Does the term ‘social network’ remind you of the movie “The Social Network”? The near real-life dramatization of Mark Zuckerberg’s rise to fame and the start of a journey that resulted in a nearly 500 billion dollar company? Well, it might, but there were social media platforms long before Mark made Facebook. And people were part of social networks long before anyone digitalized the experience.
Social networks refer to the web of social relationships surrounding an individual and can be categorized into Family relationships, Friendships, Acquaintanceships, and Romantic relationships. Well-run and managed social media platforms are successful because they are built on top of a universal human need – social relationships.
Humans are social creatures. That is a concrete, deeply researched, and proven fact. If you’re thinking, “I prefer to spend time alone and enjoy being by myself,” you are most likely an introvert. You’re less social than those around you, and you need brief or extended alone time to re-energize, but that does not mean you can fully develop or function with zero social interaction. In fact, solitary confinement, the isolation of a prisoner from any human interaction and contact, can be considered torture when done for longer than the periods allowed by law. This kind of isolation can result in physical and psychological damage to the individual to the point of death.
Social networks have several health benefits for people in general. Those with healthy and fulfilling social relationships have better mental and physical health and live longer. An online social relationship is even better than having no social relationship in one’s life at all.
Social networks, regardless of being online or offline, are essential and empowering to youths, and here are some reasons why:
- To gain foresight from other people’s experiences
As a young person, it is best when your social network includes older ones and not only your age mates. Many people older than you have lived eventful lives and have acquired a twenty-twenty vision of it. Their reflections can be invaluable contributions to your decision-making process on the paths you take. Even though you might not have much in common, given their age, you might be surprised to find out that they also faced some of the challenges you are facing as a young adult.
- To have a sense of belonging
Making friends among your peers or age group gives you a sense of belongingness and being understood. Your peers share similar life experiences as you, so you can always feel understood among them and confide in them. Social media has helped many youths connect with those that have similar interests but do not live nearby.
- To widen your perspective
Interacting with those from a different social or economic background to yours can widen your perspective on subjects. When those that have lived or currently live in different environments and circumstances share their experiences and outlooks with you, you come to have a broader view of matters as you are obliged to put yourself in their shoes and see the world from their perspective. There is always more than one way of looking at things; you can only see the other viewpoints when you imagine yourself in others’ places.
- For practical knowledge and information transfer
Do you want to be a successful businessman but don’t know how to register a business? How about networking with some businessmen or attending a business networking event to meet some?
Young people are often ambitious and aspiring. They have endless possibilities ahead, bright hopes, and the boldness to dream big. However, they might not always know how to turn these dreams and possibilities into reality. While you might be sure of what you want to achieve, the steps to achieve your dreams can elude you or be overwhelming. Networking with people who have achieved your goals or reached similar heights can help you gain insight into the journey ahead and even avoid common mistakes.
- To learn to face challenges and grow
Maintaining social relationships is no easy task. It requires empathy and compromise. While you work on forming and growing social connections, you will face challenges that will help you grow and change. The harder and longer you work on your social relations, the stronger they grow and the deeper, more meaningful, and fulfilling they will become. In the process, you will change for the better and develop character.
Finally, social networking, be it on social media platforms or offline, is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are downsides to social networking. Some social relationships can be toxic and draining both financially and mentally. And if you find yourself in a network with the wrong set of people, the bad influence can be harmful to the point of self-destruction. In addition, social media can be addictive, pulling you further and further away from your reality and sabotaging your future.
Aside from being vital for humans, social networks have various advantages and can empower everyone, particularly young people. However, everyone must be cautious to avoid joining an unfitting network or attracting the wrong type of people to their network.