The Effect of Weak Social Ties: A Common Problem in the World Today

It's said that today, relationships are becoming increasingly fragile. But, how can you accept the fact that someone who, today, appears to be one of your best friends might not want to know anything about you tomorrow? Find out here.
The Effect of Weak Social Ties: A Common Problem in the World Today
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 11 January, 2024

We should be warned that love, like friendship, is increasingly fragile and can break at any moment. In fact, as the Polish sociologist, Zygmunt Bauman, pointed out, our relationships today are now freer and more independent, but also more superficial. So much so that we frequently replace certain relationships with others.

For example, you might spend your whole life looking for a partner on dating apps without making a firm commitment to any of them. It’s almost the same with friendships. There are apps that allow you to contact people with similar interests and build short-term friendships.

Maybe we’re creating an increasingly liquid society in which ties with others slip away or are lost down the drain of disinterest as time passes. So, where does this leave us? Because, as human beings, we have social brains and we need to build solid and significant links with others to feel safe.

Is this new way of life the kind that satisfies us the most? Or is it, perhaps, part of the cause of our unhappiness?

Superficial relationships end up being stressful because they don’t cover our basic bonding needs.

Sad boy leaning his head on the wall suffering from weak social ties
Adolescents suffer the most from the weight of not having solid social relationships.

The cost of weak social ties

Without a doubt, weak social ties are a part of today’s daily malaise. Having friends who don’t last is as bad as not having any. Moving from one emotional breakup to another is like having no partner at all. Having apps that allow us to see an endless number of people to choose from isn’t much help either.

Indeed, we live in a time when social ties have become increasingly superficial. This is because there are more opportunities to jump from one friend to another, or to move from one love that’s just expired to another that supplies more emotion and a dose of dopamine. Indeed, the digitally dominated present has changed our way of relating to others. However, this doesn’t always work in our favor.

As a matter of fact, Generation Z, young people born between the years 1997-2012, are increasingly exhibiting feelings of loneliness as well as suffering from mental problems. They’re youngsters who were raised in homes where technology was their way of discovering the world, entertaining themselves, and relating to others. This has led them to be consistently dissatisfied with their social ties.

The modern individual is driven by gratification and reinforcement. As soon as a relationship no longer gives them enough dopamine, they jump to the next one because, according to them, there’s always someone better.

Individualism and the first ‘me’

No one can deny that one of our most basic needs, as human beings, is to safeguard our freedom. Being able to decide what we want and need at all times is the key to our well-being. We feel fulfilled when we act in harmony with our values and desires.

That said, we’re seeing increasingly more individualistic behavior focused on satisfying, exclusively, our own interests. The ‘first me and then me’ is a dynamic that’s taken hold in our social substrate and even in our culture. It’s also a fierce and immature individualism that lies behind phenomena such as ghosting.

The market of emotions: if you don’t fulfill me, I’ll leave you

Today, weak social ties have become more frequent because some individuals aren’t interested in having friends or partners. In effect, they’re merely looking for emotions to consume. This translates into starting friendships or relationships for the mere novelty value and the effervescent rush of sensations they supply in the early stages. In fact, solely for feelings of complicity and pleasure, and for fun and entertainment value.

However, as soon as these emotions lose their intensity and the new becomes routine, they leave those relationships to look for new figures to ‘fulfill’ them.

The culture of triviality and appearances

It seems that life today is marked by weak social ties. But that doesn’t mean that those who were born in the era of new technologies accept this fact and feel happy with the kinds of relationships that quickly come to an end. Quite the opposite. In fact, if there’s one thing that a teen needs, it’s to establish solid friendships.

A study conducted by the University of Lisbon indicates how a lack of friends affects the mental health of young people. They feel less satisfied with their lives. This has an obvious cost to their psychosocial development.

It’s often a direct consequence of the culture of triviality that tends to be sold on social media. In a universe in which appearances are everything, young people lose their individual essence. Moreover, they lose the ability to commit themselves and respect their social ties.

Most people want stable relationships and strong friendships. However, they’re unable to take care of them because they prioritize their own needs more.

An incongruous society: Wanting love, but not knowing how to take care of it

You probably know what it’s like to have weak social ties. They’re the kinds of relationships in which communication fails, in which there’s no real interest, and in which you feel like you’re living a lie. These kinds of relationships are hurtful and exhausting. So, why are so many people tolerating these kinds of situations that make them feel so empty inside?

One factor that must be taken into account is that some people don’t know how to build solid relationships. That’s either because they lack emotional skills or because they have a particular psychological problem. For example, anxiety, a lack of self-esteem, the weight of trauma, or being raised in dysfunctional families can make them incompetent in social relationships.

These men and women lack congruity. They crave love and friends but lack the skills to care for them. In effect, they’re so focused on their own needs and wants that they’re unable to emotionally nurture others.

Embraced friends leaving weak social ties behind
Every relationship requires commitment, trust, and respect. They’re pillars to which all parties must contribute.

Friendship and love are built

There are many reasons for this increasingly common phenomenon that’s defined by the fragility of ties. Technology has given us the kind of mentality that prioritizes individualism. It causes psychological problems that lead us to believe we’re increasingly alone, despite having more opportunities to connect with others than ever before.

This tremendous irony is one of the biggest challenges for society today. Because, beyond what we might believe, social ties are our daily moorings that sustain our psychological well-being. Friendship, like love, isn’t ‘consumed’ it’s built, through commitment, trust, respect, and care on a daily basis.

These pillars must be promoted. They allow us to find the kinds of people who are really worth it. It doesn’t matter that these types of people are few and far between. Because, at the end of the day, our well-being doesn’t lie in the quantity of human relationships we have, but the quality.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Field, Julaine & Crothers, Laura & Kolbert, Jered. (2006). Fragile Friendships: Exploring the Use and Effects of Indirect Aggression among Adolescent Girls. Journal of School Counseling.
  • Steger MF, Kashdan TB. Depression and Everyday Social Activity, Belonging, and Well-Being. J Couns Psychol. 2009 Apr;56(2):289-300. doi: 10.1037/a0015416. PMID: 20428460; PMCID: PMC2860146.
  • Tomé, Gina & Matos, Margarida & Camacho, Inês & Simões, Celeste & Diniz, José. (2013). The lack of friends amongst adolescents and well being. International Journal of Sciences;. 43-51.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.