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You Are Now Listed as “In a Relationship” with Facebook: Examination of the Detrimental Effects of Social Networking Sites on Personal and Relational Development

Easter Keller
Ohio Northern University

This paper examines the potentially harmful effects of social networking websites on the development and sustainability of individual identities and interpersonal relationships.  As the cultural obsession with internet use grows, it becomes more and more important to examine and analyze how this phenomenon coincides with and contradicts traditional methods of developing personal identities and forming interpersonal relationships with others.  The theories of classical sociologists Charles Horton Cooley and Emile Durkheim are used in attempt to explain how social networking websites can hinder traditional methods of self and relational development.  Cooley’s looking-glass self is used to describe the ways in which individuals dependent on social networking sites can suffer due to the modification or loss of their personal identities.  Cooley’s focus on primary groups is also used to highlight the importance of traditional relationship building through intimate, face-to-face interactions that prepare individuals to enter and fit into society.  Durkheim’s focus on the collective conscience, anomie, and suicide provide insight into the potentially harmful effects of social networking websites.  With evidence of their detrimental effects on people, the harm these websites may cause cannot be ignored; instead, they need to be examined and explained to prevent future internet users from succumbing to their harmful effects.

North Central Sociological Association Conference, Dearborn, MI