To provide some context on the answer that follows, it is important to note that the nature of this qualitative question means a definitive answer is difficult to provide. You would have to analyze every single variable related to socialization in our modern society and compare it to that of...
To provide some context on the answer that follows, it is important to note that the nature of this qualitative question means a definitive answer is difficult to provide. You would have to analyze every single variable related to socialization in our modern society and compare it to that of previous generations. I will provide insight on particular advantages and disadvantages to help shape your own response.
Social media platforms play an integral role in all forms of interpersonal relationships (romantic, friend, family, professional) and interactions across socio-ecological levels (between individuals, within communities, between communities, between societies, and so on, expanding to reach a global scale). In the current technology period (the Information Age, specifically, the Big Data Age) as it relates to our socio-cultural period (the 2020s), humans are communicating more frequently, more extensively, and at a higher rate of exchange compared to any other period in human history.
While information exchange in relation to human interaction has grown, our human capacity to develop and maintain relationships has not changed over time. Humans are no more cognitively or emotionally capable compared to before the Information Age or at any point in human history. While we can communicate with more people across greater geographical distances, humans do not have more meaningful or complex relationships with others. Our methods of communication have simply evolved.
Moreover, the fundamental ways in which we exchange information have changed. In the context of social media, we use memes, GIFs, status updates, messenger platforms, video exchanges (such as through Snapchat), and more. These entirely new forms of information exchange affect interrelated elements of human interaction; cultural forms of humor, forming and sustaining emotional bonds, the shaping of political opinions, racism, prejudice, and so on. Though we are not interacting with individuals face to face, we have more options for communication than ever before. We can express ourselves through a more diverse range of methods.
Consider how this affects a) the personality and nature of each individual and b) the ability to sustain relationships specifically. For example, some people feel they are less adept at oral communication. They prefer to express and engage with others in a written capacity, through exchange of memes, texting as opposed to speaking over the phone, etc. On a related note, it is not uncommon for people to feel deeply connected to others when life circumstances prevent them from engaging in person. While the benefits of close proximity are not there, like physical touch, many people are perfectly content with these relationship conditions.
There are clear ways in which social media can harm relationships between individuals. For instance, many psychological studies indicate that people can communicate negative or harmful information to others more easily compared to face-to face situations. By removing the sight of a person, we are less inhibited by guilt and social expectations of interaction. Cyber bullying in particular is a well-established issue, yet bullying as a form of emotional abuse is not limited to social media and online interaction.
Miscommunication can occur when interacting through social media, namely through channels that prevent an individual from gauging another person's emotional response. In person, we make a judgement based on facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. On the other hand, incorrectly interpreting elements of communication can also happen in face-to-face circumstances (depending on an individual's emotional intelligence and how well they know the other person, etc.).
Social media provides a harmful mechanism for spreading misinformation at an unprecedented rate. Yet the opposite is also true: accurate and useful information can also be shared at an unprecedented rate. This can trigger beneficial social change and cooperation between individuals, such as the global response to climate change lead by youth environmental activist Greta Thunberg. We can learn about new topics and perspectives through social media. Yet its algorithms also filter and present content deemed relevant to each individual, which can restrict our worldview and opinions.
The question you posed is clearly a multifaceted one. While social media cannot replace in-person interaction, it does pose unique benefits. On the other hand, problems associated with access to more information arise from online communication. The capacity to engage with others has not changed over time. Humans have simply had to adapt to evolving methods of communication as a result of big data and technological innovation.