Warning: Social Media is Killing Real Communication (and Relationships)

I remember the good old days when people called friends on their birthdays or hung out.

Now they post a message on their wall, shoot them an email, or leave a voicemail if they have time.  I’ve watched people text each other from across the room and once found out about my nephew’s baptism via Facebook pictures.  It was 20 minutes away. No society should have families randomly discovering important family events.

If this keeps up, our society is in real trouble.

Social media is cheap communication.

The problem with communicating primarily through social media channels is that it’s primarily deferred communication (more here).

No one actually knows if it’s being seen, and increasingly, it’s not. People are overwhelmed with the number of emails, updates, tweets, pins, messages, videos and other stuff flying their way.

Yet, so many times I hear from friends (especially the younger generations) asking me if I saw their latest update on Facebook.

Nope.  I didn’t.

Study after study I see shows that young people overwhelmingly prefer deferred communication to live conversation. It’s easier.

I believe there are three types of communication:

  1. Concurrent Communication  (Instant feedback)
  2. Deferred Communication (Focused, but delayed and distant)
  3. Broadcast Communication  (Maybe you’ll see or hear it)

How can you truly know someone or build a lasting bond without seeing their smile, hearing their tone changes, or getting instant feedback during your discussion?

The problem is that concurrent communication is so much harder than deferred or broadcast communication.  It requires scheduling. Social media channels make it easy to feel like your communicating with others.

We’re not.

We’re faking it and it’s tearing apart traditional relationships.  Especially among young people. As we get overwhelmed by deferred communication, stuff is missed.  Divisions are formed.

When “friends” aren’t seeing our updates, people feel lonely.  I’m seeing more suicides from very “social” people and the average number of close friends per person has fallen from four to two.

Something must change.


We need to develop real connections with our social media contacts.  We need to invest in human relationships.  It’s time we meet our fellow Warriors.

With that call to action in mind, I’m going to do something about my concerns.  I may disconnect from immediate family members on Facebook so we actually have to talk. Communication between families and friends should be deeper. The same goes for clients and partners.

Also, in the coming months I’m going to host several free live events so we can all meetup.

I just got back from the East Coast, but hopefully you can meet me at one of these remaining events.  It’s worth the investment of time.

For the good of our society and as an example to young people, let’s bring our online relationships offline and our family members and friends back where need to be:  in front of us, talking, laughing, crying, or smiling.

Social media is only a start.

Let’s find a way to build or rebuild personal relationships tonight,


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Published by Aaron Biebert

I'm a director, film/video exec producer, leader & 8pm Warrior. I am passionately chasing my goals at all times. I'm listening. Let's talk!

29 comments on “Warning: Social Media is Killing Real Communication (and Relationships)”

  1. I get it, completely.  But I think it’s more than just Social Media… I think it’s societal. We are USING technology as an excuse not to communicate in Real Life.  We have become lazy about civility; seriously – why would you not have received a paper invite or at least a phone call for a baptism?

    This is one reason I still advocate, strongly, using email communication for SERIOUS Business messages; it’s not broadcasting. I also make sure that when I begin to really connect with someone I don’t know in Real Life on Social Media… I pick up the phone, have a REAL conversation, and find a way to meet up in Real Life.Great post… it should make us all think, and if you do that, you’ve done something amazing today.

    1. Amy, I agree that it’s more than social media.  Text messaging, email, voicemails, etc can all cause problems too. 
      They are crutches that make us feel like we’re communicating.But they’re too easy.  No pain, no gain.  :-)

  2. Hey Aaron! I agree. And I disagree. 

    There are surely too many people living behind their screen, and you are right to throw down the gauntlet here. They need to get out from behind the screens. 

    But I can’t tell you how many of my “social media” relationships are now “in real life friendships” or “in real life business relationships.” I never travel to a city without making arrangements to meet with people I know only through LinkedIn, the blog, or Twitter. And I am never disappointed! 

    Our new tools, I believe, can allow us to better manage more relationships. But I don’t believe any of our relationships will be as meaningful or valuable unless we get out from behind the screen. 

    Look forward to meeting you IRL sometime! Thanks for the provocative–and important–post. 


    1. Thanks for the thoughts Anthony.  I see your points.

      I would say that there are some people who are very gifted in communication (you for instance) who are finding healthy ways to augment natural relationships with social media.

      That’s the best way to use social media.

      However, many young people are growing up with text messaging and social media.  They never lived in the world we grew up in.  I’m not even sure that they understand a world where people used to sit on chairs, look at each other, and talk.

      They’d rather text you.

      It’s not just young people though.  Many introverts are finding social media easier than meeting people in person or calling them.  These are folks in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who just find it easier to hide behind the screen.

