Many would say that digital relationships are bad. This can be easily seen in the way people automatically bring up romantic relationships as a negative example. While our use of social media in this sense may be a poor substitute for an in-person relationship, digital communication and its consequent relationships as a whole, provide humanity with a wonderful network of connections. Not only is it necessary for the businesses of the current era to maintain digital relationships, it is also necessary that the public maintains digital relationships.
It has been long held since the development of the smartphone and social media that these things are “hurting our intimacy, empathy,” and our ability to “meaningfully collaborate in the workplace”. There is an amount of physicality that we lose in the digital realm that causes us become used to interacting without feeling such things as empathy. The truth is that meaningful human interaction is necessary in order to stave off and distract us from the crushing loneliness caused by the nihilism of post-modernity. Along with needing face to face interaction, psychologists hypothesize that we can only maintain around 150 good and helpful relationships as humans. The amount of people we connect to on the internet can lead us to exceed the number of relationships that is humanly possible to maintain. Thus, we can become isolated and antisocial, preoccupied by the amount of “friends” we are trying to communicate with digitally. I suppose having so many “friends” in the digital realm in a way cheapens the 150 good relationships that are possible.
There are a number of benefits to be had by maintaining digital relationships. One social media site that provides meaningful relationships is LinkedIn. This site is a shining example of how cultivating digital relationships can lead to gainful and meaningful employment. Twitter provides one a fantastic way to contact companies and businesses that may not respond to normal means of communication. Merit can even be found in Tinder, which allows people to meet others that they would not usually meet in the everyday run of things. On a personal note, I have a good friend who met his current girlfriend of two or three years on Tinder. No discussion of social media would be complete without the mention of Facebook. While Facebook has the potential to distract us from the friends next to us in “real” life, it also has the ability to keep one connected to those who belong to the 150 meaningful relationships one can have.
Instagram is also a good thing that provides beneficial digital relationships. I am speaking from personal experience regarding the world of artists and artisans that post their work on Instagram. While I have no doubt about the shallowness of the relationships I have with the people I follow and who follow me, we follow each other because we want to see each other’s work. Since a great deal of those people who make Neo-Nordic and Celtic art live around Europe, without instagram it would be very hard to see their work. The people I follow provide me no small amount of inspiration.
Overall, digital relationships have many benefits but also have the downside of distracting us from those we have relationships with in real life. While I would hold that romantic relationships that happen only online are shallow, I see no problem in people meeting and developing attractions to each other online. That is a rather risky way to go about things, however. Digital relationships are ubiquitous, and almost everyone is involved in a digital relationship in some way or another. The pros of being connected to a variety of people through digital relationships far outweigh the cons.