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Questioning social media addiction, friendships

A new study states that social media can be as addictive as Class A drugs, and questions the validity of online friendships. Are we addicted to social media? I sure am. But is it too much, and are my online friendships questionable? Not necessarily.

News stories about social media frequently discount the real value that exists in all shapes and forms online. It's more frequently assumed that social media users, and especially teens, are wasting their time online. In reality, social media is what you make of it – across the board. You can log into Periscope and watch someone walk their dog or see a sunset, but you can also hear lessons on entrepreneurship, marketing, cooking, health, law, etc.

We can’t assume people are wasting time on social media. We aren’t just watching cat videos and rotting our brains. We’re learning. We’re connecting. If you look at what’s trending on various social media platforms, it’s evident that people are using social media to stay informed about current events. From the presidential election to the death of a former UN chief to the weather and the Grammy’s – we’re getting value from these platforms beyond puppy memes and casual conversations.

The share of Americans using social media as sources of news is continuing to rise. Looking at Facebook and Twitter alone, 63 percent of users on each platform are getting news there, according to Pew Research Center. Snapchat launched its Discover feature a year ago, which now puts news content in front of its captive audience.

We lead busy lives, so social media allows us to stay connected with friends from a distance. It also allows us to meet new people and forge new friendships.

An article published in The Daily Mail states that “people shouldn't mistake online friendship for the real deal.” The story quotes a psychotherapist who treats people for addiction to social media: “We need to see a person and have that consequential feedback and how we are impacting on them.”

New live video capabilities allow for real-time connections, and Snapchat’s interface is used closer to the way we communicate face-to-face than any other platform.

On Snapchat, for example, I’ve made more real friendships in a matter of months than I have in 10-plus years on all other social platforms combined, and many of those friendships are crossing into the “IRL” realm as I meet Snapchat friends from around the world in real life, one by one.

What deepens these relationships are cross-platform connections. I'm getting to know people as they are on Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even Facebook, which I reserve for my closest friends and family. These relationships need to be nurtured as any friendship does, but they are absolutely “the real deal.”

Social media help us make sense of what’s going on around us, and so can the people we meet there. Can online relationships be detrimental to our offline relationships? That's a topic on which we'd love to hear your feedback.

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