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The Effect of Social Media on Relationships Social media has become an everyday part of our lives. There are now over 2.5 billion people on social media, located all around the globe. However, social media being a relatively new platform of communication, the long-term effects of long distance, textual based interaction on the way we humans form relationships and communicate has been relatively unknown until recently.  According to multiple sources of research social media, has been shown to keep connect people together, especially over long distances but by doing so research shows it keeps people farther apart. If we take a look at our peers, most have some form of a cell phone. This widespread ownership of such devices with wireless capabilities make the use of social media much easier than in the past. Before the age of smartphones, social media sites such as Facebook were a much bigger hassle to access, needing big computers and laptops. That, however, has completely changed. Social media sites are accessible 24 hours a day, and thanks to our cellular devices, everywhere we go. It is unprecedented to be able to break the physical barrier of long-term communication, and while calling has been around for a long time, social media provides social connections such as face to face interaction like never before. There is little doubt among researchers and healthcare professionals about the short-term impact of extensive social media use, however, the long-term effects were relatively unknown as social media is a fairly new type of media. Until recently, there were many unknowns, however, the research I was able to discover research on the topic made one thing clear, social media definitely has an effect on the long-term developments of relationships and our social structure as a society as a whole. In this research paper, I will present factual data from credible research that outlines the effects social media has on individuals, relationships, and more specifically the development of both   romantic and friendly relationships among teenagers in society. Since the beginning of the world wide web, with all its capabilities, the ability to connect people together has been one of the strongest. According to a Pew survey conducted during 2014 and 2015, 94 percent of teens who use a mobile device to go online, do so daily. Teenagers use multiple social platforms. The most popular being Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Furthermore, 71 percent of teens say they use more than one social media site. The amount of users on social media is expected to increase to 3 billion by the year 2020, with over 78% of the United States population with a social media profile of some kind. In other words, by the year 2020 about half the people on the planet will have the capability to reach and socialize without the physical limits of the past.  According to a clinical report from the American Society of Pediatricians, 22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more often than 10 times a day. An estimated 75% of today’s teenagers own cell phones, proving a point earlier that social media digital networking is much more prevalent than it was in the past.  (Pearson 2 ) Though it is difficult to find exact figures a “Norton Online Family Report” surveyed 2800 children between the ages of 8 and 17 along with 7000 parents in 24 countries. The report found that an average 1.6 hours a day is spent online, furthermore, 48% of the kids surveyed believed they spent too much time online. Adolescent shows a bigger increase in internet usage as an “Internet Roiworld, Teens, and Social Networks” study showed 600 teenagers aged 13-17 of both genders were shown to spend 2 hours and 20 minutes online, and 80% of the time spent online on a social media networking site such as Facebook and Twitter. (Kuss 3) This shows a 35% increase in internet usage from the “Norton Online Family Report” which included children as well as teenagers. As teenagers grow in age, their use of social media seems to increase. According to a survey conducted by Amanda Lenhart of the Pew Research Center in 2009, both age and gender play a role in the prevalence of social media among teenagers. According to the Survey, 86% of teenage girls aged 15-17 had some form of social media, 69% of males with the same age had a social media profile. The numbers prevalence of social media seemed to decrease with age as only a mere 38% of children aged 12 to 14 had a form of social media.  With all theses statistics and research in mind, it’s obvious that this generation is growing up with social media. Thus the effects are prevalent through years of research. Teenagers and children are the most susceptible to the effects of long-term social media use. According to psychologist Carl Pickhardt Ph.D. Many of the both physical, mental and social development is occurs most rapidly during adolescence and such as the exposure of digital media the effect are much more pronounced. Furthermore,  due to the lack of self-regulation and the need to fit in children and teenagers the risk increases. An excerpt from the  clinical report by the Gwenn O’Keeffe of the American Society of Pediatricians states “Because of their limited capacity for self-regulation and susceptibility to peer pressure, children and adolescents are at some risk as they navigate and experiment with social media. Recent research indicates that there are frequent online expressions of offline behaviors, such as bullying, clique-forming, and sexual experimentation,4 that have introduced problems such as cyberbullying,5 privacy issues, and “sexting.”6 Other problems that merit awareness include Internet addiction and concurrent sleep deprivation.7”  These excerpt effects play a role in the social development of children. (Keeffe 1) The years of adolescents are the most important times in a person’s development, in those years will a child grasp a greater understanding of the world around them. According to the World Health Organization “Adolescence is a period of life with specific health and developmental needs and rights. It is also a time to develop knowledge