We’ve all witnessed it. Couples showering each other with affection on Facebook or posting sweet tweets about their significant other on anniversaries and birthdays. But we’ve also seen the girlfriend drag her boyfriend on Instagram after a spat or the husband who openly flirts with an ex who "liked" one of his photos.
While social media can be an excellent tool for networking, finding long lost relatives or reading think pieces on whatever’s trending, it can also open the door for some inappropriate behavior. And with 65% of American adults using some form of social media (and those with accounts checking it about 17 times a day), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., have become huge parts of our lives and have made it all too easy to connect with different folks, whenever we want and say what we want whenever we want. All of this chatting, posting, and Tweeting can have a bad effect on a relationship.
“Social media provides a way to communicate with people who we otherwise might never cross paths with and some people tend to behave badly on the Internet because there is little or no accountability,” says Leslie Glass, LCSW, director and psychotherapist at Leslie Glass & Associates, a private counseling practice in Philadelphia, PA.
Glass also says that social media has given people a platform to put their significant others “on blast” about issues they’re having in their relationships. “Over the past decade or so, social media has become a forum for some people to air or play out their pre-existing relationship problems, which only serves to make them worse.”
So what are the keys to having a healthy relationship while on social media? And how should one behave on the networks in order to avoid problems with their partner? Here are a few dos and don’ts:
1. Don’t pay more attention to Facebook than to your mate.
Sitting on the couch for hours scrolling through Instagram while ignoring your significant other is a no-no. Conversing on social media should not replace having real life dialogue. Glass says balance is the key.
“All couples should work at striking a healthy balance between time for solo activities and time spent together and with family,” says Glass. “If a spouse is neglecting relationships and responsibilities in order to be on social media, this might be an indication of an Internet addiction, which needs to be treated.”
2. Do be respectful.
Glass says couples need to follow this simple rule: If it is not OK in real life, then it’s not OK on social media. In other words, if it’s not fine for you to flirt and talk for hours on end to an ex or a co-worker, then don’t do it on Instagram.
“Some couples might need to learn healthy relationship habits and behaviors like prioritizing the relationship, respecting each other, and also establishing and maintaining flexible boundaries between the couple and outside influences,” she says.
3. Don’t put your business out there.
Social media is no place for you to divulge private or intimate details of your relationship. The 600 people following you do not need to know about your spouse’s transgressions, or that you guys have just had an argument. As Glass stated, doing this only makes matters worse. Keep whatever problems you may be having between the two of you and work it out in private.
4. Do address bigger issues.
“Social media, in and of itself is harmless,” says Glass, “But it is when we use it to avoid addressing our own issues and our relationship concerns that it becomes problematic.”
Exactly. If you are insecure and lurking on your mate’s page or getting into cyber arguments with their social media friends, then you have some deeper problems that need to be dealt with in order for you and your mate to have a trusting relationship. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor.