Are Social Media Hurting Your Relationship?

Clothed couple lying in bed facing away from each other.  One is using a smartphone and the other appears upset or annoyed. Social media have taken the world by storm. Many people spend a large portion of their days tweeting, texting, and checking their Facebook accounts. Adolescents tend to spend even more time online than adults, with a recent study suggesting that many engage in social networking for over two hours per day. Does that seem low or high to you? What about your partner?

Given how accessible and widely used social media are—Facebook alone has 1.8 billion active users—many people check in to find out what’s new, update others, and try to feel more connected with their world. Sharing a blow-by-blow of one’s day on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat has become routine. Whether you are at work, school, shopping, traveling, or just walking down the street, people can be seen everywhere hunched over their phones, getting updates about people they may or may not even be close to.

Unfortunately, this can lead to unrealistic ideas of what others’ lives are like, as well as unrealistic expectations for ourselves and our relationships. Many people tend to post only pictures and messages when they are among friends, doing something compelling or exceptional, or otherwise having fun. Because people tend to avoid posting about the negative things that may be going on in their lives, the photos and events they do post may embellish or inaccurately reflect their true status or emotional state. Looking in from the outside, “friends” who are coupled may think such people have ideal lives or relationships, when the opposite may be closer to the truth.

Many couples I work with in counseling talk about the ways social media have become problematic in their lives. It is not uncommon, for example, for one individual to be upset that a partner spends so much time online, which may interfere with time spent together. Another may become jealous if a partner befriends or follows a certain individual online. Others may feel as though their lives are depressing or “less than” compared with the online accounts and posts of friends or couples who appear to have it all.

If you feel as if social media have been causing problems in your relationship, the following are steps you can take to try to reconnect with your partner:

Because people tend to avoid posting about the negative things that may be going on in their lives, the photos and events they do post may embellish or inaccurately reflect their true status or emotional state.

  1. Set limits on the time you spend on social media. Try to cut back on the amount of time you spend online in general, especially when you have an opportunity to connect in person with your significant other. Make an agreement to spend more quality time together in the evening. This could mean leaving your phone in another room while you’re having dinner or watching a movie together, or you might decide to disconnect as of a certain time each evening.
  2. Put your phone away when out on a date. Too often, couples will set aside valuable “us” time to go out on a date, then spend part of it on their phones rather than talking to one another. When you go out, keep your phone in your pocket or purse, and only answer calls that are important (from the babysitter, for example).
  3. Close your Facebook account. This might sound blasphemous, but hear me out. For some couples, arguing about who befriends whom can become a serious problem and lead to jealousy and trust issues. If this is the case for you and/or your partner, you might want to consider closing or suspending your account, at least for a while, to avoid ongoing issues and drama. Spending time online communicating with other people—especially former romantic interests or others who may inspire difficult feelings in your partner—may not be the best solution to deepen your bond with your significant other. Saying your partner comes first is one thing, but showing it is even more important.
  4. Keep things in perspective, and avoid comparisons. Keep in mind what you read about online may not accurately portray what is going on in the lives of others. Relationships are always more complex than a few pictures or posts can possibly convey. What’s going on out of public view tends to be very different from the impression you may get from reading someone’s social media feed.

If social media have been causing problems in your relationship, try implementing some of the suggestions above. By setting and honoring some boundaries and making more of an effort to connect in person, you can work on reestablishing a healthier dynamic and deepening your bond. If, despite your efforts, you are still struggling, you may want to contact a couples counselor to help you to resolve your issues and get back on track.

Reference:

Hajirnis, A. (2015, November 15). Social media networking: Parent guidance required. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 31(12): 1–7. doi:10.1002/cbl.30086.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • tilman

    January 17th, 2017 at 8:10 AM

    The problem that I always tend to notice is that there are people who live their lives out via social media, every breath they take and every meal they make it is out there for the world to see. Same thing is true with any argument or disagreement that they have. I am not one for putting it all out there for the whole world to see.
    There are still some things that need to stay private.

  • Jeri

    January 17th, 2017 at 11:46 AM

    My husband and I literally sat in the same room with each other for an hour yesterday and did not say one word to each other, we were both looking at our phones.
    Yeah I think that we should probably give it up for a while when we can’t even have a conversation anymore without looking at our phones.

  • geoffrey

    January 18th, 2017 at 7:56 AM

    Some people need to let it go because it drives me mad how much of their lives they share with so many people who really don’t know them.
    Isn’t there such a thing as too much information anymore?

  • Trista Y

    January 18th, 2017 at 11:17 AM

    Maybe I am in the minority here, and that’s alright, but I don’t think that whether or not you are on social media will break down a relationship if it is a strong one in the first place. Now I can see that if there are already some weaknesses there, then this could possibly make the rift even deeper. But think about the good things that can come from social media too: information sharing, meeting up with people you may have lost touch with in the past. I think that we are sometimes looking for a scapegoat when really the one at fault can be seen in our own reflection in the mirror.

  • starsha

    January 19th, 2017 at 11:02 AM

    Don’t the online trolls just kill you? It’s like they are actively seeking out other people to inflict harm upon, and I am like what is missing in your own life to make you that hateful?

  • Bonner S

    January 20th, 2017 at 1:42 PM

    I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that anything when taken to the extreme could ultimately hand you a failure when it comes to a serious relationship/.

  • heath

    January 23rd, 2017 at 2:41 PM

    In some ways I think that we have become immune to it, we don’t even notice when we are ignoring other people because this just seems to be the way we have been programmed to behave these days.

  • Samantha

    January 24th, 2017 at 4:06 PM

    I knew that my relationship was in trouble the minute that I recognized that I liked being on my phone way more than I liked having a conversation with this person who was actually in the same room with me.
    I had started reconnecting with a lot of people from my past that I had lost touch with and they made me feel good about myself again. It is fun to reminisce with all these people that you have a shared history with. And when you don’t feel like filling in someone else or they could never understand that history then it comes down to having to make a choice about or what is important in your life.
    I didn’t choose him

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