by Sharan Kaur
Social media is inescapable. It has changed the way we interact with each other and the world. While there are many advantages (think #onlinedating and #relationshipgoals), it can also cause difficulties in a relationship. The two main concerns that I often encounter are: time spent and online affairs.
Time Spent on Social Media
On regular workdays, it can be difficult to find time to yourself let alone your family or your partner. But even in these precious moments, your phone will be close by.
It can be hard to ignore the ‘ping’ of a notification, a like or a re-tweet. And yes, it only takes a few seconds to look at it but to your partner, this gesture could mean a whole lot more. They could view it as: “I am prioritizing my phone over you”. This can be hurtful and ultimately, have a detrimental effect on your relationship. Especially if they see you smiling at a picture or a comment.
For the sake of your relationship, put your gadget away for at least thirty minutes. Use the time to really connect with your partner (and we don’t mean on LinkedIn). Talk to them about their day, tell them your thoughts and discuss your plans and ideas. Perhaps even share a romantic moment or two.
This problem is not exclusive to those in the workforce. This also applies to homemakers. Everybody recognizes that there is a problem but nobody understands how significant it can be. As this worsens, it can lead to our second issue:
With Facebook, it is becoming easier to stay connected: to your mother, best friend, your ex. Many people attend therapy because their partner has connected to an old fling or a childhood sweetheart. In many cases, the first party only finds out when this online friendship turns intimate. Social media makes it very easy for an unsatisfied partner to find someone else.
Here is a worrying statistic: 30% of Tinder users are married. One in three affairs start as online affairs. You may question: is an online affair the same as a physical affair? The short answer is YES. Emotional infidelity is just as hurtful and damaging .
Many partners who have been accused simply claim that it was nothing. They were just talking. But the determinant is simple: was it done in secret?
If you were hiding your behaviour from your partner, you know that it’s something you should not be doing. If you lied about it to your partner, you know that it is problematic and you felt guilty. Remember: there are no double standards in a relationship. If you expect something from your partner, you better be prepared to meet those expectations yourself.
A Social Media Pre-nup
Create a social media pre-nup. Set out clear guidelines for acceptable behavior regarding Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or whichever platform you use to stay connected.
This can include the duration that you and your partner spend on the social media: be flexible but set clear parameters. For example, you have thirty phone-free minutes to spend with each other in a day.
Think of the do’s and don’ts. You may be comfortable with your partner ‘liking’ their ex’s photos of breakfasts but not their selfies. Think of the possible scenarios and discuss them.
Finally, like a healthy relationship, keep your social media practices open and accountable. You should have no problem with your partner looking over your shoulder. Do not let curiosity become suspicion.
Sharan Kaur is a relationship counselor (marriage, same-sex and family) at The Mind Faculty.