Five to ten years ago, if you asked young people what it meant to be dating someone, their answers would have been simple; it was the period of time you spent with a possible significant other getting to know them. There were dates used for testing compatibility and seeing if a spark existed between two people strong enough to use as the foundation of a relationship. It was exciting, it was fun, it gave you something to look forward to. Today, in the digital age, the meaning of the word is lost on young adults.
There has never been a time where instant gratification has been as important or as available as it is now and that has created a type of ‘hook up’ driven existence. There’s no want for the wait, no desire for the excitement of getting to know someone, there’s not much drive to put your best foot forward because often times, it’s just not necessary anymore.
It’s one thing to believe that our culture is just changing, which it is, and that we’ve become more of a ‘me’ centered generation, which is true, but the internet plays a big hand in the way things are changing. Social media plays perhaps the biggest hand in the way young adults view one another and themselves. This has proven to be both a good and a bad thing as time has progressed.
Positively, social media allows us to connect to people all over the world. We get to ‘virtually meet’ people who hold our same values and ideas but enough differences to have interesting relationships. We get to understand the culture and ways of life for other young adults our own age and form bonds over the most honest parts of who we are our spirits.
Negatively, social media has set a standard of beauty and of what it means to be appealing and that can be incredibly hard to live up to. There’s a need to be skinnier, prettier, more built, more handsome; there’s always something else we need to achieve or another goal to reach. Then, when those goals are met, there’s an issue of being proud or being boastful, wanting to share yourself or seeking attention. We’re judged and judging harshly at every turn and it’s absolutely exhausting.
It’s not only our relationships with ourselves that are being tested, it’s our relationships with those around us, and because of it – the way we bond with other people has changed.
We’re more critical now, it’s almost like people seem disposable instead of special and there aren’t any quick fixes to breaks we’ve made. This isn’t to say that healthy relationships are impossible; there are always exceptions. In fact, many young adults do credit social media for finding the most important people in their lives, but it’s also a place that becomes toxic when these relationships end.
In an attempt to make social media a positive part of our lives, we came up with a few ‘reminders’ that are important when you’re on social media and building relationships.
- Remember that you’re wonderful in every perfect and imperfect aspect of who you are. There will always be someone in this world who has something that you don’t, there will always be someone in this world who looks at you as the person having something that they do not. The grass always looks greener on the other side, but your own grass is probably greener than you realize. If you want to change your own life, make sure you’re doing it for yourself. There is no one on this planet who is worth you giving up yourself for.
- Try to remember that the people we speak to via social media or texting have feelings too. It’s easy to see these people as ‘real’ when they become our friends or our partners, but it’s easy to forget when these people are no longer part of our lives. We all learned the riddle when we were young about sticks and stones being more harmful than words, but that’s simply not the truth. Words hurt, using things you learn about people while they’re in your life against them later hurts, and even if it feels right in the moment to get the last word in, or to have the last laugh, it’s not worth the pain it causes.
- Believe that people are good and that kindness matters and that love exists. We don’t mean to make the whole internet bonding process seem scary and painful. It’s exciting and fun and it does enhance our relationships too, so don’t let getting burnt turn you away from relationships that could be incredibly beneficial for you. Make friends, fall in love, be happy. Find your best friend, find your significant other, find your soulmate. When you do that, you’ll find yourself too.
- Enjoy it. Many years ago it was impossible to get to know someone out of your hometown. Today, it’s entirely possible to fall in love with someone who lives miles away from you. Take in all the good things, explore and learn, and have fun in the process.
While social media has clearly made changes in the way that we live, it’s important to focus on the good ones as well as the bad and to use both to find a healthy balance. The digital age is only growing, we should make sure we allow it to enhance our lives for the best.