There’s no doubt that social media can benefit relationships. It helps us keep in touch, lets us see what’s going on in each other’s lives and even sometimes can connect us with romantic partners. But does social media hinder us more than it helps us when it comes to sustaining meaningful relationships?
Facebook allows us to see anything and everything that people choose to post. Sure, it can be nice to see photos that your friends put up of you and your significant other, but it can also be stressful looking at a photo of your boyfriend tagged with other girls with whom you’re not too familiar. It’s easy to become obsessed with checking your newsfeed and get caught up on examining someone’s every move merely by scrolling through his or her page. This causes anxiety for plenty of people that I know, making them feel like they’re being deceived or are always a step behind their partners.
This constant stream of information about everyone around us also makes it much harder to let go of past relationships. When you see your ex-boyfriend is “in a relationship” with some new girl, it is almost impossible not to feel a little bit jealous or hurt. This is the case even if you yourself are in a new relationship, too. When someone that you’re trying to let go of is in your face every day, there’s no forgetting him or her. Plus, in an instant, we can comment a photo or send a message to this person on a whim. Even if this does truly feel like an innocent attempt at being friendly toward an ex, it opens the door to more and more communication, whether it is through Snapchat or a private message. Before you know it, feelings can be rekindled, and your current relationship can seriously suffer.
Apps like Facebook and Instagram also make it difficult to not compare your relationship to other couples’. We all know those people who upload pictures of themselves and their significant other on a daily basis. Although it’s easy to laugh and say how ridiculous they’re being, there is also a part of us that feels a tinge of jealousy. This can cause us to ask ourselves why we aren’t in a relationship as exciting or romantic as everyone else’s. Deep down, we probably know that these other relationships aren’t perfect, but when you’re being bombarded with nonstop “couple” photos, it can be easy to forget that.
This adds pressure on relationships not only to be as “great” as the others that you’re observing, but also to tell the world about it. If everyone around you is regularly posting lovey-dovey statuses and cute photos, it’s easy to feel like you need to do the same, or else your relationship is somehow inferior. If you fail to display your affection, does it mean that the world will think you don’t love your boyfriend as much as the girl who shares every kiss and movie date? Even though it can feel like more of a chore than anything to get that perfect shot of you two looking happy as ever, it almost feels necessary if you want your relationship to be taken seriously.
Social media also gives us the ability to share the not-so-nice aspects of our relationships. It happens far too often, and many times I’ll log onto my Facebook and read the latest drama on someone’s breakup. Not only does nobody want to know these intimate details, but it is extremely harmful for any relationship to share your struggles with the world instead of keeping them private and working them out amongst yourselves. Twitter also gives us an outlet to vent unnecessarily. “Subtweets” are all too common, where people post generally passive aggressive comments about another person without actually addressing him or her. Even the most subtly cynical tweet about your significant other can come back to haunt you, either from the person seeing it and being offended that you’d share such personal feelings, or from others recognizing your relationship insecurities.
Finally, even if you and your partner successfully avoid all of these digital obstacles when it comes to your relationship, social media can still find a way to interfere. When just about everyone has 24/7 access to a laptop or smartphone, it can be easy to get caught up in the virtual world and spend too little time interacting with those who are physically around you. Nobody likes sitting at dinner with another person who is checking the latest updates on Instagram and Snapchatting photos of their meal instead of making conversation. You’d think this would clearly be seen as rude, but it happens constantly. Put down your phone, pay attention to the people that you love, and forget about what everyone else is “sharing” for a while. It might be difficult, but it truly will help your relationship.