. As a result, Parental sharenting on social media has heavily influenced the interpersonal communication and relationships between children and their parents, an ideology which is further explored in this study that indicates how children often feel “embarrassed, annoyed, and even frustrated” by their parent’s tendencies to overshare on social media, a factor that could be blamed for diminishing valuable interpersonal communication amongst kids and their parents. Additionally, social media oversharing by parents serves to create a rift between parents and their children creating greater distance in the relationship, this is illustrated through the study’s conduction of a survey on British children between the ages of 12-16 years old where 71.3% believed their parents “did not respect their privacy online”, comments that were met with little regard from parents who many of which in the same survey believed that parents “have a right to decide and to control which information they share about their children on social media”. As a result, capturing the divide and lack of agreement and harmony in the interpersonal relationships amongst children and their parents, created by social media and its excessive usage. Ultimately pushing kids to distance themselves, feeling in no control of their privacy.

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The negatives of social media on parent and child relationships are also further examined in the study “Do we really want to chat with our parents online after “friending” them on social media?” In insights from Chinese students. The study explores the many negatives of social media on interpersonal relationships amongst parents and their children. Arguing that we have entered the era of the “Ifamily” and exploring the idea of friending one’s parent on social media. And how in many cases it causes children to feel susceptible to “parental pressure” to accept their parent’s request on social media, such pressure often results in impairing the intimacy of interpersonal relationships between parents and their children. Many adolescents claimed that their family members’ participation on social media often “damaged the closeness of their families” this is ultimately driven by the lack of privacy provided by social media. Through access to their children’s social media templates parents often feel a sense of empowerment and tend to assess and monitor their children’s digital footprints, and decisions, ultimately driving the children into constant fear and paranoia of maintaining their parents’ expectations, while continuing to exercise their freedom online. Due to such dynamics, relational tensions often tend to arise, eventually leading to the creation of layers and barriers of privacy between parents and their children hindering their interpersonal relationships and communication, as once again children feel a lack of control dictated by parental safeguarding on social templates. which often seems to drive many children into dishonesty, as they begin to use social templates to manipulate their parents, seen in children’s tendencies to create additional secret accounts to maintain their privacy and continue to uphold their online freedom, which subsequently hinders interpersonal relationships amongst parents and their children as parents remain oblivious to the change in their children’s behavior who continue to distance themselves from their parents.

“It’s a virtual world, not the real thing”: Young People’s Online Activities, Friendships, and Power”. Is a collection of conference papers from the International Communication Association, that explores the many different elements and impacts that play into the creation of a social bubble amongst adolescents on the internet, and how such factors impact interpersonal communication. The paper explores studies that suggest that the internet has become viewed as an “alternative to face-to-face interaction”. Through the convenience and simplicity offered by social media and the internet, individuals have become increasingly more reluctant to create and maintain face-to-face relations, completely changing interpersonal communication as we know it and morphing it into more remote and online features. Such changes to our interpersonal communication habits could be interpreted in multiple ways. Under a negative perspective, such changes in young adolescents’ interpersonal communication could be claimed as lacking intimacy and damaging a valuable human need for survival, that being “human interaction” often based on face-to-face communication, and that by stripping such a need for interpersonal relationships as we know them could cease to exist as they are replaced by less meaningful and weak ties. However, the study also captures the positives that could be brought about by the shift of interpersonal communication as we know it to a more remote type of communication, claiming that with the introduction of social media “adolescents have been able to exercise greater flexibility in their choice of peer groups and friend”. With the immense choice offered by social media, interpersonal communication has become a much more liberated form of communication where people are encouraged to exercise their opinions freely, while also allowing for the joining of communities and individuals regardless of the levels of diversity amongst them. Becoming an irreplaceable form of creating interpersonal relationships that are not limited by the barriers of proximity that often come in the way of healthy interpersonal communication and relationships. Claiming that through social media templates adolescents have additionally become able to exercise “greater independence “in their choice of friendships, that are not dictated by exterior factors, as a result leading to stronger and long-lasting interpersonal relationships.

To conclude, while interpersonal communication is an open system that impacts all elements of society, it is also heavily impacted by exterior factors, one of those primary factors being the presence of social media templates that serve to morph and challenge interpersonal communication as commonly known. Social media’s impacts on interpersonal relationships vary in extremity, while some of its key benefits could be its role in eliminating the barriers set on communication by proximity or beliefs, as a result providing individuals with a free diverse environment to create interpersonal bonds. Its outnumbering negatives tend to be the type of interpersonal relationships created by social media templates that often become much less intimate and long-lasting, but rather more shallow and empty interpersonal relationships, reducing individuals’ desire to commit, as well as their desire to seek out the valuable human need for face to face interaction.



  • D’Angelo, Jonathan D., and Catalina L. Toma. “There Are Plenty of Fish in the Sea: The Effects of Choice Overload and Reversibility on Online Daters’ Satisfaction With Selected Partners.” Media Psychology, vol. 20, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 1–27.
  • Siibak, Andra, and Keily Traks. “The Dark Sides of Sharenting.” Catalan Journal of Communication & Cultural Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, Apr. 2019, pp. 115–121.
  • “Do We Really Want to Chat with Our Parents Online after ‘Friending’ Them on Social Media? Insights from Chinese University Students.” Conference Papers — International Communication Association, Jan. 2018, pp. 1–30.
  • “‘It’s a Virtual World, Not the Real Thing’: Young People’s Online Activities, Friendships and Power.” Conference Papers — International Communication Association, Jan. 2017, pp. 1–25.
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