I think I would be starting off with the biggest cliche if I state that social media has transformed relationships big time. Not only has it opened up new avenues to build and nurture existing and new relationships, it has impacted every relationship we have. I am sure most of you have realized what it feels like to have your parents or scary aunts and uncles on our facebook list, to whom we dont really want to reveal our life secrets, but end up doing nevertheless.
But more importantly the freedom and scope it offers you tests many relationships too. It makes you confront certain realities about attitudes of friends and family which you could safely shove away in otherwise periodic interactions. I may know many friends and families who say a nasty word about Anushka Sharma for Virat Kohli’s underperformance in the world cup. But without twitter of fb, I dont hear people say it and I can choose to ignore it and still continue some semblance of social interaction with people. Similarly people can express political opinions, their views regarding some public issue on twitter and it gets to my attention. With languages being rarely temperate on these platforms, it is sometimes scary to realize people who you love and respect may have some fanatical views which are frankly appalling to you. I dont exempt myself from this list. I am sure some of my own views are so radical that friends and family may find it quite difficult even to acknowledge.
I know we are supposed to understand that different people have different views and reconcile to the differences. But that maturity to deal with differences in social media is quite hard. In a face to face argument, we may still reach some point of compromise and understanding. FB arguments only keep getting more heated. You can choose to ignore unpalatable views but doing it every time you log in and see something which you disagree with is much more difficult.
This gets specially difficult with intergenerational friendships (or mostly with older generation family members on your list). I dont know if it is just an Indian thing, but I feel elders still have a lot of issues with public disagreement from someone they treat as a junior. I have myself had this experience of constantly being treated as a child by some people on my list, for whom my views remain rantings of a little child who should not be taken seriously. Worse, a counter from me on some view they have expressed, even if perfectly factual is seen as a hit on their ego and they lash out demanding complete obedience/acceptance for me.
This seriously impacts the relationship itself. I have withdrawn from or even unfriended people from my list not because I no longer care to be in touch with them, but because they just refuse to treat me as an adult who has thought through issues and has an opinion on them. A constant infantalizing of me, and therefore disregard for my opinion is quite disrespectful.
I think the challenge with dealing with social media influenced relationships is that disagreements on FB cannot be laid aside like you would probably do sledging in a cricket or any sports field. In sledging you can always say you dont mean it, but in FB, you do mean most of what you share or discuss. Accepting people warts and all, and continuing to treat them with the same poise and equanomity of before is going to take some time.