Effects of technology on friendships

Effects of technology on friendship

Being an adolescent in today’s society has changed how relationships form due to technology and social media. This leads to the youth having offline and online relationships that provide consistent contact with peers.

Offline vs online friendships

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Adolescents find their online relationships serve different roles in their lives than their offline relationships. An adolescent’s offline and online relationships have shown to rarely intermingle; both relationship dynamics provide different communication purposes that supplement an adolescents’ social interactions rather than one overshadowing the other. For many adolescents, online relationships have proven to be weaker connections – moreso acquaintances – but there are usually more of them for an individual than offline relationships. They may not be as strong of friendships compared to offline ones, but the fact that an adolescent can have many online relationships provides a greater influx of information for them to learn. This can be both positive and negative, but the information usually comes in forms of learning different perspectives about aspects of life and community, as well as learning social contexts that aid in an adolescent’s own self-development. Offline relationships provide deeper connections for adolescents that offer direct support and in-person companionship. Online relationships may not be as strong of a connection, but they provide an expanded social network that enhances social interactions alongside that of one’s online relationships.

Adolescents can vary in how many online and offline relationships they have, and that variety in number also influences the purpose of these different social interactions for them. Youth that have multiple strong offline relationships tend to use online communication to strengthen those offline relationships, using online platforms to remain in contact when not seeing them face-to-face. They can also form different online relationships to expand their social reach and network from their immediate in-person circle. But for youth with less strong offline relationships, online communication has been sought after for social support the same way that offline relationships provide. They form online relationships with the purpose of “camaderie” and deeper connections when they otherwise feel disconnected from people in their offline environments. These online relationships prove to be an important component in self- and social development for these adolescents.

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Popular communication outlets

Popular communication outlets

Image by: Elias Ahmed

Social media is the main online communication component in the modern era. Text messaging is popular among adolescents, as well, but it is more exclusive to having a reach to those who they personally give their phone number to. Whereas with social media, individuals have the ability to openly communicate within a wide range of communities. The most popular social media sites today include Facebook, YouTube, WeChat and Instagram with over one to two billion users. Tumbler, Tik Tok and Twitter come close to that with 624, 500 and 329 million respectively.

Each platform is unique to some extent and are more popular among different demographics. The youth most often use apps like Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Tik Tok is a platform to share short and creative one minute videos, with content ranging from dance choreography to political activism. The wise range of content has fostered different communities that have names and hashtags where youth can find their niche community. For example, there is BookTok, CarTikTok, TheatreTok and GamingTikTok. Instagram is a platform where users post pictures and videos, and Twitter is a platform for people to share short messages on their page and interact with different users on their “timeline” (the main page where user’s messages appear. Snapchat is more personal where users have friends on the app that they mutually have to have their usernames for, and they can send each other chat messages, videos and photographs. These messages are only visible for 24 hours unless they are “saved” by the user, and the photographs/videos disappear once they are opened. There is also the “Story” component where users can post a photo or video visible by all of their friends for 24 hours.

Here are the age demographics for five of the most used social media sites, showing the popularity of them among youth. This data was collected by Pew Research Center in 2019. https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media


With all this being said, most rich countries experience the majority of youth having an online presence on these social media platforms. This is due to the internet being more accessible in these countries. With this accessibility, adolescents and young adults are the leading users of social media. If they continue to use social media as frequently throughout their life, social media will continue to gain popularity as the internet becomes more accessible in other countries.

This chart illustrates the large number of young individuals in larger-income countries that use social media. This data was collected by OECD Society at a Glance in 2019. https://ourworldindata.org/rise-of-social-media


It is important to note that adolescents may use different online communication platforms with each friend of theirs as some online platforms are not universal among all youth. This is also because each social media platform has unique features that cater to different ways of communicating.

Alison Bryant, Ashley Sanders-Jackson, Amber M. K. Smallwood, Iming, Text Messaging, and Adolescent Social Networks, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Volume 11, Issue 2, 1 January 2006, Pages 577–592, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2006.00028.x
Nasaescu, Elena, et al. “Abuse of Technology in Adolescence and Its Relation to Social and Emotional Competencies, Emotions in Online Communication, and Bullying.” Computers in Human Behavior, Pergamon, 29 June 2018, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0747563218303133.