Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Is Social Media Messing Up Your Relationships?

Photo credit: GaborfromHungary from morguefile.com

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 amid 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?

Your Heart's Desire

Photo credit: pippalou from morguefile.com

If you feel swamped by all the opinions coming at you. If you feel stuck in patterns that don't serve you, or any relationship you are in. If you are afraid to take risks anymore because of the countless hurts you've experienced in the past.

If any or all of these are true, it's time to pause. Time to tune out the noise of the world around you and listen to what's coming up. To feel the fear. The confusion. The angst. The loneliness. To let all of that move through you until the truth of the moment calls. Everyone has had those moments when something seems to click, where all the effort to find an answer breaks down and suddenly a voice or an understanding appears and you know just what to do. A lot of us tend to think this kind of thing is accidental, or a stroke of good luck, but neither of those is really true.

Learn to quiet down, slow down, and listen for the truth of the moment. Just sitting down for 5 minutes and letting the thoughts and feelings move through you without acting on them can be a major help. Instead of being a slave to society's narratives about relationships, or your friend's and family's narratives about them, you can finally learn what is it that your heart desires. And locating that, it will be that much easier to listen to the heart's desire of the person you're with. In other words, you can be fully alive and authentic with each other.

But it all starts with you, and your willingness to slow down and listen for your heart's desire, again and again.