Shallow Relationships and Striving For Depth

Hello everyone!

I recently wrote an article on The Low Tech Trek about why our relationships can seem so shallow nowadays. Feel free to check it out!

How can we get our society to reach more depth in our daily relationships? I feel like in our digital age, we keep things at surface level, as our phones are always present, ready to distract us. I would love to hear your thoughts!


It’s a terrific piece, and something my husband and I, and then my sister and I have just been discussing. Interestingly Clint Watts does a good job on this topic in his book Messing with the Enemy, in the final chapter. Even though his field is cybersecurity and counterterrorism he has some really astute observations about how social media has changed our interactions. I feel this every day.

Thanks for the suggestion! I will have to check out his book. It’s definitely an interesting time we are living in as we try to navigate these new ways of communication.

Hi Pat,

I do agree with you that relationships today are somewhat more on the shallow end. As someone who has lived both in the US and Europe, I have to say this is more pronounced in the States than in Europe, where people tend to be colder before you know them but as you get to start to know them better they warm up immensely.
Why this difference? There are certainly cultural reasons, such as the greater emphasis on maintaining face in the US, but I do believe the crazy importance of social media to social life in the US is also a reason. So, we can and should ask ourselves how social media is leading to shallower interactions.

As a gay introvert, I didn’t have an easy time growing up. During this time, the internet was my door to the world. I could talk to people like me without feeling insecure. Until recently, I actually found my online friends more approachable than my real life contacts. Today I feel differently about that, but that’s how it was back then.
Anyway, why am I telling you this? The reason is that I personally think the answer to your question, that is why daily relationships today seem more shallow, can be found in my experiences from back then. You see, because of who I am, I always felt excluded from the traditional rituals of the society I lived in. These rituals, things that may seem mundane to us in daily life, actually serve the important purpose of giving us stability - a familiar framework through which interaction takes place. And because these rituals are familiar, we feel safe when we are all part of it. You might see where I’m going. When we feel safe and accepted, we open up in our interactions.

My personal observation has been that we have fewer and fewer of these rituals. And social media is playing a part in that. That is because these kind of rituals require tradition - they need to be practices which have existed for a long time, because only then do they have the validity which makes us comfortable. Social media cannot provide us with that, because the platforms we use are not adjusted to the communities we live in. Because they have to be scale to generate revenue, they can’t accommodate to the customs and traditions of local communities and essentially disrupt them.
Many of the developments in the world today can be traced back to this lack of attention towards local communities - the rise of nationalism, but also the renewed interest in things such as community gardens and local governance.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is: If we want to have depth in our relationships, we need to reconfigure social media so that it brings local communities closer together while emphasizing shared traditions.

Your thoughts?




Hi RollingCompass,

You have some awesome points here! One thing you said about people in the states is that they’re so focused on maintaining face which is something I’ve noticed. There’s this unwillingness on social media to showcase vulnerability which can make online profiles feel unrelatable. Posts are usually from the best parts of people’s lives and if you’re only seeing this side of the story then you’re bound to feel different through upward social comparison. One social media site I’ve discovered which runs counter to this: I would recommend checking it out since it’s the only “social media” site where I’ve consistently felt uplifted through their community/individual gratitude journal format. Thoughts on this? Could social media help invigorate our local communities and create strong bonds when harnessed correctly?


Hi Philipp,

Thank you so much for your comment and for your insight! I love how you mention the importance of local communities; you are absolutely right. Research has shown that people are much happier when they feel a part of something bigger, like they have a purpose, and are contributing to a community. Shared tradition is also crucial, as we often relate to one another through shared experience.

I think its important for social media to encourage people to get together in person, instead of always being connected on the screen. Websites like Meet Up are great, because they allow for that initial online connection and take it into reality. I do believe connecting on the Internet, through various groups, this one included, is a beautiful thing, as it allows us to come together, from all over the world, to discuss important topics.

This, however, shouldn’t be a permanent replacement for face-to-face interaction. We still need to cultivate genuine human relationships in order to reach that depth, fulfillment, and happiness. Online contact is great initially, but we can never develop a full understanding of each other if we limit ourselves to that.

Hi Pat,
I am personally very interested in this topic because I have witnessed how social media is affecting my peers. I agree with Philipp’s point that the real-life environment that one person is in may play a huge role in his/her habit of using social media. Some of my friends find social media a more open, safer place to discuss anything since the Internet advocates the freedom of expression (but at the same time, problems such as cyberbullying are happening…). Besides, they can build an online identity that’s different from the real themselves, and I think this may be related to their self-esteem and the general social stereotype. A female friend of mine was too into this “showing the best yourself” game that she would come to me and ask which photo of her looks good so she can post on social media.:pensive: Earning lots of likes and comments from online friends can instantly satisfy one’s self-esteem, but the problem you mentioned in the article would soon surface.
In my opinion, most mainstream social media, because of their business model, focus on expanding one’s social network without paying attention to its quality and depth. Plus the fact that social media has opened a whole new world of access to view anything, there can be no end to one’s curiosity scrolling through the social media feed. As a result, they are constantly hooked to the notifications, the fear of missing out and can ignore cultivate the real-life relationship.
But nowadays more and more apps are trying to bring back the depth of relationships by narrowing down the scope and limiting the user circle. For instance, apps that are designed specifically for couples (like Between) and families (like 23snaps). YCombinator also has a social media startup called Basement in their most recent batch which focuses on close college friends. I guess with the existing huge social media platforms being so overwhelming and noisy, there could be a trend that people will choose to look back and focus on the important people in their lives. But with those influencers and celebrities showing their fancy life and promoting products from time to time, it’s very hard for young generations to resist the temptation to look at their phone.
I agree with you that the ultimate way to deepen a relationship is through spending time together face-to-face and communicating whole-heartedly. I am wondering whether technology can play a revolutionary part in this. Just a wild thought, maybe VR and AR can do that since nowadays our digital life and offline life are somewhat intertwined.
Happy to share my thoughts!


I am in the same mind set as you! But first, we need to turn technology from a buisness platform centered on data mining to a tool for all of humanity!

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