It was like any other night when Alicia Padilla opened her Mac while lounging on her bed, logged into her Facebook account, and saw a friend request under her notifications. She clicked on the link to James Taverner's profile, and vaguely recognized the name and face from middle school.
As she cruised through pictures, she suddenly remembered the bright blue eyes he was best known for. And she added him.
Soon Alicia and James were Facebook chatting throughout each day, Alicia with her computer at home and James with a friend's borrowed computer while managing his family's pizza place. Even after their first date, which was the first time they had seen each other in about 13 years, the two chatted every day with the help of Facebook. After eight months, on New Year's Eve, he proposed. They were married the next summer.
"I just thought, 'Wow, I can't believe I would find this person,' I never thought I would have a connection with this person," Alicia said.
They are just one couple in millions in the U.S. who are connecting through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Out of 50 couples married in the U.S. in 2011, at least one met through a social networking site, according to The Wedding Report. Social media sites are diversified in their functions, and starting intimate connections, whether marital or not, is just one of them. However, four of five U.S. divorce attorneys say they have seen a rise in cases with social networking involved, according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Relationships with social media and people
"Don't leave! I have to meet you!"
This tweet from her future husband changed MoniQue Shaldjian's life. Shaldjian, a culinary nutrition specialist in Phoenix, thrives on social media, especially Twitter, for personal and business reasons. However, finding her spouse was the last thing she expected to come from her attendance at a tweet-up — "a meeting or other gathering organized by means of posts on the social networking service Twitter."
Though they weren't following one another when they first met, Twitter is a now commonly used tool for communication in the Shaldjians' relationship.
"We have this long desk in our home, we call it the command center, and both of our computers sit on the end next to each other," Shaldjian said. "We will tweet each other while sitting side by side. There's sometimes a flirtiness to it."
The couple even has a brand they share on Twitter — she is @lafingal, he is @lafinguy, and their dogs are @lafindogs — and they are often invited to events because people know they will tweet-out about them. Twitter is a huge part of their lives and is always leading to new connections and networking opportunities.
"As far as friendship goes, a lot of people don't put out their real selves (on Twitter), and sometimes when you meet with them, you kind of wish you didn't," Shaldjian said. "People aren't honest on social media. With some of these people we've made the connection they've become your family; you meet them and once you meet them and you don't really like them, how do you undo that?"
Shaldjian has learned that in today's world of connection through social media, it is difficult to follow or unfollow people freely.
"It really changes the dynamic of any kind of relationship, love or friendship," she said.
Jonah Berger, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts, believes there are a few reasons why people share information, which he discusses in his new book "Contagious: Why Things Catch On."
"Connecting with others is rewarding; it makes us feel like we're not alone in the world," Berger said. "And people do like to tell other people about themselves. Research shows talking about ourselves is rewarding; sharing things can be rewarding for the brain."
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