Fact: We live in a digital world where social media is changing the way we relate to one another.
Nowadays, it’s a widespread trend to conduct our business, social, and love life on the go via the social media, and from the comfort of our smartphones. Many of us use at least one, if not all, of the social media giants such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat, to connect with connections that we have already made offline, but equally to make new connections.
More than ever before, we have the privilege to instantly connect and build (or destroy) relationships with other people, regardless of where we find ourselves at any given moment: in bed, on a train, during meal times, when on holiday, during a face-to-face communication, while driving (which is a bad practice) or even while sitting on the toilet (Sorry, we just need to be connected with the world at all times).
There is no denying that the use of social media adds a value to our lives. As humans we need to connect, we need to belong, we need to feel appreciated, loved, and we need to communicate with other humans. We find social media entertaining, while at the same time it helps us avoid loneliness and allows us to keep in touch with our loved ones through messaging, video calls and sharing pictures and contents.
However, virtual is not a substitute for real. Especially, when it comes to our intimate relationships, there is a word of caution. Depending on how we utilise social media, it can be our blessing or our curse.
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Fact: The wrong use of social media can damage romantic relationships!
It’s sad, but it’s true. From keeping in touch, to dating, to boasting about how great our life is, to publicly professing our love for someone, but equally to making our conflicts public, you name it, we just seem to enjoy being trapped in the world of virtual reality.
Digital habits seem to be more addictive than sex, alcohol, and cigarettes. For example, Facebook has just hit two billion users worldwide, so it’s not difficult to imagine how this social networking site plays a significant role in couples’ intimate life. For many people scrolling through their social media feeds, first thing in the morning and the last thing in the evening (never mind the countless times during the day), seems more important than appreciating the time they’re spending with the person they love.
Also, the possibility for internet infidelity is significant as anonymity allows users to feel more open and free in talking with other users.
According to a study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, spouses can alienate each other with constant social media use on their smartphones or laptops. This is a common source of tension, causing arguments in romantic relationships.
Results of another study published in Computers in Human Behaviour Journal, revealed that ‘using social media sites is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce’.
And there is a more menacing side to the use of social media, which provokes arguments, than just the length of time you spend on your digital device. It’s the passive-aggressive ranting about your partner that’s open for public viewing. Going straight to your phone when you are upset with your partner, and posting about how angry you are with them or making comments to ridicule or degrade them, can turn your initial arguments into a much bigger deal.
In a relationship, this pattern of interaction can provoke intense emotional hurt, embarrassment, anger, resentment, and even contempt in your partner. It’s such a bad practice and a wrong use of social media that it can lead to relationship destruction.
Social media is a powerful tool available to anyone. You can use it to put a smile on your partner’s face or to make them cry. You can strengthen your relationships or you can destroy them. It’s down to you how you choose to manage your online footprint.
Your takeaway food for thought is ready
Couples need physical and emotional intimacy in their relationship. They need time and attention in order to feel empathy, trust, and closeness.
Passive-aggressive ranting about your partner on social media can trigger anger and resentment that leads to more conflict that you’ll later regret. It is also a breach of trust.
There are many different ways that we can choose to communicate with one another, except that some things are best done in person. You should exercise enough common sense to make a difference between what goes public and what is best to keep in private and discuss face-to-face.
Self-awareness, regular real-life communication, and set boundaries are key in deciding how social media overuse might be affecting your and your partner’s relationship satisfaction.
Be smart. If used for right reasons, Facebook or other social, media sites can allow you to be closer and more involved with your partner. You can choose to share the love and cheer each other. However, digital intimacy shouldn’t be confused with the true intimacy.
Zana Apostolova is an experienced psychologist and author, having spent over 20 years studying and practicing psychology and psychotherapy. She is particularly interested in anxiety disorders, depression, relationships, and weight management. Her academic and practical experience also extends to include coaching, career guidance and training & development. She is author of the self-help book Life Equilibrium.