Digital bonds are more prevalent than ever, yet they are often met with skepticism. The traditional view of social relationships is no longer relevant with all the existing social media platforms, online communities, and messaging apps. Despite their rising trends, online relationships continue to face doubts about their authenticity and significance.
Online relationships are proof of social adaptation in the digital age. They come in all shapes and sizes — from the friendships that start with a simple message to the mentorships and collaborations that span continents. And while some might dismiss them as shallow or surface-level, these relationships can be surprisingly profound.
This article will dive into the various benefits of online relationships, discovering their integral role in modern life, their impact on emotional landscapes, and their value in an increasingly digital world. It aims to encourage you to cultivate online connections.
Emotional support and connection
As technologies develop, the digital world becomes increasingly important in people’s lives, particularly online relationships that offer more than just a virtual connection. They can also be a dependable source of emotional support and genuine connection.
Online social networks can be viewed as a source of social support. An example is online social support groups that are increasingly common in clinical practices. Aside from receiving supportive and affectionate messages, members of online social support groups share a profound connection as they understand most of each struggle every member has endured.
Furthermore, the internet also has online platforms where people do not really have to wear the “friends” label. Still, the joiners share a sense of togetherness for topics they are interested in.
One example is the Reddit platform, on a thread about relationships. A study found that users on Reddit tend to use the thread r/relationships to share their feelings of distress and seek emotional support from fellow users. This suggests that the emotional pain experienced after relationship problems or breakups might be the main reason they seek help from their social circle rather than trying to solve a particular problem on their own.
In other words, online relationships as a source of emotional support and connection highlight the importance of knowing that you may not be alone in your sufferings. The shared sense of struggle provides comfort and helps people to improve their emotional well-being in times of stress.
Diverse perspectives and global awareness
In an era defined by the internet’s global reach, online relationships are the gateway to a world of varied perspectives and global awareness. Being open-minded is a significant advantage for one’s well-being; cultivating online relationships is one way to achieve this.
Read more: How Can Being Open-Minded Help You Flourish?
People on the internet are from diverse backgrounds and places. The internet made it easier for these people to connect and form relationships. A survey shows that more than half of internet users are likely to have at least one online friend in their lives. This is evident in the youth population, as they spend more time on social media than other age groups, primarily through social media platforms or gaming platforms.
One example showed an experience from a middle school student, sharing that he had a chat with an online friend from Africa where they exchanged questions about their living situations and experiences in their respective locations. This could be an early sign of how online relationships can be utilized to buffer the stereotypes and biases people may have about certain countries or cultures.
The insight of this section is that online relationships can push people to improve their open-mindedness. The broader your mind, the more accepting you are to accept differences instead of seeing them as a threat. This attitude is crucial to maintain well-being in a diverse, global society.
Flexibility and accessibility
Have you ever found yourself so busy that you even find it difficult to have meaningful interactions? That is where online relationships step in to help you maintain your social relationships virtually.
A study has highlighted the conveniences that are unique to online-based relationships. First is how much control someone can display to manage their online conversations. People can choose who or when they want to engage with and take the time needed to make a considerate reply for the receivers.
Second is the efficiency of maintaining online relationships by catching up with others, even if they are apart geographically in different time zones. It could be through short chats or simply sharing pictures and videos that they think are funny to their friends. Frequent conversations about ordinary aspects of daily life, even those that may seem trivial or surface-level, play a significant role in nurturing relationships.
The flexible nature of online relationships allows people to have greater control over their availability to keep in touch with others, which is especially helpful in ensuring people do not sacrifice their social lives due to packed schedules. After all, the well-being of individuals depends on their ability to cultivate positive relationships with others.
Reduced isolation and loneliness
Loneliness can be an unwelcome companion in today’s world, but online relationships have emerged as a powerful antidote.
Some individuals will be willing to build relationships in a digital environment only if they perceive digital environments as safe. So far, several advantages of online relationships have been explained. But how can online relationships specifically help reduce feelings of loneliness?
Read more: The Science of Human Connection
Online communication can boost feelings of social connection among adolescents who experience loneliness and social anxiety by encouraging them to share personal information with their peers.
Imagine Sarah, a shy and lonely high school student who finds opening up in face-to-face conversations challenging. However, when she engages in online chats with her classmates, she feels more comfortable discussing her feelings, sharing secrets, and seeking advice on personal problems. This newfound avenue of online communication not only helps Sarah connect with her peers but also alleviates her sense of loneliness.
People feel lonely because they lack fulfilling close relationships. Hence, online relationships can be utilized as a constant source to satisfy a sense of connectedness. For example, maintaining the quality of relationships with family and friends who are considered to be exceptionally close. Thus, maintaining high-quality social ties is imperative to support one’s well-being to fulfill the need to belong.
Improved self-esteem and confidence
Positive feedback and encouragement from online relationships can be transformative when interacting with others online.
One study presented an interesting framework for “self-esteem updating,” a term that describes momentary changes in one’s perceived self-esteem. In the context of online relationships, self-esteem can be positively affected by social feedback.
Receiving feedback from others on social networking sites can positively impact an individual’s state of self-esteem, provided that the feedback is perceived as supportive and carries a positive tone.
For instance, Jane, a young woman active on social media platforms. After some posts, she noticed that she’s feeling much more confident than before whenever she receives positive feedback from her online friends. In other words, she felt a heightened sense of self-esteem when her photos received numerous likes or when friends left encouraging comments on her posts.
Online relationships have the potential to enhance individuals’ well-being by encouraging users to appreciate themselves better. This is a valuable benefit as it encourages internet users to view themselves with greater self-compassion.
Online relationships can positively impact individuals’ lives by offering emotional support, broadening perspectives, allowing easier attempts to maintain relationships, reducing feelings of isolation, and boosting confidence. These virtual connections are a valuable source of enrichment and well-being.
With greater involvement with the digital world, it is imperative to recognize the significance of these online bonds. They not only complement off-screen relationships but also contribute uniquely to your personal growth and happiness.
So, let’s embrace virtual connections with open arms, for they are more than just pixels on a screen; they are bridges to a brighter and more connected future.
If you would like to see more resources on digital social connectedness, check out the Wellbeing Science Labs. The lab uses the research of the Institute for Life Management Science to produce courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other tools. Visit the Wellbeing Science Labs today.
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