Facebook and Twitter are a great way to network and keep in touch, without ever getting off the couch. But there is also a downside to social media, according to Dr. Sherrie Campbell, author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. “It can be damaging to our self-esteem,” she says, when we compare our lives to the snapshots that people post online. Or we can get hooked into other people’s drama, and become addicted to it.
“Social media gives us a false sense of connection,” Dr. Campbell says. “We’ve got hundreds of friends and followers, but how well do we really know them?”
Here are some important ways that real life friends fulfill us, that our cyber-friends simply can’t:
- Eye Contact. We experience a much deeper level of intimacy when we look into each others’ eyes.
- Touch. A hug, a handshake, a pat on the back; these simple signs of affection are incredibly important to us physiologically, Dr. Campbell says.
- Real Conversation. We can actually talk to our real friends – not just type.
- Tone of Voice. They don’t have emoticons for everything! When in person, we can hear subtle nuances of meaning in our friends’ voices.
- Body Language. Posture, gestures, and facial expressions tell us a lot about how our friends are feeling and what they really mean.
- Pheromones. Another way we communicate without words, pheromones play a major role in who we are attracted to and who we like to be around.
- Connection. According to Dr. Campbell, all of the above contribute to the full experience of connection and communication that is only possible in person.
- Memories. Your real friends probably went to the same school, or worked the same job. You’ve spent time together, traveled together, and you love to relive those shared memories.
- In the Same Town. More often than not, your real friends live nearby – not across the country or around the world.
- Share a Meal. You can actually invite your friends over to your home and break bread together – instead of just exchanging pictures of your food.
- Go Out. You can meet up with your real friends for a drink, a movie, or a night on the town. That sure beats browsing through photos of other people’s good times.
- A Couch to Sleep On. And when you need a place to stay (like maybe after a night out with one too many drinks), your real friends won’t make you pay for a hotel.
- A Helping Hand. A friend is someone who will give you a ride to the airport, or pick you up when you’re stranded. You can count on them to be there when you need them.
- Babysitter. Your real friends are those you know well enough to let them watch your kids. You can trust them with what is most important to you: your children.
- Shoulder to Cry On. We all have tough times, when we just need someone to talk to. Your real friends are there to listen to you – even if it’s 3:00 in the morning.
- You Don’t Have to Be Perfect. Your real friends love you for who you really are: the good, the bad, and the ugly. You don’t have to live up to some ideal image.
- Genuine. Your real friends are authentic. They can be themselves with you, not put on a show. You get the whole package – not just the public snapshots.
- Really Care. Above all else, your friends really care about you. They aren’t just trying to collect more “Likes.”
“Self awareness is such an important step,” says Dr. Campbell. If you find that social media is harming your self-esteem or interfering with your relationships, it might be time to unhook. Take a break, and get out and enjoy your life – with your real, live friends!