What is interesting is the power and the impact of social media...so we must try to use social media in a good way. -Malala Yousafzai
Social media - from Facebook to Instagram to Twitter to Snapchat to...well, you get the idea. It’s everywhere these days and has come to shape our social relationships, platonic and otherwise. We’re meeting people online, sharing photos, posting status updates, and keeping in touch with others, and all of these behaviors can easily change and/or be affected when we partner with someone special. Yet the effects, relatively harmless when we’re on our own, can have some negative impacts as well as positive impacts. How is your social media presence affecting your relationships, for better and for worse? And how can you make sure your relationships stay healthy, even when bombarded by ‘likes’, ‘tweets’, and ‘snaps’ (your own and your significant others’)?
Ways Social Media Helps Relationships
- The cornerstone of any relationship is clear, consistent communication, and one of the main benefits of social media (and technology in general) is that it’s made communication way easier and more accessible. Where once upon a time couples wouldn’t be able to check in unless they were near a landline, these days it’s easy to get updates about your partner’s day, to let them know you’ll be home a little late, or simply to let them know you’re thinking about them. Plus, having conversations about when to make it ‘facebook official’ (or to keep it private), for instance, can help you kickstart more serious conversations about your relationship (which will help make sure you’re both on the same page).
- When you’re in a new relationship, chances are you’re pretty excited. You probably think the person you’re with is the best thing since sliced bread, and you’re ready to shout it from the rooftops. Well, posting that cute picture of the two of you kissing on Instagram allows you to do the modern equivalent of showing off your relationship (because you two are definitely the cutest couple you know). Showing that you’re proud of, and excited about, your new relationship can show your partner how much they mean to you, and that’s definitely a good thing in a new relationship.
- One of the great things about social media is the networking that goes along with it, and especially for couples that have family and friends in other states, it’s a great way to start to integrate your individual networks. Now, we’re not saying you shouldn’t have any individual friends, but getting to know your partner’s background, the kind of family they grew up in, and the types of friends they have, can be an integral part of getting to know your partner themselves. Plus, research shows that more integrated networks might mean a healthier relationship.
Ways Social Media Harms Relationships
- If communication is one of the cornerstones of a healthy relationship, boundaries are another. Knowing what boundaries are, how to set your own boundaries, and how to communicate about them (see, there’s communication again…) is key to maintaining a healthy partnership. Unfortunately, social media poses a ton of problems when it comes to setting boundaries. Not only do you have to figure out your boundaries around social media use, but those boundaries are tough to define in cyberspace. Is it ok that your partner is friends with their ex? How about if they’re constantly liking an ex’s photos? When does it cross a line? All of these questions are hard to answer and can lead to tension, arguments, and hurt feelings.
- Along with the questions about boundaries are the insecurities and jealousies that social media can promote. When you’re in a new relationship but you can see all of your partner’s actions out in the open, it’s easy to compare yourself to others or to wonder what the hidden meaning behind an online inside joke might be. Sometimes, more information is not more helpful.
- Social media, while it makes it easier to keep in touch with friends, also makes it easier to keep in touch with ex-partners, crushes, and the like. In fact, it may be a social faux pas in some social circles to disconnect from your exes, which gives both them and you an avenue to keep communicating (whether the other wants it or not), along with creating heightened insecurity on your partner’s side.
- One of the main complaints about social media in relationships has to do with partners feeling ignored when their partner is constantly checking their social media account (or worse, you’re both so involved in checking your notifications that you’re totally disconnected from each other). Whether you believe social media can become an addiction or not, it can definitely distract from your relationship.
Tips for Engaging with Social Media (and Keeping your Relationship Healthy)
Communicate About Your Social Media Use
We can’t say this enough - like everything else, you should be communicating about your social media use and boundaries. If your partner refuses to stop having private conversations with their ex, or they track your every move via social media and then question you about it, these might be red flags that you consider when moving forward with this person.
Log Off Sometimes
Especially when you’re spending time together on date nights or afternoon hang outs, disconnect. Turn off notifications on your phone or leave it in the car, if you can. Give each other your full attention when you spend time together, and find other time to check in with other friends.
Social media makes it so easy to delve into your partner’s behavior, their past, their friends, their exes, anything they’ve posted online. But snooping this way might be stepping over a boundary of your partner, and it’s likely to inform the way you feel about them (without actually hearing it from them). Things can be easily misunderstood or taken out of context, it’s super easy to start to feel super insecure, and you’re missing out on an opportunity to get to know your partner in person. Just don’t snoop (at least, not without asking).