February 16, 2017

Social Media is Wrecking our Relationships, but Who is to Blame?

If we feel that our romantic life is becoming like a reality TV show, we may want to reconsider posting about it.

We may even want to take a break from using social media altogether.

Recent studies show excessive use of social media can be detrimental to our intimate relationships.

So, how difficult can a little digital detox be?

I’ve seen people find the discipline to go on a wheatgrass cleanse for an entire week that not only included sucking down the fuzzy green stuff only a cow would find to be a delicacy, but also using it as a colonic—all in the name of a dietary cleanse! You’d think a digital detox would be way easier and a lot less messy.

And yet…

I hesitantly got onto social media years ago when a friend from childhood I hadn’t seen or heard from in years called me. (I really miss the days of connecting with someone on the phone.) She asked me if I was on a little, barely-known software program called Facebook.

I was on the fence about joining it because I really loved my privacy, despite having a sociable job. But she made an excellent case (that still holds true) for the many benefits of using Facebook that didn’t involve my love life. I’d easily be able to keep in touch with friends and family whom I never get to see (this is what finally sold me), network, market, get news and I could control my privacy.

Another perk was the fact that I could delete my account whenever I wanted. (Since then, my finger has hovered over that delete button more times than I can type.)  So, with some firm boundaries in place, under the assumption I was in charge of myself as much as I thought I was, and with Myspace dying quicker than a trendy new restaurant launching in L.A., I joined Facebook.

I had no idea that I’d never be able to pull myself off it. Even when I have desperately wanted to take a break from the information overload, I’ve rarely lasted more than a day or two. Repetition compulsion anyone?

Even though many people like to post about their relationships, I preferred to keep that part of my life private. I never liked the idea of my intimate relationships being subject to public opinion or scrutiny. And the data coming out about how social media is negatively affecting our intimate relationships, with an increase in couples’ conflicts and break-ups, supported my initial suspicions.

Just the other day I came across an “It’s Complicated” status change from a girl I hadn’t seen in years. “Uh-oh,” I thought as I got sucked into her page. She had gone from plastering it with accolades and pictures of her happily-married life and their first child to an about-face with a cosmic sized WWF social media smackdown of her soon-to-be “psychotic ex- husband.”

Facebook and Twitter have definitely become the modern day town square, inundated with millions of town criers.

The one-time private relationship moments that may be filled with discord are now public. This publicity makes them subject to everyone’s opinions, judgments and criticisms. There are public displays of affection that go beyond oversharing, relationship infractions that cause couples to verbally attack each other when their mate doesn’t respond quickly enough to a posted love proclamation and accusations of cheating that surface when someone we love tries to innocently reconnect with an ex.

This is just the tip of the social media iceberg when it comes to conflicts created in our intimate relationships due to our excessive, impulsive and boundary-less usage. I’m hoping we are not going to crash into it and sink like the Titanic. New dates are affected by our use of social media, too. Thanks to our interconnectedness, our new date’s reputation shows up even before they do!

Does the good still outweigh the bad, though, when it comes to the effects of social media on our intimate relationships?

If we spend all day posting about our intimate and public lives, what is there to discuss with our mate that’s precious, private and personal when we get home? Social media may feel like a substitute for our real-life interactions, but it’s not.

Despite what or who we’d like to be, the reality is that many of us are impulsive, social creatures who love the convenience of connecting and sharing our lives on such a diverse platform. It can alleviate our feelings of loneliness.

The other reality is we can too easily get sucked into the matrix of social media, often unaware as we slowly spiral out of control. Maybe we “wake up” years later as we habitually check our statuses and newsfeeds for the 50th time that day, and realize we can’t disconnect from it, even if we know it is contributing to our relationship problems.

Add a little attention-seeking low self-esteem left over from our childhood traumas and we might find ourselves thinking, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Are we headed to a place where we can’t tell the difference between connecting with someone deeply and meaningfully in our intimate relationships and the ones we have on social media? Is it possible we will neglect to nurture our real-life relationships in the way that they so desperately need to be nurtured?

The New York Times posted an article about the antisocial effects social media is having on our children. There is less interaction which means less development of skills like empathy, social awareness, and self-reflection—skills needed to form healthy intimate relationships.

Are we producing a generation of antisocial people?

It’s easy to say we can learn to use social media wisely—except finding the discipline to do so is not so easy. It’s already managed to change and reduce the deep meaning of the word “friend” that once held a standard to relationships built over years of time and trust, through the ups and downs of life.

The reality is social media is not going anywhere. I am a huge fan of its many advantages. But, it is clearly affecting how we interact in our intimate and less intimate relationships.

I don’t think social media use has to wreck our relationships, but I do think we need to keep ourselves in check to make sure it doesn’t.

More importantly, we need to set the example and educate the future of our world—our children—to do the same.


Author: Heather Dawn 

Image: 10,000 km (2015)/ Youtube

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren


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