Reading Time: 9 minutes

“Today I showed my Facebook page to my psychiatrist.  He wants to talk to you all.”  No need to panic.  Of course, I am just joking.  However, this past weekend I experienced a troubling series of interactions on a closed Facebook site.  I was verbally attacked and insulted for making a comment.  No, my post was not rude, nor inflammatory in any manner whatsoever.  I was simply commenting on aviation language use and proper phraseology / terminology in a closed aviation community. Some might find such a comment as pedantic and arrogant.  But, my sincere intent was to provide help, clarify, share insights, and understanding.  I was not expecting the firestorm that resulted from an innocent post. Obviously, I missed the mark completely based upon the reactions to my post.

I love airplanes like so many others.  As a pilot, we are taught to pursue a life that is precise and correct.  Aviation demands lifelong learning.  It is all about checklists, procedures, and processes.  This pursuit never ends.  Mistakes can be costly and dangerous.  The use of efficient language on the radio for example is prescribed so every transmission follows a known procedure and a defined set of verbiage.  It is unwelcome to deviate from the prescribed language use due to the efficacy of the limited airwaves and so much traffic vying to share this scare spectral resource.  So, it is ingrained into the DNA of every pilot to be accurate and use language correctly.  Naturally, when I saw a minor misuse of terminology, I mentioned it.

Bad idea.

The result was a tsunami of belligerent and hurtful comments hurled in my direction.


Just 5-6 members out of the 4,000+ in the group ganged up and raged at me for offering this feedback.  I was being bullied into submission.  There was absolutely no sense to respond to these closed minds.  Trolls are a negative aspect of social media.  It is best to just ignore them.  Responding to their intolerance simply ignites the fire that they want to turn into an inferno.

Social media is truly an interesting place.  It has many pros and cons.  Today I decided to look at the ups and downs of being connected to people via social media.  I pondered what motivated these trolls to attack me?  Why would they be so direct and rude?  What would they achieve or benefit from such actions?  Clearly I do not understand the minds of internet trolls, so I decided to research it all and learn what smarter people understood about this damaging phenomenon.

Social networking has changed the way we communicate, do business, get our daily news fix, and so much more.  But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?


That depends on who you talk to and how you are using it.  A site like Facebook could serve as an opportunistic launching pad for a new business owner, or it could be an inescapable source of negative peer pressure for a young teen.  There are pros and cons to everything in life – and that includes our social networking habits.

Around seven out of ten Americans (69%) use social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest, as of 2018, up from 26% in 2008.  On social media sites, users may develop biographical profiles, communicate with friends and strangers, do research, and share thoughts, photos, music, links, and more.


Proponents of social networking sites say that the online communities promote increased interaction with friends and family; offer teachers, librarians, and students valuable access to educational support and materials; facilitate social and political change; and disseminate useful information rapidly.

Opponents of social networking say that the sites prevent face-to-face communication; waste time on frivolous activity; alter children’s brains and behavior making them more prone to ADHD; expose users to predators like pedophiles and burglars; and spread false and potentially dangerous information.

An interpersonal relationship is a strong, deep, or close association or acquaintance between two or more people that may range in duration from brief to enduring.  This association may be based on inference, love, solidarity, regular business interactions, or some other type of social commitment.  The significance of interpersonal communication is not limited to interpersonal relationships, but rather it holds importance in fields like business.  Therefore, it is of prime concern to acknowledge what impact social media has on interpersonal communication.  Companies that try to connect with their clients and customers through social media must have insight into the ways of interpersonal psychology while using social media might exert influence on their client relationships.


The regular media such as the television, radio, and newspaper allows only one-way communication, whereas social media gives a platform for interaction among the users. Social media is of much help to those who find it more liberating and comfortable to interact online in place of conversing face-to-face because of nervousness.  Another advantage of online interaction is that people can get out of the boundaries of geographical proximity for connecting to people with same interests.  Social media sustains the relations which might have been at a disadvantage due to the absence of geographical proximity.  It enables interaction that may have been inconceivable without it.

However, it must be asserted that instead of bringing people together, social media can instead create distance among them.  Although people are becoming more social with the use of social media, there has been an inevitable shift in our ways of communication. More and more online interaction has led to reduced face-to-face interaction.


There are three theories which must be mentioned in order to understand how social media brings about changes in interpersonal communication and relations of the users. The theories are Technology Determinism, Social Penetration theory, and the theory of Uses and Gratification.

