In 2010, Cornell researcher Matthew Brashears set out to determine how human friendships have evolved since the internet boom. Brashears surveyed over 2,000 participants and found that the average number of close, dependable friends the typical adult has has dwindled from 3 in 1999, to 1.5 in 2010. The explosion of social media in the digital age is largely to blame for this statistic as we are duped into believing that having more connections means more real friends. For instance, the average Facebook user has 338 friends, but, as the research demonstrates, these are not real friends and the figure is a gross distortion of reality.
Social media platforms give us the toolset to ‘reach out’ with a touch of a button, which deludes us into thinking that we are genuinely connecting with others. In reality, we are simply participating in an online dopamine exchange. When we receive ‘likes’ or comments, the pleasure centres of our brain are triggered and we are given a momentary reward that ultimately leaves us wanting more. However, as these interactions lack empathy, they barely scratch the surface when it comes to relationship building.
Additionally, scores of studies have interrogated the link between social media and unhappiness. Medical practitioners believe that online platforms have a role to play in the rise of a number of mental health disorders including clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder. The increase in the number of smartphones sales correlates exactly with the increase in the number of mental health disorders and even with the rising suicide rate.
Social media is great for building a business but the connections forged online are not real relationships. Authentic relationships – the ones that form the building blocks of a business – must be nurtured face to face.