Sunday, August 26, 2012
Social Media May Be Messing Up Your Relationships
I'm troubled by the ways social media are sometimes used in the context of intimate relationships. In fact, we could move beyond the romantic context to our friends and family as well. Facebook, Twitter, and the rest are really useful tools that can help us stay connected and share information. They also have the tendency, if you aren't careful, to become a form of surrogate living. In other words, you think you have deep connections with a lot of folks, but actually you have an abundance of shallow connections.
When it comes to our romantic lives, the lines between public and private have become quite blurry. Some people are willing to subject their entire relationships to public scrutiny, offering a blow by blow account of conflicts and make ups for anyone connected with them to read and comment on. Whether its Facebook status updates or daily blog postings, for some folks, it's all on display.
One of the major problems with this is that every little high experienced, as well as every mistake made, is both magnified and amplified. You tweet your first kiss to a thousand "friends" and receive several dozen virtual high fives in a matter of hours. Or you write about your latest fight on Facebook and have dozens of sympathizers calling your partner all sorts of names and telling you to get rid of him or her.
How is it possible to develop and maintain a clear and realistic assessment of your relationship amidst all of this?
Furthermore, how is it possible to stand on your own two feet, and make your own decisions about your partnership when you have dozens of other voices nearly instantly appearing in your head to compete with whatever your gut is telling you?
Here are a few guidelines I have for myself, which might be helpful for you as well.
1. Don't share current relationship conflict on social media. If I want to talk about current struggles with others online, I might head to one of the numerous dating and relationship sites. I have a list of excellent ones on the sidebar of this blog.
And I'd be more than willing to host letters or write about questions readers have about current conflicts/challenges.
The main point in this is to aim towards minimizing harm, while also supporting the need to work through issues with others.
2. I don't have a relationship status on Facebook. Early on, I did change my relationship status a few times, and found that it just led to confusion and having to tell people stories about very short term relationships that really didn't need to be told. Dating someone for 3 or 4 weeks doesn't need to be highly publicized, nor does the end of that connection. Reserve the status for major milestones.
3. Mostly, I have steered this blog away from "real-time" intimate relationships. Perhaps there might be some reason to break that rule in the future, but for now, I think it's a smart decision that also upholds point #1.
How about you? How do you handle social media and your intimate relationships?