      But they are hurting.  They are lonely.  They know that social media friends are not like real friends.  How can they be?
      They have few real emotional connections.

      That’s what I was shooting for in my blog post.  Most of the people that read this post will be fine.  

      It’s not them I’m worried about.

      Thanks for the great perspective and helping me clarify my position.  Social media isn’t all bad.  I personally love it.

      Thanks for connecting.  Can’t wait to meet you some day. 

  3. That’s so exciting! Meeting people I know online in person! What a thrill that would be. Someday! I love to see people with their spouses and children, hear their voices and see their eyes.
    In the meantime I agree about using the phone. A voice is a very powerful thing!
    Thanks for the thought Aaron, because I really need to make more decisions about how to integrate social media into my family life!!

    1. Betsy, I can’t wait to meet you some day.  I think us older folks will be okay because we grew up talking to people.  It’s the younger generations that make me  nervous.
      Hopefully we can set a good example.  We need to show them how to do it.

  4. Great post, Aaron. That is why I love going to actual conferences and meetings. I can hang out with friends that I normally don’t see on a day to day basis, in addition to learning something. 

    Also, I am overjoyed to have been invited to present at Mark W. Schaefer’s Social Slam even in  Knoxville in April. There I can actually see some of the folks I have been connecting with via social media that I have not before met in real life. 

    Wish I could make it to one of your upcoming meet ups. But most of March I will be in Boston to meet my soon-to-be-born grandson–Up close and personal! How sad it would be if I had to get to know him only through my daughter’s facebook posts and pictures. I have to count myself lucky to have a job that enables me the flexibility to attend out of town family events like this. For some this would not be possible.

    Also, let me point out that social media is NOT solely responsible for our disintegration as a society. Remember Cat Stevens’ song “The Cat’s in the Cradle?” Long before social media we were permitting life to get in the way of our relationships, even though life IS relationships. Relationships take effort. Effort takes time. Time is precious, and we need to prioritize what we do with it. 

    Thanks for helping to keep us grounded.

    1. Alice, congrats on the soon-to-be-born grandson!  Mark’s event is great too!  Congrats!

      We’ll find some way to meet up.  One of these events…

      As for society, I agree.
      It seems like a consistent shift away from natural relationships over the last 40 years.

      1) When we got phones, we stopped seeing each other as much

      2) When we got answering machines, we talked live fewer times

      3) When we got email, we stopped calling as much

      4) When we got text messages, we stopped emailing as much

      5) When we got social media…

      What’s next?

      My main point is that we need to remind ourselves and younger generations, that humans need natural relationships too.  

      Otherwise we get lonely.

      Thanks for the thoughts Alice.  Brilliant as usual.

  5. You are absolutely right about social media deferring important communication. I’m guilty myself, having only the ability to remember birthdays through Facebook. I’m a crappy friend. I am also currently at odds with several members of my family. I found out recently my great uncle has cancer from a friggin’ status update, and I saw the first newborn picture of one of my cousins via Facebook mobile uploads. I was bewildered and hurt by both events. I personally am going to take the message from this post and attempt to bridge the divide between myself and others in my real-life scenarios–provided they aren’t too far entrenched in their social media communications to be out off by my efforts. I can only try.  

    1. Amberr, I feel the same way.  Some people are calling me crazy for this post, but I am seeing more and more crazy stuff like this.  

      The way social media spreads us out and defers our communication makes many of us poor friends or family members.  I know it does it for me, and I know it does it for those that used to be my close friends or family members…
      Hopefully we all keep learning and growing.  We can pull out of this if we give it attention.

      Thanks Amberr.

    1. Chris, I’m getting some push back from social media gurus, but I think that’s natural given their vested interest.
      I think social media is great, but I think it has it’s ugly side too.  Kinda like alcohol or food.  
      It’s time we talk about the dangers…

      Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Great post Aaron…I am in the “support you? column. Few of us actually take the time to connect in the ways that a real friend would.  We are missing the chance to use social media as a tool that facilitates real relationships and instead using “friends” as points in a popularity contest.So how do we change this?  Let’s start with breaking completely out of our online world for a moment and do something really cutting edge (like you suggest but something we can do everyday): pick up the TELEPHONE and CALL someone.  Make someone feel special by connecting voice to voice with them and having a real-time conversation.Then take everything you know about face-to-face relationships and bring them back with you online si we can bring some true relationship building with us online:A friend is not just an audience. Friendship is not a one-way information push; it is a two-way interaction loop. Ask questions, listen to and HEAR the answers, ask more questions.  It takes ongoing interaction to get a clear path through the digital noise out there!A friend is not just a number. Think about how many times you hear television ads that end with “to us, you are not just a number, you’re a person.” The point is to remember that each interaction involves a real person.  Yes, I do have over 2800 Facebook friends, but I do pay attention and respond to all comments and postings on my walls and photos.  Does it take time?  It sure does, but all real relationships take time, so I would expect nothing less!A friend has shared interests. Friends connect around shared interests, which attract additional friendships that turn into communities of interest.  YOU are the hub of your personal social media “community of interest,” so consider it your responsibility to provide content relevant to your friends interests.  Hint: if you are authentic in your online and offline “profiles,” what you are naturally inclined to share will automatically be of interest to your friends.  Save yourself some effort and just be genuine from the beginning!Friendships require maintenance. We are all calling these tools “social media,” yet we are becoming LESS social!  Facebook status updates do not count as a relationship.  Back and forth conversation ABOUT your status update, however, is a much more social interaction.  But don’t let it end there.  Take the initiative to reach out and GIVE value rather than expecting everyone to come to you…remember, friendship requires an ongoing flow of giving and receiving.Do unto others… The way you engage with people makes an impression no matter what tool you are using.  Look at your own behaviors and ask yourself, “Would I want to be my friend??”  Are you noticing and affirming the value of individuals and groups in your network? Are you genuinely interested and paying attention to the people behind the texts and words on a screen?  Are you going out of your way to be of service to others in your network?  That’s the kind of friend I would want to have and to be.A real friend is not just a number and a photo on the screen.  Remember that next time you’re on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or blogging or ANYtime!) and do what it takes to be a friend.  ‎”Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ~Anais Nin  

    1. “A friend is not just an audience.””A friend is not just a number.”

      These are wise words Ted.  I love that perspective and think if everyone remembered that, we’d be in a better place as a society.  I look forward to talking to you in person someday.  It would be a true honor sir.

  7. Hi Aaron,

    Let me know when you host an event in San Francisco – I’ll be there! And I know what you mean about sending cards, notes, and letters via email instead of delivering the message in person . . . you never really know if they read them or just deleted them or if they got caught in spam.

    Have a good day!

  8. Wow! Would love to meet up with you at one of these, but unless it’s in Texas, I’ll need some heavy advance notice. I agree with you — something has to change. One of the ways I try to connect with some of my followers and those I follow is to schedule Skype conversations with them. 

    I find the video/voice platform of Skype (and increasingly, G+ hangouts) very helpful to create a true connection with people and to get a feel for their authentic personalities. The problem is, as you said, it requires scheduling. Not only that, it requires bravery. Many of the doctors and other pros I work with have a fear of video platforms like Skype — for whatever reason. Often, they won’t connect with me in that way. This leaves us to the next best — phone conversations. 

    While phone is fine for most things I do — especially for the journalistic source interviews I engage in for stories I write for mags and newspapers — it’s just not as personable and “real” as the video platforms available to us.

    Here, I’ve droned on too long, but I get what you’re saying in this post. Something has GOT to change. Let’s change it.

  9. Aaron,

    I one million percent agree! Social media is supposed to serve as a transition between the online world and real life. The problem is that so many rarely make that transition now (it’s why I’m writing about student-professor communication :-)! I recently wrote in my blog that I’m the “old school friend” who will still call up just to catch up. Sad that that’s now “old school.”

    If you are ever in the Seattle area, by the way, I’d love to meet! I lived in Vegas for 20 years–I wish I was still there for when you’ll be there.

    Thank you for writing this. I’m off to share now… although I’m the before 7 a.m. warrior for the moment (does that count?).

    Be well…
    Ellen @chattyprof:twitter

    1. Ellen, I love Seattle and spent time there during my honeymoon.  Will definitely make it up there and we will definitely need to meet.
      Think I may have business up there at some point and I’ll keep you posted.

  10. I feel the same way, however, I have developed some nice friendships with total strangers.  I engage with these people and we have real communication.  Much of SM is frivolous, ego driven and vapid.  It’s getting harder to sift through the clutter and people are getting fatigued.  So have I, but as someone who has studied marketing/advertising/branding/ communication and the Popular Culture I am submersing myself in the media.  It”s not all bad but what will endure remains in question. And I still am not convinced it’s an intelligent expenditure for small business -despite working for some.
    Interesting note:  I asked my 16 year old if he saw my FB post the other day and he told me that he is hardly on it like before.  “I don’t feel like using some retarded Social Networking site – that’s for douche bags”  I see another tech crash in the future.  My advice is to be careful to not speculate too much on IPO’s like Facebook.

