Is technology helping or hurting your friendships?

By: Jen Kirsch

© Photography Author: Canadian Living Credits: © Photography


Is technology helping or hurting your friendships?

By: Jen Kirsch
Technology is great for many things, but if you've ever had a misunderstanding with a friend over email or text message you know that communicating how you're feeling is not always one of them. It's often impossible to distinguish tone or intention through text, and that can easily lead to misunderstandings with loved ones.

K. Jason and Kelli Krafsky, who are known as the "social media couple" at, are specialists in social media and relationships, and are the coauthors of Facebook and Your Marriage. They discuss the ways that technology can both help and hinder your friendships.

How technology helps your friendships:

1. Fills the time and space gap
"We have so many associations and friendships that are hindered because of time-zone differences, geographical distances and scheduling difficulties," says Jason. "Social media virtually eliminates those obstacles."

As busy as life is, websites like Facebook and Twitter allow us to check in and share our life events with the people we care about, whether they are down the street or across the globe.

"The real-time nature of peoples' posts and pictures allows viewers to feel like they are part of the experience, even if it is leaving a comment," says Jason.

2. Your friends can be more open through social media
"I have found that some people can be more open and expressive on Facebook than they are in face-to-face situations," says Kelli.

The Facebook pages they "like," the pictures they "pin" on Pinterest and the people they follow on Twitter can tell you a lot about a person.

3. Makes face time more meaningful
"Social media allows you to jump into much more meaningful dialogue much faster when you have face time with your friend," says Jason, who is not a fan of small talk.

Whether you're bumping into a neighbour at the store or a friend when you're out and about, if you're Facebook friends, the conversation often starts with a reference to something posted online.

"Not only do we avoid meaningless chatter, but we share a meaningful moment because of social media," explains Jason.How technology hurts your friendships:

4. You can send out the wrong message
"When speaking, you can put your foot in your mouth. When typing, you can put your fingers in your mouth. And it happens a lot more than any of us wish," says Kelli.

It may be as simple as an auto-corrected text message that gets sent before you realize "parties" got changed to "panties." In other cases, your sarcastic comment may be read as a personal attack. Other times, you just typed the wrong thing at the wrong time. End result? Your friend is offended and upset.

"While the biggest plus about social media is that you can communicate quickly, the biggest minus is that you can't communicate completely," says Kelli.

An emoticon or "LOL" does a lousy job of replacing facial expressions, body language and tone of voice.

"When you put your fingers in your mouth and know that you have offended your friend, put your fingers on your phone and have a voice conversation with them as soon as you can," suggests Kelli. "In these kinds of situations, a spoken word is more powerful than a written word," she explains.

5. Problems can be made public
People often use phrases like "Just saying" or "Keeping it real" to justify the words they've just typed, and this often gets many more people involved in an issue than need to be.

"Having access to people on Facebook or Twitter does not mean you are allowed to write whatever you want without consequences," says Kelli.

If you have an issue with someone, don't make it public. Kelli advises to -- at the very least -- make it a private conversation with a direct message or inbox message. Better yet, give them a phone call or address them face to face.

"If anything inflammatory or rude has been posted for everyone to see, erase the past by deleting the trigger content as soon as possible," says Kelli.

6. Keeping everything online can be isolating
"I love the social media era we live in," says Jason. "It's a huge boost to your relationships with people from your past, family members, long-lost friendships and even the people you see on a regular basis."

But remember: "Facebook is meant to complement our relationships, not be a substitute for them," he says. "Spending too much time connecting with people through social media sites can leave you feeling isolated."

The social media couple says that balance is the key. They suggest calling your friends, visiting them and -- if you need to write them a message -- to go old-school and send a card or note.

"What they are posting online may not be telling the whole story. Arrange a time to meet for coffee or go shopping at the mall or exercise together, and watch your friendship flourish," says Jason.

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Is technology helping or hurting your friendships?