The prevalence of social media in modern society seems like it would strengthen bonds and relationships between people, but this is not the case. Often times an individual may have hundreds of friends on social media, but will not be able to find one person to go to a movie with. This is because a friendship in real life and online connections are vastly different things. People often complain of feeling too drained and low on energy to engage in real life friendships, and new research shows that this mental effect could potentially be caused by social media.

The human brain has developed to be as social as possible. The brain rewards us for positive social interactions and encourages us to seek out relationships. One study, in particular, form the University of Kansas, shows that the brain understands the difference between face to face interaction and interaction that occurs through social media. This means that we may feel like we are having fulfilling interactions when liking posts on Facebook or commenting on Instagram stories, but we are not receiving the same reward from our brains that we would receive from a real-life conversation. This leads to fewer fulfilling relationships and social interactions. Thankfully, there are ways to maintain real friendships in our digital world.

The first step is to limit social media use. This can be done in a number of ways. There are several popular apps available for smartphones that have built in timers. Once a preset amount of time, thirty minutes for example, has been spent on social media sites, the app locks you out of your social media until the next day. Another, more drastic measure, would be to delete your social media apps completely. Cutting the chord may leave you feeling blue for a few days, but soon your mood will lift and you will seek out more engaging interactions in the real world.

Perhaps the most important aspect of friendship is shared experiences. Sharing experiences is the easiest way to build or strengthen bonds between people. To maintain your relationships you must reach out to friends and family and plan outings together. By making an effort to see your friends in real life, you can retrain your brain to enjoy social interaction even more, replacing the small rush of social media with fulfilling interactions. When visiting with friends, be sure to focus on them, and not your phone. It may be a good idea to explicitly tell your friends that you wish for your time together to be phone-free.

Another way to build rewarding relationships is to work on yourself. Self-improvement is always a worthy investment of time and energy. By working on yourself, you make yourself more likable and more fun to be around, which in turn leads to more friendships and meaningful interactions. Engaging in regular physical exercise can ease stress and keep your mind focused throughout the day. Exercise and other hobbies are also great ways to meet new people in real life and create new friendships. By becoming interesting as a person, you have more things to discuss, leading to more quality conversations.

You should also make an effort to be kind and complimentary. People like people who are nice, and it’s easy to make friends when you yourself are a good friend. Friendships require loyalty and honesty. By providing both, you will be able to maintain friendships despite hardships. That may occur.

When it comes to maintaining friendships, constancy is key. You must regularly contact your friends and plan events, otherwise you may fall back into the social media hole.