According to the theory of Technology Determinism, “technology is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action.”  Opportunities for new experiences and the ability to be present anywhere all the time are invaluable gifts of the social media.

The Social Penetration theory describes the development of interpersonal relationships as a slow process.  As noted in a research, “Social networking sites impacts on interpersonal communication skills and relationships” by Pritta Chasombat, “Computer-mediated communication has sped up the intimacy process…  People are more likely to disclose more personal information on Social Networking Sites than they would in face to face communication because the level of control is higher (Ledbetter et al., 2011).”

The theory of Uses and Gratifications gives four basic requirements, viz., Information, Entertainment, Personal Identity, and Personal Relationship, and Social Interaction.  All the four requirements are met through social media as people can create social networks, socialize, connect with those who are at a distance.  They can vent out their opinions and receive feedback from the public. They can utilize it as a means of information from their preferred sources.

Among the negative impacts of social media on interpersonal relations, the most destructive one is alienation.  Works of Charles Blow, such as Friends, Facebook, and Neighbors, observe that social media contributes to rewiring of relationships and social alienation.  Social alienation is a high degree of isolation and distance among people. Since people spend most of their attention into the virtual life, they often tend to invest less energy in their immediate present.  This leads to weakening of social ties, loss of the ability to interact and engage oneself in that interaction, and social alienation.


Daniel Gulati, in his article, Facebook is making us miserable, notes, “behind all the liking, commenting, sharing, and posting, there were strong hints of jealousy, anxiety, and, in one case, depression.

Some scholars argue that online interaction has a negative effect on the quality of communication.  The underlying reason for this is that the non-verbal communication that takes place during interpersonal communication is left out when people interact through social media.  The non-verbal communication includes the tone of voice, body posture, gestures, and facial expressions.  The non-verbal communication is the key to a rich communication.  In its absence, messages are hard to be interpreted with surety and the meaning of a message remains unable to be clarified.  This is what results in the depletion of the quality of communication, further leading to animosity among people.

Guy Debord, in his theory of the spectacle, explains how the image of a thing appears to be closer to reality than the thing itself.  Social media has the same effect on interpersonal relations, where the social relations are mediated through mere images.


Social media has brought a twisted change to the concept of ‘friend’.  It induces us to compare ourselves with others, which often makes one feel like a ‘failure’ leading to depression.

Social media not only impacts the interpersonal communication and relationships but also the character of the users.  Social media is making us impatient and anxious.  Many teenagers and adults wake up in the middle of the night just to check their phones because they fear missing out something that is happening on the social media platforms, as if the information will not be available the next day.  People begin to have tantrums out of restlessness if they do not find access to social media for a few hours.  We are losing our ability to interact with intensive engagement in face-to-face interactions.


As Ani DiFranco said, “any tool is a weapon if you hold it right.”  Social media is to be treated as a tool for man, rather than letting man be a tool for it.  Further, it is to be used only to an extent which is more advantageous than harmful.  Firstly, one needs to limit the time spent on social media.  Moreover, one needs to be able to recognize the negative changes that social media brings to one’s emotional behavior, and also curb those changes by seeking a balance between one’s online and offline life.  Interacting through social media is undoubtedly more convenient, but it is also less qualitative.  Though it has become an inescapable part of our lives, social media has to be handled so that it does not become the main focal point of our lives.  It is for us to choose whether to use social media for conflicts or connection.


Beniwal, M. (2018). Social Media and Its Impact on Interpersonal Relationships. Jarvee. Retrieved on October 15, 2019 from,

Gulati, D. (2017). Facebook is Making Us Miserable. Retrieved on October 15, 2019 from,

Ledbetter, (2011). Attitudes toward online social connection and self-disclosure as predictors of Facebook communication and relational closeness. Communication Research

Moreau, S. (2019). The Pros and Cons of Social Networking. Lifewire. Retrieved on October 15, 2019 from,

ProCon. (2019). History of Social Media. Retrieved on October 15, 2019 from,

Warat Karuchit, Media effects theories, Communication Theories and Innovation Communication. (2013) Bangkok: National Institute of Development Administration.

Wikipedia. (2019). Interpersonal Relationship. Wikipedia. Retrieved on October 15, 2019 from,

About the Author:

Michael Martin has more than 35 years of experience in systems design for broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies.

He is a business and technology consultant. Over the past 15 years with IBM, he has worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX).

Martin currently serves on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and previously served on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V). 

He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section. 

He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has earned 15 badges in next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, and more.