I discuss the complications of social media use and relationships in this Psychology Today article.
1. Talk to your partner openly about how you want to handle social media—from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram and other apps/sites. Let them know what is acceptable for you and listen to your partner’s thoughts on how they use or plan to use networking sites.
2. Be honest if something you found online about your partner bothers you. For example, if you find that your partner who has agreed to be exclusive is still active on a dating app, then talk to them directly and nonjudgmentally as soon as possible rather than letting it bother you over a long period of time. Whether you were the one who found information or were the person being monitored, an open and blameless discussion can help both sides better understand each other.
3. Don’t judge or criticize yourself for your feelings. While one might feel guilty for checking their romantic partner’s profile or feeling upset that your partner looked, it’s actually very common behavior. Checking on a partner doesn’t necessarily suggest doubt or control, it could stem from a natural desire to being connected to and aware of your partner’s life. Either way, it’s important to try to have these conversations together without judgment or blame.
4. Be aware that small gestures can take on unintentional or bigger meanings. What does it mean when you or your partner likes or comments on a photo or accepts a friend request? It’s important to acknowledge that small gestures can mean a wide range of intentions, and it’s helpful to clarify things early by having a direct conversation with your partner.
5. Recognize the difference between your public and private life—and that the two spheres can impact each other in both directions. Even though appearance is often different than reality, appearance can still impact a partner’s feelings and reactions in a very real way so it’s important not to minimize or downplay your partner’s feelings or response.
6. Question whether the conversation is really about social media or if it’s a deeper relationship or communication issue. If you find that your or your partner’s use of these sites in the relationship makes you or your partner uncomfortable, it is an important to recognize both partners feelings and examine the potential reasons. There may be other underlying questions unrelated to social media (e.g., trust, commitment, amount of quality time spent together) that can be raised directly with your partner.
In my opinion, the use of social networking sites and checking on partner’s profiles is a common and everyday part of today’s modern romantic relationships that is most often not pathological. Even though social networking sites are different in ways that we’ve discussed above, handling these issues within a romantic relationship is similar to handling any other communication issue. Rather than recommending avoidance of social media, it’s important to focus on underlying feelings and communication. Partners can work together to examine how and why they use social networking sites in their relationships, be curious about how it makes them feel, and discuss how they want to handle it in their relationship in a way is respectful and honors each other’s feelings and point of view.
This is part of my Urban Survival blog that focuses on the stresses of city living.
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