Hey and welcome back to Relationship Views. This week’s topic is the ever so dreaded topic in the therapy world: social media.
More and more my sessions with couples have involved discussing at least one social media platform and how it impacts their relationship. Dating websites and Facebook seem to be what is most talked about in my couples’ sessions, where couples argue over past messages to exes, having an account still open on a dating site, using Facebook to “check up on” each other, to name a few. It
These conversations revolve around information known to the individuals, that is, information that can be found somewhere on the internet. What about social media that was designed to disappear? How can an app like Snapchat impact a relationship? Can it enable, or even encourage, cheaters?
The data that exists on social media usage surprised me a bit.
You would think that city dwellers would have more access to face-to-face contact, however, cities like our lovely home in Philadelphia rank higher than rural areas for social media use. Surprisingly, research on social media use and relationships has shown that using sites like Facebook to monitor your partner is not necessarily detrimental to trust in relationships, but can actually build trust as long as the activity seen is acceptable to your partner.
What becomes even more difficult in relationships is the idea of information that exists then disappears, like with Snapchat.
The Snapchat map: busting cheaters and destroying relationships since 2017. pic.twitter.com/lrGYAibYIa
— [RAPH]AEL™ (@MyNameIsRaph) June 29, 2017
For those of you who do not know or use Snapchat, it allows the user to post a picture taken and after a few seconds, the picture self-destructs. People can add filters or write on top of a picture in Snapchat making them fun and spontaneous to send to friends, but potentially very dangerous to relationships.
Apps like Snapchat and the general pervasiveness of social media has given rise to jealousy in relationships, and even cheaters.
Pictures, conversations, etc. can be shared with no trace of them existing afterward. This could lead to the start of an emotional or even physical affair and even if affairs don’t start, jealousy or mistrust can form.
Snapchat as well as other functions of social media sites create issues in relationships because of the lack of transparency.
When you are dealing with situations where trust is highly important, like a romantic relationship, you have to be willing to be fully transparent with your partner.
Many clients get upset when I share that information with them in session because they feel like they should have their own privacy and their own identity.
Let me try to clarify what I mean by transparency. The healthiest relationships function when there are little to no secrets kept. How do you go about doing that when it comes to social media? Like it or not, social media has become an everyday experience for most individuals.
Having the world literally at our fingertips offers knowledge, access, and possibilities that were never the case in the past. Transparency in relationships used to involve phone records, back account information, and your car in the driveway. Now, transparency has become more complicated in two ways.
There is the ability to hide information from partners more easily and there is the ability to find information about your partner easily. Some social media offers time stamps and locations, but those can also be manipulated. It’s a thing that most cheaters can easily figure out, and everyone knows this.
So, how do you be transparent when it comes to social media?
I believe it starts with a conversation around respect. What do you find to be respectful with things like pictures, comments, and just overall usage of social media? What are your expectations of how you will be treated on social media platforms by your partner? If your partner is suspicious or feels like you may be hiding something, are you willing to show them your social media accounts?
Would you be willing to deactivate all your social media accounts in order to make your partner feel more secure?
Being honest with your answers provides your partner with your comfort level of transparency. In my experience, if you do not wish to be fully transparent, understand that that will have an impact on your relationship moving forward.
You can maintain boundaries of personal space while still being transparent with your partner. Relationships involve shifting from the notion of “me” to “us.” Being transparent will help build a sense of security around the concept of “us” which is what is needed to have a healthy relationship.
Once you have the transparency established, trust will allow you or your partner to be able to trust that if anything were to go wrong, you or they would know.
It boils down to understanding the basics of relationships and trying to factor them into the social media world. In order for a relationship to be successful and healthy, both partners need to feel respected. How do you establish respect with social media? You talk about it, you understand your partner’s needs, and you understand your needs and you support both sets of needs.
If your needs are not being met on the social media platform, you need to assess how important that is to your relationship.
I encourage everyone in relationships or starting to form relationships to talk about social media with their partner/future partner.
Learn what infidelity on social media means to your partner because it is different for everyone. When you have a solid understanding of how your partner feels about social media use, you can better assess the status of your relationship and your behaviors moving forward.
You don’t want to be one of those unknowing “cheaters” because what’s fine and what isn’t wasn’t communicated from the jump.
Transparency as a concept can feel scary at first and is difficult to achieve in relationships, but it is necessary for a healthy functioning relationship. It is what creates a forum for knowledge and what creates a secure attachment to your partner.