Imagine you opening your facebook or instagram page, with different feeds from different people who have posted about their recent vacations. You might look at a beautiful beach photo and think to yourself “hey, I wish I could go here with my partner”. Up until this point, it’s a third person perspective, but now you continue thinking “but it’s been so long since my partner and I have gone on a vacation, they don’t have enough time for me, we probably wouldn’t even be able to afford such a vacation” and so on… So now, we have entered a place of comparison of other people’s life with ours. This might be a point where social media affects relationships in a negative way. On the other hand, social media can also affect our relationships positively and we will see both views down below. A study also indicates that social media use is helpful for some intimate relationships and harmful for others based on individual usage and their interaction with their partner via the platform (Whiteside, 2018).

Social media has brought about significant changes in interpersonal communication as well as different aspects of society. An average person spends about 144 minutes per day on social media as of 2019 (Clement, 2020). Media Dependency Theory, which suggests that a higher dependence of an individual on a form of media is accompanied by a stronger influence of such media on the user’s perceptions and behaviors. This theory explains that the more time we spend on social media the more dependent we become on that media and this further leads to changes in perceptions and behaviours which then affect our interpersonal communications.

Benefits of Social Media

  • Social media allows people to connect to family and friends who might be on the other side of the world.
  • Social Media helps single people meet each other.
  • There are a number of online apps that help in making friends and dating. This helps you connect with people who have similar interests who you might never meet otherwise.
  • In romantic relationships, where couples are long-distance or have to travel often for work, it can help them feel like they are part of each other’s day-to-day life, even when apart.
  • Social media has also become a hub for mental health professionals and relationship experts making support and education that can motivate individuals and couples to seek help.

Negative Impacts of Social Media

  • Social Media Can Create Unrealistic Expectations
    Curated and filtered posts on social media highlight unrealistic images and expectations of oneself as well as our partners and our relationship. The distinction between real life and highlighted lifestyles on social media can lead to disappointment with oneself, your partner or both.

  • Social Media Can Lead To Jealousy
    A study (Jesse,2014) was conducted, on college going students, to understand why certain individuals would use Facebook to keep tabs on former or current partners. This study states that insecure attachment style may be responsible for uncertainty in relationships as well as keeping tabs on social media.
    Another study (Amy, 2009) suggests that social media can increase feelings of suspicion and jealousy in romantic relationships among college students.
  • It Can Distract You From Spending Quality Time With Your Partner
    The dependence value of social media can interfere with our quality of life. So whenever you are with your partner, try to limit the use of social media for increasing emotional intimacy./span>
  • It Can Affect Our Mental Health
    Social media use is linked to loneliness (Youssef, 2020), mood disorders, and poor self-esteem (N. Berry, 2018). Such individualistic issues can also lead to relational issues like difficulties in intimacy and co-dependency.

How to Navigate Social Media as a Couple

  • Prioritize quality time without social media.
  • Check-in with your partner before you post about them or your relationship.
  • Don’t snoop through your partner’s social media.
  • If you wouldn’t do it in- person, then don’t do it online.
  • Tone and intent are harder to gauge online, so give your partner the benefit of doubt.
  • Have on-going conversations about social media and your relationship.

Although social media may seem a trivial issue to argue about, it does bring about real feelings which matter. A relationship counselling in Chennai can help you by facilitating open and honest conversations with your partner for better understanding of each other. Also, you can work together to establish boundaries that lead to emotional and commitment safety within the relationship.