and skills, learn to manage emotions and relationships, and acquire attributes and abilities that will be important for enjoying the adolescent years and assuming adult roles.” Some of the biggest things about learning how to function in a society are learned during the teenage years. Thus this period of time is essential for preparing a child for a life ahead of them. The biggest impact that the digital age has on children growing up around electronic devices since they were very young, or even since birth for some is the effect it has on the development of social skills, most of which we learn during childhood and adolescence. This age of digital media according to experts such as Clinical Psychologists  Dr. Catherine Adair has affected our social norms and thus many of the things children do to socialize such as hanging out at the mall or playing at the park are being supplemented by communication over social media. To others it may look like kids killing time however according to Rachel Ehmke of the Child Mind Institute  ” It may have looked like a lot of aimless hanging around, but what they were doing was experimenting, trying out skills, and succeeding and failing in tons of tiny real-time interactions that kids today are missing out on. For one thing, modern teens are learning to do most of their communication while looking at a screen, not another person. Thus many of the social skills we learn as children are being cut out completely and substituted by device to device communication. “(Adair 2)  As a species we are very highly attuned to reading social cues,” says Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair, a clinical psychologist and author of The Big Disconnect. “There’s no question kids are missing out on very critical social skills. In a way, texting and online  communicating—it’s not like it creates a nonverbal learning disability, but it puts everybody in a nonverbal disabled context, where body language, facial expression, and even the smallest kinds of vocal reactions are rendered invisible.” (Adair 4)  A study done by USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism released in September of  2017 named “The New Normal: Parents Teens and Digital Devices”  surveyed 1,2000 teens and parents and compared children in The United States and Japan. The study found that most parents of children aged 13-18 felt their children were addicted to the use of mobile devices. According to Willow Bay, dean of USC Annenberg ” These shifts are happening faster and more dramatically than any change in recent history” , Furthermore, when the study asked if devices were a distraction, 72% of American teens surveyed felt the need to respond to messages and other notifications immediately. While 48% percent of Japanese teens said the same. In both countries, 35% of teens felt addicted to their devices and a majority of parents agreed. The study itself not only shows that teenagers are developing real problems with psychological addiction to their devices, but also that this isn’t just a United States issue, but rather a global one. Many children lacking the social skills due to the lack of development as a result of a childhood of lack of face to face communication and social networking use grow up to be adults lacking essential social skills needed for adult life such as a job interview or career. Social media has changed the once normal social customs that have existed for generations. A particular subject includes the development of romantic relationships. In the past, people had to meet face to face, and develop a physical connection. However, since the age of social media, that has completely changed. According to Pew Research Center, many teenagers are beginning to use social media as an outlet for emotional support, jealousy, and connection with others. 59% of teens surveyed said social media makes them feel more connected to their significant other and 15% said it made them feel really connected. 47% said social media offers a place for them to show how much they care about their significant other presumably through the act of showing off a significant other on someone’s social media profile which is available for thousands of people to see. According to the research conducted by Pew Research Centre boys are more likely to use social media in romantic relationships in regards to space for both an emotional and logistical connection with a partner. 65% of boys who have had relationships in the past agree that social media sites made them feel more involved with the events in a significant partners life in comparison to 52% of girls. Furthermore, 50% of boys surveyed said social media allows for a stronger emotional connection with a partner in comparison with 37% of girls.  However, among boys, the impact is fairly minimal with only 16% saying social media had a big impact on connection with a partners personal life. (Lehart 1) With this research data in mind, it’s clear that social media has some impact on the developments and sustainability of romantic relationships among teens. The degree of that impact, however, must be distinguished with research on both sides of the question. Social media affects the brain tremendously, according to a recent study by researchers in UCLA brain mapping center An fMRI scanner was used to image the brains of 32 teenagers as they used a social media site. When using the site, many regions of the brain where expressed and some like the reward center of the brain was especially active by the use of”  likes” inside the app. Furthermore, the scans revealed that the nucleus accumbens, a big part in the reward center of the brain, was active when teenagers were exposed to a large number of likes on their own photos, possibly contributing to the addicting factors mentioned earlier. The brain due to its plasticity has shown large differences in teens that use social media on a daily basis and those that don’t.  “It could be explaining, at least in part, why teens are such avid social media users.” says lead author of the study Lauren Sherman. She continues with “Reward circuitry is thought to be particularly sensitive in adolescence,”.  