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Maxwell Ronquillo
Major Writing Assignment #3
English 120-004
11/13/17
The Future of Friendships and Communities:
How Facebook and the Internet has Improved Relationships

Social media has completely taken over the way communication takes place in society

today. Almost all interactions people have with one another takes place through social media

platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat. Recently there has been a lot of controversy

over the negative effects of these platforms on our society. Things such as cyberbullying and

catfishing are a direct result of social media and are indeed dangerous. However, the good things

that social media does for our society outweigh the bad. Social media has allowed people to

connect and interact in ways never thought possible. Today people can keep up and reconnect

with old, lost friends. Social media has even created a new way to meet new people by simply

adding them as a friend on Facebook. Friendship is evolving just as everything else is in the

world and it would be harmful to see friendship limited to people in your general area. It is

healthy for people to be connected and it is our natural instinct to want to be surrounded by

people so that one can learn and grow. Facebook and other websites have been a great key to

allowing people to do just that. This had lead to the creation of new communities and discourse

communities so that everyone can find a home of like minded people online. Allowing for

people to communicate with anyone, anywhere, allows for a creation of diverse discourse

communities that would not exist offline.

A friend is defined by Dictonary.com as “A person attached to another by affection or

personal regard”. Another definition for friend by the same website is “A person associated with

another as a contact on a social media website” (Dictionary.com/define). From these two


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definitions it can be seen that one can interact and created affection and attachment with another

person online and offline. It is not rare anymore to see people meet and befriend someone that

lives on the other side of the world because of frequent online interaction. This is true when

looking at children meeting other children through online gaming. Martin Sundberg quotes a

study done by Lenhart, Smith, Anderson, Duggan and Perrin as well as one by Martončik and

Lokša to highlight how people with Autism Spectrum Disorder can create friendships through

gaming online. The benefits of these interactions through online gaming include: “increased

feelings of connectedness to friends (Lenhart, Smith, Anderson, Duggan, & Perrin, 2015),

decreased feelings of loneliness (Martončik & Lokša, 2016)” (3). These people are suffering

from a disease that can handicap them from making meaningful relationships in person.

However, through gaming online these people can create similar bonds with other online players.

These young adults are able to feel good and connected because of online community.

This idea of people meeting new people can be seen also when looking at the statistic of

online marriage. In a study posted on the Huffington Post taken over the years from 2005 to

2012 found that “Of 20,000 respondents, 35 percent met their spouses online” (Reich 1). Thirty-

five percent of people found someone that they came to love because they met online. Another

interesting statistic is the divorce rate between these people that started dating because of an

interaction online: “And while the research found that nearly 8 percent of marriages initiated

offline ended in breakups, couples who met online reported lower rates of separation and divorce

— 6 percent” (Reich 1). People are meeting their soulmates because of social media and the

Internet and are forming lifelong healthy relationships they might of never had. These people

met online and the effect was a lifelong partnership that allowed for self improvement and a

healthy life. This cause and effect highlights how amazing modern-day communication is and
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how this new type of communication can benefit everyone in society to find life-long friendships

and partnerships that might be unreachable before.

To say that the only benefits from socialization comes from face to face interaction would

be completely incorrect. An unfortunate post that appears on many social media sites is a sad

post of the death of a loved one or a post of someone fighting a horrible disease. These posts are

shared to help create a community around the people grieving so that the person does not feel

alone during the grieving process. As Professor James Fowler states in the Kate Dailey article:

“happiness spreads more easily than unhappiness, getting positive comments from your

Facebook friends is more likely to make you happy than sad” (Paragraph 9). A simple comment

on a Facebook post can make the person feel better and as if there are people around them

supporting them. This idea of community online is also supported by another professor,

Professor Diana Nash. Nash states, “The idea of commonality helps make it a little more

bearable. You’re not alone, and there are others going through what you went through” (Dailey

Paragraph 12). The ability to have a mass gathering of friends online build a support group for

someone is beautiful and is a helpful tool for the grieving process.

Online friends will not only be there as a means of support but as a means of learning as

well. The number of discourse communities that exist online are growing by the minute and

cover everything possible. Online friends, especially the ones of sites such as Facebook and

Twitter, will repost and share news articles with other users in their feed. People share these

articles to share their ideas and to start conversations with other users online. This sharing of

ideas and information is especially true with how political ideas are moved around Facebook.

Facebook is one of the most popular websites to share political news and ideas and this is a very

good thing. All of the political news on Facebook allows from conversation from both sides and
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for people to see the opposite side of their arguments. People may not like to hear the other

opinion but Facebook will make them have to see it. This is also good because due to

Facebook's algorithms people will also see ideas that they agree with to learn more about their

side of the argument. However, this is true for more than just politics. Sports, movies, TV,

music and many more ideas are constantly being talked and about and argued about online.

Online communication allows for people to talk about anything at any time and with people on

might not normally talk to.

