By Brazen Edwards

As an artist, I have to use social media to stay relevant in today’s world. I must showcase my worldwide travels and entice collectors to buy my artwork. But has it improved my social circle and provided real meaningful relationships?

We spend many hours scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit feeds, and it can erode our interpersonal relationships if we’re not careful. I’ve always instilled the rule of “no phones at the dinner table” in my household, so when you sit down to eat with your loved ones, they get your undivided attention. It’s not a nice feeling when you’re sitting across from someone, and they pull out their phone, virtually ignoring your presence. It’s become such an ingrained practice that many people don’t mean to be rude; it’s just become a habit.

But if we want to be mindful of our relationships, it’s important to live in the moment and truly interact with other people. We must practice two-way conversations involving active listening, empathy and support. In my opinion, it’s an essential element of a well-rounded life. Authentic communication is becoming a lost art as younger generations primarily communicate through texts and social media. However, social media is just a tool; if used correctly, it can be a great way to enrich your life.

Making New Friends Around The World

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used Facebook groups to plan my travels, offer tips on paintings and find great deals when apartment hunting. But it’s also a wonderful way to make new friends. I’ve often arrived in a new country not knowing a soul, but because I joined a local expat group and interacted with people beforehand, it means that when you finally meet these people in real life, it’s an automatic kinship. 

Who says you can’t make new friends as you get older? I’ve also played online games and spent years raiding with other players and have, oddly enough, met people in person who became life-long friends. None of that would have been possible without social networks bringing us together. 

Reconnecting With Just A Click Of A Button

One good thing Facebook has done is reconnect us with old schoolmates, friends and lost loved ones. When my best friend moved away in sixth grade, I thought I’d never see her again. Imagine my surprise to find her on Facebook and learn that we both became artists and moved to the same city, 900 km away from our homes! 

Maybe we would have run into each other at a local art show or through mutual friends, but Social Media certainly made it more convenient to catch up and reconnect. Another old friend I went to high school with became a Reality TV star on MasterChef Canada. I always knew she was talented but seeing her go viral was definitely a welcome sight. I’m thrilled she’s doing so well for herself. Without Social Media, they both would have likely remained strangers.  

Organising A Group Chat

Have you ever tried planning and organising an event amongst a large group of people? It’s like herding cats. But group chats are a saving grace (sure, the notifications can be a bit much – thank you, mute timer). Still, it’s much easier than trying to relay information separately and work out people’s schedules. It’s also a pleasant way to chat daily or weekly with people with common interests, like art galleries, gardening or travelling together. 

I think the pandemic forced us to interact with people in different ways as it wasn’t safe to meet up in person, but at least we weren’t completely isolated. We found commonality with hobbies, an appreciation of health care workers and also cute cat memes and videos #bettercallsaul. Now that life is returning to normal, we can plan in-person meetups like beach days, trips to Asia and painting plein air.  

Overcoming Social Anxiety

It’s important to realise that not everyone is comfortable meeting people face to face and Social Media allows an avenue to express ourselves that never existed before. There are also those amongst us that are introverts. It doesn’t mean that we don’t like people (well, for the most part!), but it lets us choose when and how much we communicate as it can be draining to interact with people all the time. Text and other digital communications can supplement our social lives, giving us more control over how much we interact with the outside world.  

It’s important to note, however, that Social Media has its pitfalls, and it’s vital not to let it overwhelm you with FOMO, click-bait headlines and heated commentary from unstable and hateful people. Just like in real life, it’s best to avoid them like the plague!