Social media has made its mark on our generation. “Tweet” and “selfie” are officially part of the English dictionary and scrolling through your Instagram feed like it’s the morning newspaper is a part of our daily routine. This level of influence has changed the way we view certain topics, including relationships. Although you didn’t sign up for your relationship and social media to intertwine at some point, it will. No matter your level of involvement on social media, there is a dark side to all the positives that come from the good that social media can bring. Below are five different ways that social media is hurting your relationship.
1. You create unrealistic relationship standards
We’ve all seen the posts of girls being gifted hundreds of dollars in makeup or traveling around the world at the drop of a dime with their SO, along with the hashtag #relationshipgoals. While that may be how their SO expresses appreciation for them, there are different ways that are just as romantic in which your SO can express their appreciation for you.
One of the most harmful things you can do in your relationship is to compare yourself to another couple. People only show the most perfect version of themselves for social media.
Alaina Leary, a grad student at Emerson College, personally knows that it’s unfair to compare your relationship to picture-perfect versions of others’ relationships. “Sometimes, when I see a slew of people in my age range getting engaged or married, I start to wonder, ‘Why aren't we engaged? Why haven't I proposed?’ And that reaction sets unfair standards. We're not there 24/7, and we don't know the details of these relationships. We can only judge ourselves.” So even though that couple on Instagram seems so perfectly in love, you don’t see their arguments or bad days. In reality, that relationship you idolize may be battling their own set of problems.
Similarly, Amar Salihic, a junior at Georgia State University, thinks that his relationship, and all relationships in general, shouldn’t structure their bond off of what they see online. “The social media checklist is not the standard you should be setting,” he says. “For example, one of the social media expectations is that you should have all of your SO’s time and attention. You both should value other people and things outside of your relationship. Give each other a healthy amount of time and space to miss the other.”
So while a cute “#relationshipgoals” post may be okay to like, don’t read too much into it or try to be like them. You and your SO are two completely different people and are allowed to love each other in ways that you both see fit.
2. Your SO keeps you a secret online
Whether you like it or not, we’re part of a generation that is attached to social media. Since middle school, things aren’t considered official until it’s Facebook official or more commonly now, it’s not official until a couple photo is posted on Instagram for the world to see. For every girl who’s being shown off as the world’s greatest gift by her SO on social media, there is a girl who has wondered at least once why her SO doesn’t show her off the same way. This leaves a big question: Are you justified in expecting your SO to show you off on social media?
While you shouldn’t expect to wake up to a #WCE post every morning, Dr. Patrick Wanis, a behavior and relationship specialist, thinks it’s a definite warning sign if you can’t find a trace of yourself on your SO’s page.
“The only exception to that would be if that person is extremely private and doesn’t post anything about any of their other relationship, specifically their relationship with friends,” he says. “If your SO never mentions you, nor post photos of you or with you, then what it says is that that person doesn’t want the world to know about the relationship. So they’re either hiding the relationship and are embarrassed by it, hiding multiple relationships, or they want the world to know that they’re single and available.”
If your SO is active on social media, they have signed up for people to know their business. You should be a large part of their lives, therefore it should in some way be known that your SO is in a relationship if you two have agreed to be serious.
3. You’re consumed with constantly updating your relationship
On the other hand, we all know the couples that post something about each other every second. Not every aspect of your relationship should be posted online. Your relationship requires a bit of privacy. The world shouldn’t know every time things are rocky between you two.
“Social media is not your therapist,” Wanis adds. “Why do you need to tell about every detail? That type of behavior leads to narcissism, egocentricity and basic selfishness … you have to look for the balance. If you’re posting all day long, when do you have time to the relationship?”
Sharing too much, too often, leaves your business as fair game for the public to ask questions and be nosy. “I believe there is such a thing as over-sharing,” Salihic also says. “It adds too much value to social media, it puts people in your business, and it can create a sense of false validation.”
So instead of looking for the perfect filter to compliment the hundredth photo of you and your partner kissing, pick up the phone and talk to them. Remind them why they still have all of your love and affection hundreds of photos later.
4. You or your SO keep each other’s social media page under surveillance
It’s completely normal to check on your SO’s page every once in a while. However, if it’s been two hours and you’re refreshing the following tab on Instagram to see if your SO liked anybody else’s photos, you should consider a career with the FBI or simply realize how problematic that behavior is.
If you are expecting to catch your SO liking or commenting or another person’s pictures, then that clearly exemplifies the lack of trust in the relationship.
A like here and there on his friend’s pictures shouldn’t be a problem. Your SO is entitled to have friends of whatever gender, just as you should be entitled the same. However, if they are leaving questionable comments on someone’s profile that would make people think that they are not in a relationship, there is a problem.
“If you are jealous and see real signs of infidelity, abusive behavior, serious jealousy, or anything that sets off alarms about your SO, don't downplay it just because it's ‘only social media,’" Alaina says. “If your SO is doing something online that makes you really uncomfortable, you need to have a conversation about it and work on a compromise.”
Creeping on social media won’t address the underlying issue of broken trust. Have an open conversation with your SO if something isn’t sitting right with you.
5. It has become easier to be sneakier
While Snapchat’s timer may be a blessing when sending embarrassing pictures to your friends, the app’s inability to store feed makes it easier to communicate with whoever you want, with little to no record of it. This is just one of many examples of how social media platforms make it easier to keep secrets.
Erica*, a junior at Clayton State University, agrees that social media makes it easier, even too easy, to connect with certain people. “Overall, people are a lot bolder online than in person,” she says. “It’s easy to find attention on any social media platform. Even if you have no intention of acting on any type of emotion in person, you can message someone for a night of flirting and erase it with the click of a button. I know people in relationships that have used social media to talk to other people behind their SO’s back.”
While not everybody uses social media for the purpose of being sneaky, it’s a possibility. Don’t expect this behavior from your partner, but check that you are not using social media for these purposes. You are the only person you can control, so make sure that you have a clear conscious.
Social media isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s important to incorporate it into your life properly. Be mindful of your partner and your bond whenever you’re posting, tweeting, sharing or messaging. Overall, social media itself doesn’t ruin relationships, it’s how you use different platforms that can cause problems.