The correlation betweens social media and the brain’s reward center may explain why so many teenagers find themselves addicted to it. Addiction is psychological can have some real effects on a teenagers life, including losing valuable time with others by being stuck on a screen. The biggest impact this has on children is the loss of friendship. While social media has many negative effects on the youth of society, research shows it can have some positive effects as well. According to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Social media sites have been shown to allow teens to accomplish multiple tasks that wouldn’t be possible in the past. Some of the tasks included in the report consists of assisting in helping to stay connected with friends and family, making new friends, sharing pictures and exchanging ideas. The report continues to show that social media may help maintain friendships as it connects people together even when physical communication is impossible due to distance primarily.  The distance factor is one of the biggest factors for the use of social media by children. Furthermore, social media according to the report ” expansion of one’s online connections through shared interests to include others from more diverse backgrounds (such communication is an important step for all adolescents and affords the opportunity for respect, tolerance, and increased discourse about personal and global issues); and fostering of one’s individual identity and unique social skills.”  (Keffe 3) The development of relationships online known more commonly as online dating, is a completely new type of way for people to meet and form bonds with people outside their physical boundary. Due to the internet being able to connect people, the physical boundaries of the past are broken through social media sites such as Facebook and Google Plus. These sites have even been able to create a sort of face to face interaction among people like never done before. The use of the camera on a device allows for people to view each other on their respective screens. This completely breaks the physical boundaries of the past, and allows for human relationships to form all over the world. According to a report from Pew Research Center of Internet and Technology  ” The share of 18- to 24-year-olds who report having used online dating has nearly tripled in the last two years” (Smith) However, Smith goes on to say that “Users of online dating are generally positive – but far from universally so – about the pros and cons of dating digitally. On one hand, a majority of online dating users agree that dating digitally has distinct advantages over other ways of meeting romantic partners” (Smith 3) The majority of research I was able to discover showed some effect on the development of romantic relationships, however the data throughout varied, with some emphasizing a greater correlation while some showing a less significant connection. One thing we must keep in mind is the populations of those surveyed, some populations may show an increase in social media usage while others less, as a result of numerous factors such as exposure, access, and economic factors such as not being able to afford a mobile device or internet access.  Children in urban areas instead of suburban areas are also more likely to own a mobile device and have access to internet connection. According to a Pew Research Report ” Those who live in rural areas are less likely than those in suburban and urban communities to use social media, a pattern consistent over the past decade. Today, 58% of rural residents, 68% of suburban residents, and 64% of urban residents use social media”. (Perrin 1) Thus the populations surveyed are more likely to have an increased dependence if they were raised in an urban area such as a large city or silicon valley, or rural areas like much of the south. During the duration of my research, I was able to discover a correlation in most of the studies I encountered. The correlation I discovered showed me something clear, that there was indeed a connection between social media use, and an increase of children who grow up into adults in our society, unable to communicate due to losing out on some of the basic social skills that are normally learned in childhood. However, I was also able to discover the increase of global communication due to social media, forming both new romantic and friendly relationships.  However, considering all research data and statistics leads me to conclude that there is infact a negative impact that social media has on teengers, with a larger impact younger age groups such as the beginning of adolescence. Significantly, the effect is larger and more evident the older a child is, when they begin to use social media on a consistent basis. Most likely due to the reason that most children do not begin dating and forming relationships much into their adolescents. With the overwhelming amount of evidence, through factual and credible research, there is little doubt that social media has a profound effect in the development of friendly and romantic relationships. In conclusion,The research I discovered has led me the consensus that social media has a drastic overall effect on the development of both friendly and romantic relationships. With some effects being negative and others positive, the majority however, were negative. While some research suggests it pushes the development of relationships among people, however, the development can be either negative or positive, and most research presented in this paper showed a negative correlation. This eventually leads to the conclusion that social media, while balanced can have positive effects on the development of friendly relationships. I can predict that the growth of social media and the use among adolescents will only increase. With that being said, the future generations will lose out on much of the personal and physical interaction of the past, with more relationships developing online. Overall, with the influx of people using the internet, along with an increase in cell phone ownership, social media has both positive and negative effects on adolescent relationships.

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