    There is also another issue that I have addressed: http://lisalinenlady.blogspot.com/2010/02/technology-and-value-of-beautiful.html I believe in creating destinations- feel like there’s no where special like this to go. Former independent business owner.

  11. If you’re not taking the relationships offline (not all of them obviously, that would be impossible) but if you’re not sowing seed for offline meetings, friendships, phone chats, then you are at worst just collecting numbers, at best an online voice, with no real connection.  

    For me, without moving the relationship offline, I’m just a faceless voice and if disappeared tomorrow, nobody would really care.  

  12. Hey Aaron,

    I was just flipping through blogs but had to comment on this one since we actually just launched a communication web app called The People Profiler.

    I think social media has made it so we can be lazy and just shot gun our communication.  I’ve made great connections online, but I’ve neglected them just as easily because of the laziness social media allows.

    I love your point.  We can’t substitute real relationships with social media.  You have to have a real balance.

     Anyways, let me know if you’d like to check out the web app, and I’ll send you a link. 



  13. I for one agree but then it’s needed if your a loner like me to keep from going insane. To the outside World I will always be a stranger or nobody cause of one thing. I ain’t got Money. I ain’t got Respect, and I am not blessed with Fame. I could become a Notorious Criminal and throw my Life away have everything I dreamed of and Gain the World but I would have to always be looking over my shoulder or Big Brother. So yea that is not ever a solution. I have no time for a normal life cause I’m always replacing stuff that breaks like my automobile. And I never have enough time to Pursue a Proper education and I let the Social Media and Internet and Real Social Isolation dumb me down to were I can’t get a Job or go back to school cause I would just plain fail. I know the problem is not just cause of me it’s cause of my Family and my Location. FL has got to be the hardest place to meet true and real friends. I’m pretty Shy and don’t know how to communicate with people cause of the Internet Addiction. All I know anymore is about Illuminati Conspiracy Theories or Music. I have nothing interesting to talk about cause I suffer severe Depression and Stress so great that is has caused severe Mental Damage and Memory Loss.

  14. The Internet has laid ruin my Life, Made it nearly impossible for me to find a Job and since everyone is plugged into the Twitters or Facebooks or whatever. I will never fit in with the New Generation. I’m from the Old Age where Humans acted like Humans and Not Machines. Talking to the People on the Internet feels no different than talking to a Wall or a Magic 8 Ball. No one goes out and meets people anymore cause they are busying spending the other 80% of the time playing videogames at home or watching TV. The only time you can meet anybody in the Idiocracy Society is on the Go when People got to eat and buy stuff to survive their Surrogate Lives. The Internet has been used for Totalitarian and Communist Control.The Sheeple are too Brainwashed by the Entertainment Giants to see the Cause and Effect it’s doing to out Generation. Instead they profit off & produce these Dumbed Down TV Shows and Movies Promote Immorality and Evil all for the Almighty Dollar. The Real Terrorists of this World isn’t groups like Alqueda and ISIS, It’s the Media and the Corporations it infests itself too. People think they are better than everyone else cause they have a little bit of Money. But Infact are Enslaved to the same corrupted System as anyone else. And who is too blame for this? THE INTERNET. It does more Damage to Society than it can Resolve and Repair! 2 Hell with the Internet!!!

  15. The World anymore is too programmed by Violence, Sex and FEAR and Deception that they also have be Unprogrammed of Love, Respect for one another and Morality. Americans still hide behind the Illusions of the Old World behind their Red White and Blue Flags of their own Delusions. We aren’t free anymore. Social Media was a Trojan Horse to steal and in future compromise our Private Information and share it with or without our Permission with others. It’s not a matter of choice you see? If you refuse you just can’t be a member of these Social Media Sites. That is how they trick you into surrendering your Rights to Privacy. What other Constitutional Amendments will they go after? How about your Mind…Cause that is what the Elites who run the whole show is up too. Mind and Souls. It then dawns a New Paradigm the Agenda changes you see? Now the Elite don’t need money it’s worthless what they are after is your Families Innocence and their God/Faith or Gods. Preserve your Dignity America and boycott these Orwellian Snares upon our Society. These Sites like Facebook are just a Snake in the Grass. The Rise of the Antichrist is escalating fast! Don’t sell yourself to their Legions. Break the Spell if these things your still in bondage of. Leave the internet 4 good. It IS the Bottomless PIT of HELL!

  16. The Mind is a Dangerous place to go but people got to have the Courage to stand and fight what they truly believe in is for the best Interest or for the Greater Good of Humanity. I remember having this same conversion with a friend back in 2009. See I knew back then it would become a tool or device for great evil and huge waste of Time.

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