Cherish friendships outside of cyberworld

Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter have become ubiquitous within our world; events are organized, groups are formed, and friends are made. But is this new part of our world having an effect on us for better or for worse? The stigma that comes with social networking sites is usually associated with the dangers of sexual predators, cyberbullying, harassment over the Internet, or invasions of privacy. But these repercussions, while they are detrimental, only affect certain individuals – in the grand scheme of things, not that many people. The impact that these websites have upon an entire demographic of people, our generation, is greater than we know. Are sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter teaching us the necessary skills to communicate with others? Are we really learning to better interact with others, or are we merely growing to consider a list of status updates and profile pictures the extent of our social interaction? There is no doubt that social networking sites have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. We tell our friends that we will "Facebook message" them, or that we will write on their "wall". Nowadays, even e-mail is considered behind the times among our peers; instead, we choose to utilize Facebook Chat to keep up with them in real time. But at the same time, these methods of communication are chipping away at the time we spend talking to each other face to face. I am in no way suggesting that social networking sites will eventually lead to the total destruction of face-to-face communication. People will inevitably continue to seek each other’s company; a post on someone’s wall or a "poke" can never take the place of a real conversation. But social networking sites makes things easier to settle for a conversation online instead of actual interaction in the real world. Another effect that social networking sites have upon our generation is the decrease in productivity that these sites cause. Members of Facebook can attest to the phenomenon that happens at times; once they’ve logged on, they find it hard to tear themselves away from the constant stream of new photos, comments, wall posts, etc. that surrounds them. Facebook addiction has taken its toll in not only time wasted, but according to a pilot study at Ohio State University, it has cost some students their grades as well. The study found that college students that used Facebook had lower grade point averages than students who did not have a Facebook profile; generally, students that used Facebook had GPAs between 3.0 and 3.5, while students without Facebook had GPAs between 3.5 and 4.0. Though the study was relatively small, it proved that that is a link between the time spent socializing online and its effect in the real world. Social networking sites, if not used properly, can be a distraction and the time spent on them can easily be spent doing something more productive. Finally, social networking sites have an impact on the way we view our friendships. While it may seem that these websites help us to widen our circle of friends, in reality, we are not getting much out of making that friend request or clicking that "accept" button. I see that, much of the time, I do not actually talk with or spend time with many of the people on my "friends list". Research done at Sheffield Hallam University found that though social networking sites allow people to come into contact with thousands of acquaintances, the subjects in the study said that they tended to have about 5 close friends Also, 90% of contacts that the subjects regarded as close friends were people they had actually come face to face with. Friendships require people to invest time, along with physical and emotional resources. But Facebook has made it so that "friendships" can be formed in a matter of seconds, and can be destroyed just as quickly. We must remember that friendships must be maintained in the real world, and not solely online through a status update or a wall-to-wall. I will admit that social networking sites have their perks; it is always a pleasant surprise to find old friends on Facebook that I haven’t seen in quite some time, and it is a useful tool for keeping in touch with people I no longer see. But as these sites grow in their popularity, it is also important that we exercise caution, and remember that these tools for communication are no replacement for relationships in the real world.