Digital Me: Would I have friends if it wasn’t for the internet?

How social media has impacted my life

I’m a very impatient person.

This somewhat problematic personality trait manifests itself into all corners of my life; my frustration at a train that’s delayed by as little as two minutes, the part of my brain that compels me to huff when I speed past a slow walker on the pavement and the temptation to give up as soon as something doesn’t go exactly my way.

That’s why I categorically would not be able to wait 3-5 working days for a letter from one of my friends if that was our only method of communication.

The beauty of the growth of technology is that we can now contact just about anyone from all corners of the world and have a response within seconds.

Would I be patient enough to keep in touch with my friends if it wasn’t for this technological advancement? Or would I just live under a rock and never speak to anyone again?

I’m lucky enough to have friends spread out across the globe. With my friends from both The Netherlands and Germany, we organised a trip to Antwerp, Belgium this year.

That’s five of us, from three different countries, visiting a country none of us are from.

We co-ordinated the trip within a day; picking a weekend we’re all free, a location we could all access and an apartment we all liked.

Would this have been possible without the beauty of Instant Messaging?

Would I be able to properly keep in touch with this wonderful group of girls, who have had such a profound impact on my life, at all if it weren’t for Instant Messaging?

I very much doubt it.

Social media has allowed me and millions of others to keep in touch with people who would have otherwise faded into a haze of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

But it doesn’t come without its trials and tribulations.

Organising events in our big group chat is easy peasy and means we can all be involved, but it also means I have to stand on the sidelines and watch whilst my friends organise an event I can’t attend.

This painful, lonely, bitter feeling is better known as FOMO.

The Fear Of Missing Out is exactly that; watching your friends all having fun without you whilst desperately yearning for their company.

FOMO can be a lonely and disheartening experience, making you question whether you’re actually part of the group at all.

Social media is the biggest culprit of this; enabling users to see what an amazing time their friends are having at an event they couldn’t attend.

This is a sentiment echoed by the World Economic Forum in a report conducted into Digital Media and Society.

The report states that: “When humans excessively use digital media it can negatively influence their cognitive and behavioural development and even their mental and physical health. Hyperconnectivity, the increasing digital interconnection of people and things, has the potential to change patterns of social interaction.”

What this means is that our relationships with our devices are impacting our real-life relationships, for better or for worse.

With The Netherlands and Germany a mere stone’s throw away from each other whilst the UK is perched on its own little(-ish) island, I’ve been through my fair share of FOMO days, watching my friends just hop across the border to meet each other for dinner whilst I’m stuck at home, an hour behind everyone else wishing I was there, too.

And that’s where the advancement of digital communications has its drawbacks; you can’t do everything, but you can see everything. Would I even know I’m missing out if it wasn’t for the ease of social media use?

But through the FOMO, the loneliness and the ‘wishing I was there too,’ I really do have to hand it to social media for allowing me to build and keep relationships which wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

The improvement of digital communication has been a great asset to my life in personal and social ways, but professionals are using it to their advantage, too.

Francesca Arculeo is FU Media’s digital communications executive.

In her role at the company, she has experienced first-hand the benefits that digital communication has in the professional world and suggests that it has become a tool rather than just a method of contact:

“As the industry has evolved, digital marketing has become an integral part of our business. It is a tool to showcase what we do; our publications are all
replicated online as well as having their own online websites so it’s important because it gets us in front of a larger audience. We’re able to stay current and visible.

“Everything we do on a daily basis involves some sort of digital communication, whether that is sending emails, posting on our social channels or simply communicating with other team members via our cloud-based system. If it didn’t exist, it would massively slow down processes as we would have to go back to basics and outreach to clients on a face to face basis.”

But despite the opportunities that digital communications has brought to FU Media, Francesca admits that it hasn’t been without its issues.

Francesca Arculeo – far right

As a PR company, FU Media rely heavily on their online systems for communications, so when their systems fail and they’re left with only analogue means of communication, it can be a challenge:

“Being hugely reliant on digital communication, it’s essential for us. Any interruptions to this cause huge challenges. For instance, a few weeks ago we were faced with an internet outage in the building which limited our productivity as we were unable to send emails, use the internet or even
access our shared Google drive. We were unaware of when the problem would be resolved which was incredibly frustrating and resulted in us working from home.

“As the internet is 24/7, the world of social media is constantly changing and it can be hard to keep up and stay in the loop with what’s trending. In my role, I look after the company’s social media channels so it’s important to stay in the know and produce content that people will engage and interact with.”

Similarly to Francesca’s relationship with digital communications at FU Media, my digital friendship journey has been a two-sided coin.

But I am always far more grateful for the opportunities it has provided than I am bitter for the ones I have missed out on. Take this as my expression of gratitude for social media being such an important tool in my life.

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