As we’re facing social distancing for the next little while, it’s looking more and more like social media will be important to many of us for remaining socially connected. As a technology ethicist focusing on social technology and interpersonal relationships, this falls under my area of research. What follows isn’t everything that could be said about relationships and social media, of course, but might be of use as we strive to maintain connection in spite of physical distance. And in case you’re interested in following this up with some of your own research, I’ve included plenty of links to further work on this subject.
First, while it might not be everyone’s first choice as a way to connect with others, reject the narrative that interactions mediated by social technologies aren’t “real.” You can really talk and share and tell jokes and play games together remotely as well as in person. Yes, some things about these interactions will be different, but context is going to color any of your interactions. And don’t think of this as just substituting for “real” interaction: comparing, say, Skype to having lunch with a friend might be frustrating, but there are things you can do in computer-mediated communication that have no in-person equivalent: playing with filters and goofy overlays, daily “roll call” with a bunch of friends all sharing pictures of their pets, Your imagination is the limit. These can be enjoyed on their own merits.