There’s no doubt about it, social media is changing how relationships are formed, developed and possibly terminated. With the pictures we post, statuses we write, groups we like, Facebook knows everything about us. When we’re meeting someone new, what is the first thing many do these days? Facebook them! While social media is great for connecting people across the globe, it should also be handled with caution.
With the advent of social media came new stresses and strains to relationships. The “in a relationship” status is a battleground for many couples. Frequently we’ve seen friends flick from “in a relationship” to “single” to “it’s complicated” within the same day. Profile pictures could be another cause for upset. If a couple is in a relationship it is almost expected that they put a profile picture together. And it they don’t, well, that’s a sign that all is not well in paradise. With the Timeline feature on Facebook, it’s possible to dig up people’s histories by scrolling through the years. We can sift through our partner’s photos, statuses, comments, many of which may be meaningless but could seem significant to an outsider. This fosters jealousy and insecurity.
Facebook also encourages constant comparisons with your peers. It is easy to feel that others are more well off, more successful, better looking than you are when jumping from profile to profile. This can be unhealthy for our own self-esteem and sense of well-being. Just because most people put up profile pictures of them smiling from ear to ear, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re happy or their life is perfect. However, Facebook can be superficial in that respect. Experiences these days are almost not validated until pictures are taken and uploaded on Facebook. Having an experience is no longer fulfilling enough, it has to be posted on Facebook, gather likes and comments before it is a true, worthy experience.
Social media is also whittling away the mystery element of meeting someone new. People these days post everything on Facebook from the dinner they ate to when they last went to the hairdresser. We naturally have a tendency to reduce uncertainty about people we don’t know too well and even those we think we do know. Therefore, we go to outlets like Facebook. However, this natural phenomenon is taken too far and results in hours of Facebook stalking. Back in the day the main portal of information was asking friends. Nowadays we have Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, LinkedIn and much else to stalk and get the information we so desire. Mystery and intrigue, however, can be conducive and healthy in a relationship. They encourage people to spend more time together to get to know each other and less time behind a computer screen guiltily stalking away.
The social media medium is also very ineffective for communicating certain messages. Even though there are smiley emoticons, this does not convey emotion in the same way face to face interactions do. Many people these days are actually breaking up on Facebook because it is easier online than in person. This decrease in empathy online can also explain cyber bullying. It is easier to be mean and say cruel things when one is not confronted with an immediate, visible emotional reaction. This can also lead to people losing their communication skills and abilities when dealing with face to face interactions.
Here are some Do’s & Don’ts:
- Spend a limited amount of time online
- Spend as much time with face to face interactions as possible
- Use e-mails for informational purposes not emotional
- Get sucked into stalking patterns
- Post your entire life story on mediums such as Facebook
- Say anything online that you would feel uncomfortable saying in person
And remember anything online or written through email is permanent! If it is in black and white it has the power to hurt long after it’s written. A heated argument can be forgotten. But it’s less easily forgotten when there’s proof of writing to support it. The important thing with social media is to get the balance right and use appropriate mediums for certain conversations. So stay connected but stay cautious.
Jain, R. (June 30, 2010). 4 Ways Social Media Is Changing Your Relationships. Social Media Examiner. Retrieved June 2, 2013 from, http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/4-ways-social-media-is-changing-your-relationships/
Lickerman, A. (June 8, 2010). The Effect Of Technology On Relationships. Psychology Today. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201006/the-effect-technology-relationships
Ruben. (August 25, 2012). Facebook effects on relationships. Avoid Facebook. Retrieved June 2, 2013, from http://www.avoidfacebook.com/2012/08/25/facebook-effects-on-relationships/
Suval, L. (2013). Dating and the Impact of Social Media. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2013/05/11/dating-and-the-impact-of-social-media/
Image credit: iStockphoto. (n.d.). 7 Dumbest things you can do after a break-up. TruTV. Retrieved June 3, 2013, from http://www.trutv.com/dumb_as_a_blog/gallery/7-dumbest-things-you-can-do-after-a-break-up.html?curPhoto=2