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Meet a new person and what's the first thing you do after they leave? Find them on Facebook, send them a friend request and take a peek into their virtual world. Next comes following them in other such social media sites. But how 'virtual' is this world in today's day and age when people want to fit too much in too little time?
Are our friendships now only confined to social media platforms? Have they replaced the old times where friends would take out time to meet each other and talk at length about their lives? News about one's engagement or new girlfriend was announced in person rather than with a status update, and likes and pokes were in the form of real hugs and nudges.
Or have they got us closer than before? We get minute-by-minute updates of our favourite people (and not-so-favourite ones). We know where they went for their vacation, what they ordered at a restaurant, how their mood is today and so on.
The debate is endless. But let's take a look at what experts have to say about the topic.
Are the smiling pictures real?
Rachel Hercman, a psychotherapist specializing in sexuality, dating, and relationships, feels that these websites do not paint the real picture. You often get feeds about a friend's relationship status or wild night out with images posed and otherwise, but it still does not tell you if they indeed are happy inside. (Read: How social media is harming your sex life)
'In my counselling work addressing relationship and sexual issues, I often encounter the impact of social media on one's insecurities. For some, it seems like everyone but them is enjoying a satisfying sex life and has a blissful, loving relationship without issues. Relationships are complicated and people are complicated, but there's no disclaimer in social media reminding you that you are not seeing the real feelings and the real challenges. Consequently, you see your friends' lives on your timeline, compare their 'outsides' with your 'insides' and fear that you're missing out on all the fun,' she says.
Can social media harm you?
According to a study published in the Israel Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences, social networking sites including Facebook can affect your mental health and lead to psychotic episodes and delusions! (Read: Facebook can make you psychotic and delusional)
'While technologies such as Facebook have numerous advantages, some patients are harmed by these social networking sites, which can attract those who are lonely or vulnerable in their day-to-day lives or act as a platform for cyber-bullying and other predatory behaviour,' says Dr Uri Nitzan of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Shalvata Mental Health Care Center.
So does that mean we disappear from the virtual world?
No, that is not the only option you have. Moderation is key. Though social media is an advantage when it comes to keeping in touch with friends living far away or finding long lost friends, it is not a substitute for meeting your friends. Interacting with them beyond Facebook, Twitter, etc is vital. Here are few tips you can make use of in real life:
Remember, people and relationships matter more than these social platforms so keep in touch with them beyond the virtual world and cherish their friendship.
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