10/17/2013 12:37 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Can Social Media Actually Benefit Relationships?

Social media often gets a bad reputation for how it impacts relationships; however, I truly believe it has the ability to benefit and enhance personal interactions. Lately, with over a third of couples marrying someone they met online, we no longer rely on friends' introductions or blind dates when seeking a love interest. And it's not just for romantic interests, although that is something that is becoming more popular; social media offers opportunities for creating and maintaining relationships, whether with family, friendships or partners.

LinkedIn helps you build a professional network. Social media is a great tool for building connections as it gives you an online presence for others to explore your interests and expertise, linking you to professionals and new job opportunities. Hiring managers want to see your LinkedIn profile; sometimes they might not even ask for a traditional resume. It's important, though, to be authentic when using these tools; despite our motives (i.e. getting a job, promoting a product) we need to remember that social media pitches can come across a little too self-serving. Don't send a mass message to your entire LinkedIn database, for instance; treat online connections with the same care you'd put in face-to-face.

Twitter is one of the best ways to reach out to companies. We can leverage our mutual interests to engage in conversation with users whom we might have been too shy to talk to in person, or perhaps not even have known how to reach directly. When I interview someone who's been conversing with me on Twitter, I feel like I already know them -- and they get a leg up on the competition. With 77 per cent of Fortune 500 companies having an active Twitter account, it's often the best way to connect with brands and organizations you'd like to work with; this man even got a six-figure job through Twitter.

Tinder can expand your dating pool and introduce you to new matches. Just as widening your network is great for professional success, apps like Tinder can also help your love life by exposing you to potential dates you might not have met through the usual day-to-day routines. Users are also able to pick and choose which people in which age groups and social circles they want to meet. It's a (cheeky) way to step outside your immediate group of friends, and can make it easier to meet new people when working or travelling. And at the end of the day, (I am told) it's fun! Tinder allows users to enjoy a no-strings-attached flirting experience that can make you feel good. Whether you're swiping right or left, it's a playful distraction, an outlet to have a conversation and share your interests. As Bianca Bosker describes it, Tinder is a high-tech version of the high school sleepover game "do, dump, marry."

Texting allows you to get to know someone in a more efficient way. Similar to other social media outlets, texting allows you to have a conversation and get to know someone when you aren't able (or are too busy) to meet for drinks or movie dates (a familiar feeling for many!). There's a downside to texting though...the game players. You know the type: he takes a long time to respond, gives short, cold responses followed by flirtatious ones. Women tend to like to talk things out and seek advice from our friends, which often leads to overanalyzing texts and messages; my advice would be to be weary of reading into things too much; everyone texts differently. Using WhatsApp or other instant messenger apps allow you to quickly detect a player. It's an efficient way of figuring out if someone is worthy of your time.

Facebook gives you the opportunity to maintain relationships with friends and family, regardless of distance. Beyond social media's role in dating, we can now stay in touch with old friends through sites like Facebook, keeping updated on who's getting engaged, having children, etc. With a few clicks, we're able to share in others' life experiences, be it old colleagues or friends from high school. I think online communication can even make face-to-face, offline relationships stronger; parents are able to keep in close contact with their children who are travelling abroad or going away to university, and couples who are in long distance relationships can stay connected and be a part of each others' lives. There's a reason why Facebook has over a billion users: it works.

At the end of the day, it's about opening up. Social media acts as a form of self-expression and is influencing how we share our personalities; it's up to us to use it effectively. Whether it through text, Twitter or Tinder, getting to know someone this way gives us the opportunity to think about how we'd like to respond. Being able to talk to someone with confidence allows us to showcase our best qualities, and lets them see a side of us they may not have seen in 'regular' conversation. There's a slew of rules covering social media etiquette; it comes down to finding a healthy balance between online and offline communication. I think the key is using online communication as something that enhances your pre-existing relationships and helps connect you to new faces, giving you the opportunity to share your interests, passions and personality with more of the world at large.

I believe social media is a fun outlet that opens up a lot of opportunities to create and maintain connections, something that we strive for, instinctively. There are so many people we communicate with online who, without social media, we might never have known. The world really is getting smaller, and we're now connected to each other both digitally and physically. I read a great quote by Nietzsche that sums this up perfectly: "Invisible threads are the strongest ties."

How has social media benefited your relationships...or has it?

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