SOCIAL MEDIA / NOV. 14, 2013
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What is Better for Your Brain: Real Life Friends or Social Media Friends?

A recent study by the University of Oxford has come to the conclusion that being sociable boosts your brain power. People who have more friends, who go out and interact with them on a regular basis, use certain parts of their brain more than other people, according to the study. So it would seem that perhaps partying might be a good thing after all? While the study doesn’t specify whether it is real or online friends that boost brain power, we cannot ignore that there are 2 types of friends in this day and age – real and online. But it seems more likely that they are referring to real life friends as the social skills of people with purely online friends are often quite limited.

Parties Boost Productivity?

From the research, it might seem like the most sociable person in the office has an improved level of productivity, but this is not the case. In fact, the study also discovered that, while boosting the sociable parts of your brain, over-socialising might cause other parts of your brain to shrink! So, if you were looking for a compelling argument to convince your boss for more office parties, this study is not going to help you very much!

But it does bring up an interesting question as to whether or not the socialising aspect applies to both real life friends and social media friends. People have talked about how bad having too many social media friends is for you for many years. The study seems to imply that it is not actually the fact that you are socializing too much online; it is probably that you are spending too much time on your computer. With social media banned in many workplaces, it is interesting to think that it could in fact be your Social media friends that boost your productivity! However, the importance of having real life friends and learning real social skills cannot be underestimated.

The Differences between real and online friends

There are two main types of friends in the world; those that you have in the ‘real world’ and interact with physically, and social media friends who you only communicate with through an online setting and have never actually met in real life. Given social media friends have had much less importance placed on them recent times, it is pertinent to ask: which type of friends are actually better for you?

The idea of online friends is a very attractive one. Online friends are far easier to make and hold onto. All you need is a keyboard and mouse to keep you chatting. A complete recluse can create an entirely new identity for themselves online; they don’t even have to use their own picture to represent themselves. Through social media, you can talk to someone and never really get to know them. On Twitter, you can even get messages from someone famous and feel like you are their friend. However, these types of friendships also require a lot less work and social skills so it could be argued that they are also more shallow and meaningless than having real-life friends to talk to.

Meeting friends for a coffee or going on a night out forces you to use all forms of communication, from body language and facial expressions, to holding conversation and meeting new people. If you really want to boost your brain power then you should stick to real friends. The skills required to create and maintain these relationships are so much more challenging and useful than those required to create social media friends.

Despite what the study says, real friends trump social media friends any day of the week. Even if being sociable with ‘real friends’ causes damage to certain parts of your brain, it is much more beneficial in a work environment. If a person has no social skills then it will cause problems with teamwork, confidence and tension in the office. After all, have you ever heard of anyone becoming stupid just because they were sociable?

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