One of the major characteristics in modern society is a rapid development of computer information technologies, which enables to study, discuss problems, meet and socialize with friends, using unlimited possibilities of the Internet. The Internet became inalienable part of our life today. However, it should be mentioned that the Internet gives not only possibility for improvement of knowledge and expansion of interests, but also contains real threats for people’s relationships in reality.
Can the Internet friendship be stronger than the real? Through such virtual «meetings» boys and girls quite often appear in the trap of doubts. However, if the circle of acquaintances becomes wider, more interest will appear between people with close relationships. Social networks only extend their real life.
Features that enhance friendship include the possibility to form new relationships and maintain friendship without any geographical boundaries, regardless of their schedule or other circumstances. One can find new friends according to the common interests, hobbies, tastes and form a new relationship community, which may transform from virtual into real life. Thus, making friends online expands and supports friendship, in spite of physical distance, time zones, language and cultural barriers. Social networks act as a platform for people to strengthen offline friendship while staying in touch with one another. Relationships are built without pressure and immediate requirement to respond.
Facebook is often used to search people with whom one is acquainted offline. It is a helpful guide for more knowledge about each other, and broad connections that may strengthen existing friendship. One can connect with long lost friends using Facebook, and form stronger social ties through sharing information. In the Social Networks Analytics (Survey-Personal Research 2011), users agreed “Facebook has enabled them to renew relationships with people that they have not connected with for an extended period of time”. It provides further initiative for people to seek out and strengthen old contacts.
Facebook is usually orientated towards maintaining existing connections rather than new online relationships while comparing it to other social networking websites. It helps to connect with friends and family easier. Taking into consideration The Social Networks Analytics survey (Survey-Personal Research 2011), most of the respondents file an opinion that Facebook brings them closer to their friends. Though, when connections are strong offline, they are maintained, and access to them is extended in Facebook.
Maximization of strong offline connection is an ability to establish reliable and affective network of support. Time spent online develops skills of mastering the internal and external socially value cognitive tools.
In some cases, social networks allow renewing lost relationships. The features of network’s communication gives an opportunity to construct personality from one’s own choice, compensate failings, contact resolutely with unknown people that can be a stimulus for the prosecution of oneself in the real life.
Though, in most cases, virtual intercourse cannot replace the real socializing with friends, although the influence on such intercommunications can be perceptible: becoming reserved, loss of social contacts and friends, irritation during living intercourse, non-fulfillment of one’s own duties. People forget about other forms of their leisure time, constantly being in virtual space.
Arguments for destroying friendship in reality are the following: difficulty of identifying online friends and trusting them; public display of relationships in the system; spending too much time in social networks.
You cannot be sure that an invisible stranger puts his own photos, not somebody else’s. For instance, there are many incidents in Facebook when men post actors’ or even women’s photo and vice versa (Bahney 2006). Therefore, trust cannot exist in the networks as it can exist in the real relationships. In such way, online friendship is an abstract as it shares no responsibility for words and actions. It may create suspicion and jealousy. In this perspective, such sites will be a driving force for the weakening of social ties in a community. Hence, believing online friendship can lead to destroying someone’s friendship in reality.
In spite of the fact, that it is possible to get some information and even photo and real image of the interlocutor in social network, they cannot give the realistic picture. Investigations of it are irresponsibility and impunity. In other words, it is a possibility to show large freedom of utterances, pass and get untruthful information.
Intercourse in Facebook is going on without unsupported visual contact. For that reason refusal, on the suggestion to become friends does not cause a sense of inconvenience. However, a psychological reaction on the breakdown of relationships online is the same, as if it takes place in the real world. Teenagers are the most impressionable in this case.
Social networking sites, such as Facebook, allow online friends view profiles of each other and post comments on one another’s pages. It provokes to form judgments and conclusions based on the contacts in the list.
There is an argument “the internet can draw people’s attention away from their immediate physical environment” (Wellman et al. 2001). According to the statistics, more than 700 billion minutes are spent per month on Facebook by its users. (Facebook Statistics n.d.). People waste time on their online talking rather than meeting with friends in reality. It has now become a part of everyday routine (see Figure 1).
Psychologists are disturbed by the intercourse of people in social networks. Fanaticism of Facebook threatens the loss of identity and many non-verbal skills, such as ability to have an eye-contact during a conversation. A basic index of identity’s crisis is inability to accept a new role that is offered by external circumstances or adapt to it. Among the most common features of psychological disorders caused by social networks, psychologists name inadequacy of self-appraisal, growth of pessimism, change of social activity, display of aggressive conduct and others like that.
Social networks can level friendship. When we communicate eye-to eye, we use gestures, intonation, looks, smiles, touches as well as words. It is all read by interlocutor and built the general impression, but there is no such possibility in the social network. It is a natural need to receive all these non-verbal skills, otherwise one feels internal discomfort that will result in psychosomatic diseases, depressions, and stresses.
The research of social networks’ influence on real friendship brings to the conclusion that social networks can have both positive and negative effects. However, everything depends on users themselves: their purposes, manners, attitudes. Summing up, there are no clear determinations of pros or cons sides. Advantages include mobility, possibility for socializing with friends from the whole world, exchange, moral support, aspiration for self-perfection and self-realization, cognitive information. Among drawbacks of online communication are absence of serious interests and hobbies that are unconnected with Internet intercourse, permanent stresses that force people to keep away from the real world and friends, weaker adaptation to real life.