The rise of social media has caused indisputable change in the way we communicate with one another. We can now work, socialise and even date, all from the comfort of our own home, and for many of us it is now second-nature. While virtual communication is, in many ways, a convenient and positive tool, at what point do we put our devices down?
In this blog we explore how social media can affect relationships and how to recognise and address your boundaries in a time where the lines between virtual reality and real life are becoming increasingly blurred.
Common issues and suggestions for handling them
In 2020, the average person spent 2 hours and 24 minutes per day using social media (Tech Jury, Aug 2021). Factoring in the UK average 8‑hour working day doesn’t leave many waking hours. For some, scrolling through their online accounts can be a way to unwind. However, for others it may feel like being frozen out if their partner is preoccupied.
Having an agreed time of the day to be fully present, such as mealtimes; or engaging in an activity or shared interest that doesn’t require a device (e.g. a sport), can help lift the temptation to reach for your phone.
The slang “FOMO” — Fear of Missing Out — was recognised in the Oxford Dictionary in 2013, cited as: “Anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website”. Seeing others posting about their lives may make us wonder what we are missing from our own, and lead to insecurities. It may also make us resentful or underappreciate what we do have, whether that’s the ‘standard’ of your relationship or sense of self. It is important to remember that most of what you see online is only the parts of life that others want you to see. When you think of your own online presence, think of what you choose to allow people to see: is it the argument you had with your partner over doing the dishes, or the birthday party they organised for you?
Taking regular breaks from social media to be present in your own life can help you to appreciate the smaller things your partner does for you, rather than the grand gestures you may see online.
Sharing your relationship, achievements and life events on social media can be an exciting and validating experience. However, understanding and respecting your own, and your partner’s, boundaries are important as it could be seen as an invitation by others to comment or share in your posts. Regularly communicating with each other to see what you are both happy to post can avoid awkward situations and conflict. Moreover, if you have young children, you may wish to have a conversation about how much you wish to share of them online, and what you are both comfortable with.
Social media has brought about a plethora of new considerations when it comes to infidelity. With the anonymity that social media can give us, it is easier for us to be drawn into potentially inappropriate situations. Explore with your partner what you both find appropriate levels of contact, what you consider cheating, and don’t jump to conclusions. Defining what is cheating and what isn’t, even offline, can be difficult and will vary from couple to couple. It can be common to see what happens online as different from what happens in the ‘real world’ but online behaviours can and do have very real consequences. As with offline cheating there is a need to define what cheating means within the context of your own relationship.
Social media can be a great tool to enhance your communication with others, but it shouldn’t become the third person in your relationship.
If you feel you have identified an issue with the use of social media in your relationship a few things to consider are:
Don’t assume your partner knows how you feel about their social media use
Don’t assume that your partner’s idea of cheating is the same as yours
Do have a conversation about these topics; negotiate what is acceptable behaviour on social media for both of you
Tell your partner how their use of social media is affecting you and your experience of the relationship.
If you still can’t reach a compromise that works for both of you, then consider seeking help from a professional.
Toucan Together can help you improve many aspects of your relationship: discover deeper ways to communicate; find positive approaches for resolving arguments; learn to speak each other’s Love Languages®️; build friendship, intimacy and a great sex-life. Get started by taking the‘Pulse’ of your relationship with our short research-based quiz and see the health of your relationship across seven key indicators. GET STARTED NOW | LOG IN