As social media become more deeply entrenched in our lives, couples are experiencing both the positive and negative effects of social engagement on their relationships. Couples utilize the internet and social media extensively for both personal and professional purposes. According to Pew, 72% of married couples or those in committed relationships use social networking sites. Many of these couples maintain their own social media accounts.
A growing concern deals with what represents healthy social media behavior for those in committed relationships. Conflicts occur when couples differ on what is acceptable behavior for social media engagement. Healthy and emotionally intelligent relationships are based on honesty, trust, respect, and commitment. Since the advent of social media, some of these core values are being challenged.
What makes engaging on social media any different than other behavior in our relationships? A key question for committed couples today might be: Are you demonstrating healthy relationship etiquette during your online interactions? This article will introduce seven rules of etiquette to consider for healthy social media engagement within committed relationships.
1. Practice Shared Accessibility
Unless your profession is bound by codes of confidentiality, you may want to consider opening up for discussion access to computers, smartphones, and other devices. Some may cringe at this concept; however, healthy relationships don’t harbor secrets. Social media and the internet are no exceptions. If your partner wants to see what you are doing on social media or on the web, why wouldn’t you grant them access?
Tip: Have a conversation with your significant other about how you both want to handle accessibility regarding your online behavior.
2. Allow Your Partner to Be Your Friend or Follower on Social Media
Some people have difficulty allowing their partners to follow or friend them on social media. A good point to consider and ask is: What would be the reasons you wouldn’t want your partner to follow or friend you?
Here’s a scenario to contemplate: You and a friend go to lunch. Unbeknownst to you, your partner is having lunch at the same restaurant. Would you choose to say hello to your partner and their friend or would you ignore them? Most people would likely say hello. A good majority might even ask if their partner wanted to join them. In like regard, the social graces of media engagement should be considered.
Tip: If you are in a committed relationship, becoming your partner’s friend or follower is exercising good social etiquette.
3. Post Images and Words That Convey Respect
Far too often, our photos, posts, and words get put online with no real consideration to our partners. If you want to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings, exercise caution and wisdom when posting.
Let’s use an example. If you were to take photos with someone else and your significant other doesn’t know the person, it would be considerate to not post flirtatious, suggestive, or inappropriate things. Avoid posting photos that could offend, embarrass, or hurt your partner. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings true.
Tip: Use discretion and common sense when posting. When in doubt, don’t post.
4. Ask Yourself How You Would Feel If the Posts Were Turned
If you’re not sure what is appropriate, whether posting, chatting online, texting, or some other social media engagement, ask yourself: How you would feel if the posts were turned? Would you feel comfortable, safe, and good about what is being posted or said on social media? Does the post make you feel confident about your relationship or is your blood pressure rising with concern or disbelief? If it is the latter, don’t post. Instead, post something that is uplifting, celebratory, or encouraging of your relationship.
Tip: Always consider how you would feel if your partner were posting the same thing as you.
5. Exercise Accountability
Instead of engaging on social media with people about your relationship problems, try talking to your partner, trusted confidant, or a licensed therapist.
Most people don’t start out wanting to stray in their relationships. In fact, most committed couples are just that—committed. The challenge can come when we begin crossing boundaries in our online and social media interactions. This can be especially problematic when you and your partner are having difficulties. Instead of engaging on social media with people about your relationship problems, try talking to your partner, trusted confidant, or a licensed therapist.
Tip: Stay away from private conversations with people that could potentially lead to either an emotional or physical affair. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but rather a rule of thumb. Many people have friendships with people they are attracted to. The important consideration is that your significant other knows about the friendship. How do they feel about your relationship with this social media pal? If you don’t know, ask.
6. Consider Sharing Passwords
According to Pew, 67% of internet users in a committed relationship or marriage have shared their passwords to one or more online accounts with a significant other. About 11% of married adults or those in committed relationships share a social media profile. What’s important here is that there is an agreement about why you would want to share passwords (or why you wouldn’t). Some people feel open and comfortable sharing passwords, while others do not. Give it some thought.
Tip: Ask what your significant other thinks about sharing passwords. Is this important?
7. Set Time Limits
Many people spend inordinate amounts of time on social media and the internet. Technology has changed our lives. Certainly, there are many positive effects, including increased capabilities to communicate and enhanced production and performance. The internet gives us endless possibilities to connect with the world at large. We can easily get absorbed in the myriad uses for technology—emails, texts, social media platforms, news sites, and games, to name some. All that time we’re spending online, though, is time we’re not engaged with our partners.
Tip: Consider setting time limits or boundaries around how and when you use social media and technology, especially when sharing time with your partner.
These are not exhaustive suggestions for social media etiquette; however, they may serve as conversation starters. In many cases, just discussing these ideas with a significant other can make a difference. Engaging in conversations around these points can also lead to less confusion and conflict.
Lenhart, A., & Duggan, M. (2014). Couples, the internet, and social Media. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/
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