Discourse communities that exist online are some of the most useful tools that people

have access to. These communities are very much becoming a tool for young people to talk

about abuse and to find out about themselves. Very recently one of the top trending hashtags on

twitter has been #MeToo. Through this hashtag women have been coming together to share

stories of sexual abuse in order to try to bring an end to it. These women are putting their very

scary stories of abuse online to show other women that they can support and relate to other

victims that are not strong enough to make their story public. This helps show abused women

that they are not alone and that they can come together online to try to bring an end to domestic

violence. Another popular thing for people to do on social media is to “come out” or express

their true sexuality. These people might be in situations where people can not come out to their

friends or family in fear of being judged, but these people can come out online because they

know that they will be accepted. Online communities are very open and are very accepting and

allow people to be who they truly are. Sofia Kaliarnta uses a Cocking et al. quote to help support

this idea: “Young people are already in a stage where they explore their own identity and the

ways they can relate to others” (Paragraph 7). The communities that exist online allow for

young and people to learn about each other and to grow as individuals.
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Making new meaningful relationships is also a lot easier because of these online

discourse communities. People will meet like-minded people that share similar interests and can

create real friendships. However it is this point that people seem to devalue online relationships.

It is believed that true friendships can result only from face-to-face interaction. Any other sort of

interaction is just creates “fake friend”. By defining friendship as solely one type of interaction

handicapes friendship. The ideas of “fake friendships” online can easily be applied to friends that

meet in real life too. For example seeing someone you once knew in highschool multiple years

later in public. More often than not these conversations are forced and braggadocious with the

two people trying to one up the other with how wonderful their lives are going. This is no

different than someone conversing with a Facebook friend about a recent family trip. Both

people are bragging about their “amazing life” and both are more likely to share the positive

things about their lives and not the negatives. Online communication should not be looked at as

a weaker ways to create bonds just because people are more than likely to try to brag about

oneself. People have always wanted to feel superior over others and this idea has just translated

to social media. Online friendships should be on the same level as offline friends. To say that

online friends are lesser would be disrespectful to the most likely millions of online

relationships.

Communication has been constantly improving and evolving since the beginning of time.

Communication used to be nothing but verbal but then grew to written communication. Mail is a

good example of society's constant want for more efficient communication. Mail used to be the

king of communication with things such as The Pony Express delivering mail by horse. The

postage system allowed for people to communicate with other people that were far away from

them. However, mail was limited because it would take a long time and was limited to people
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whose address you knew. It is human nature to want things to be faster and easier. Online

communication is just simply a result of this.

There is no reason for interaction online to be seen in a lesser light than communication

through mail. One should not be referred to as “phatic media” (Miller qtd. Varis, Blommaert 31)

because it is quicker and simpler than something that was used before. The idea that interaction

online is just “phatic” or “communication without content” (Malinowski qtd. Varis, Blommaert

33) is outrageous because meaningful conversations happen between people behind a computer

screen. For example topics of abuse and suicide are openly talked about online. People can talk

about these subjects online because they know that there will be a group of their online friends to

support them. German professors Glüer and Lohaus show from research that “Adolescents who

communicated more often online felt closer to their friends.” (22). People can reach out online

because they feel a good sense of community around them. These topics might not be brought up

in typical offline conversation because they are taboo topics and people can fear judgement.

However, through a computer screen there is a sense of safety because a vast community will

form to help that individual.

Communication and this new evolved version of friendship has helped our society a great

deal with allowing everyone in the world to communicate. It is human nature to want to feel as

if one is apart of a community and many people can find that sense through the many discourse

communities online. Friendship and communities are terms and ideas that are forever changing,

and in the age of social media they mean something new and different than what society

previously defined them as. Social media and other online platforms, such as gaming, have been

an absolute benefit to our society and friendship. As years go on society will only see online

communication continue to grow evolve from here.


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Works Cited

Dailey, Kate. “Friends with Benefits: Do Facebook Friends Provide the Same Support As Those
In Real Life?.” Revel For Writing Today. Pearson 2017.

“Friend”, Dictionary.com. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/friend?s=t

Glüer, Michael and Arnold Lohaus. "Participation in Social Network Sites: Associations with the
Quality of Offline and Online Friendships in German Preadolescents and Adolescents."
Cyberpsychology, vol. 10, no. 2, June 2016, pp. 21-36.

Kaliarnta, Sofia. "Using Aristotle's Theory of Friendship to Classify Online Friendships: A


Critical Counterview." Ethics and Information Technology, no. 2, 2016, p. 65.
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Reich, Ashley. “Online Dating Leads To Higher Marriage Satisfaction, Lower Divorce Rates:
Study.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 4 June 2013,
www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/04/online-dating-leads-to-hi_n_3384721.html.
Accessed 07 Nov. 2017

Sundberg, Martin. "Full Length Article: Online Gaming, Loneliness and Friendships among
Adolescents and Adults with ASD." Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 79, 01 Feb.
2018, pp. 105-110.

Sunsteen, Cass R. #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media. Princeton UP,
2017

Varis, Piia, and Jan Blommaert. “Conviviality and collectives on social media: Virality, memes, and

New Social Structures.” Multilingual Margins, vol 2 (1), 2015 pages 31-45.