The order of things.

Something that we don’t often think about is the order with which we build connections with people. Most of us are connected with our closest friends on all of the main social media platforms – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn – depending on which ones they have, of course. Most of us also know where our friends live, their phone numbers, and their email addresses. But which of these connections comes first?

It seems logical that we would meet a person, become their friend, get their phone number, and eventually build an online relationship with them. But social media is now equally as essential to our communication patterns as a cell phone number, so this order often shifts.

I think it’s safe to say that for most people, Facebook has become the place where we have the most connections. I’m not saying these are the most intimate connections we have – just the greatest in quantity. For example, I have 1,925 friends on Facebook (kind of embarrassing), but I have 730 contacts in my phone. This means I’ve become “friends” with at least 1,195 people on Facebook whose phone numbers I don’t even have.

Instagram is becoming a high contender as well. I’ve noticed this semester that people I meet in my classes follow me on Instagram before we even exchange phone numbers. This is perhaps because Instagram is a visual social network where there is little communication involved. Once the user posts a picture, other users can simply “like” the photo as a way of communicating their feelings about it. While Instagram does allow comments, it isn’t assumed that everyone who likes your photo will comment on it. Therefor, following a person on Instagram is casual. We like casual.

Snapchat is, in my opinion, the most intimate social network. I’ve even heard people say “are you guys on Snapchat level?” meaning “are you guys close enough to be Snapchatting?”

This has become less of this case with the invention of Snapchat “stories,” because these have the same effect as Instagram posts and don’t require much communication. But for now, most of us only add our closest friends on Snapchat. These are the friends we also might text or see in person (gasp) on the regular. I have less than 80 contacts on Snapchat – this compared to my 1,925 friends on Facebook and my 730 cell phone contacts.

Twitter is, for me, one of the last ways I connect with people. I follow all of my friends on Twitter, but I also use Twitter to follow news organizations and companies. Unless someone seeks to follow me on Twitter, I most likely won’t make the effort to find them. This is true for a lot of my friends as well – Twitter is becoming more of a news source.

As strange as this sounds, I think phone numbers are sometimes the last bit of contact information we exchange with our peers. Social media has made it easy to indirectly communicate with people, and phone numbers are only necessary to communicate with your closest friends (if you’re into constant communication) or for emergencies and the occasional phone call (a phone call is an instance of speaking to someone on the phone or attempting to contact someone by phone, just incase anyone forgot).

I’m intrigued by the order with which we communicate because I think it has a huge impact on how we build relationships. Are our relationships more superficial now since we can depend on Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch using visuals and one-to-many communication channels?

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