Re­la­tion­ships – Dat­ing in the so­cial me­dia age

So­cial me­dia is in­escapable, es­pe­cially in ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships. It’s a bless­ing and a curse. Here’s how to main­tain your re­la­tion­ship in the age of so­cial me­dia.

True Love - - Contents - By AYANDA NKONYANA

Cou­ples to­day aren’t just racing to the al­tar any­more, they’re racing to up­date the world on the state of their re­la­tion­ship, if hash­tags like #bae­goals, #bae­ca­tion and #bae­day are any­thing to go by. Some peo­ple are ob­sessed with shar­ing ev­ery­thing with their fol­low­ers and friends on so­cial me­dia, so why not use these plat­forms to flaunt how amaz­ing your sig­nif­i­cant other is?

Our world re­volves around our phones. So much so, that be­fore you fin­ish read­ing this ar­ti­cle, you’ll prob­a­bly have re­sponded to no­ti­fi­ca­tions or have posted a so­cial up­date of your own.

And with so many plat­forms avail­able, so­cial me­dia now plays a huge role in the dat­ing game, says Paula Quin­see, a re­la­tion­ship ex­pert based in Joburg.

“There are more ways of con­nect­ing with peo­ple than ever be­fore and we have more choices avail­able to us,” she says.

Re­search stud­ies on dat­ing show that so­cial me­dia has both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive ef­fects on your re­la­tion­ship. So, how can you bal­ance what is pri­vate and what is sharable in your re­la­tion­ship?

SHOULD YOU BE FRIENDS ON SO­CIAL ME­DIA?

You might think, why not? Af­ter all, so­cial me­dia is a part of ev­ery­day life. But it may be worth think­ing twice be­fore send­ing or ac­cept­ing a friend re­quest from your part­ner. When cou­ples are ac­tive on so­cial me­dia it some­times can cre­ate con­flict in the re­la­tion­ship. For ex­am­ple, if your man posts a pic­ture with a girl on his wall, you may start feel­ing un­cer­tain about the re­la­tion­ship. So­cial me­dia make it easy for a part­ner to be aware of in­con­sis­ten­cies in the re­la­tion­ship,a sur­veil­lance tool of sorts.

“If you’re look­ing at past photos, fol­low­ing up on his com­ments or won­der­ing about his new­est In­sta­gram fol­lower, it’s time to un­friend and have a con­ver­sa­tion with your part­ner to break down com­mu­ni­ca­tion bar­ri­ers,” Quin­see adds.

It takes time for a sense of se­cu­rity to de­velop. Nomzamo Lukhele, 27, learnt her les­son the hard way when she be­friended her boyfriend on so­cial me­dia. “I started check­ing his wall posts and com­ments on Facebook. There were girls com­ment­ing on his posts and that drove me crazy. One day he didn’t re­ply to my text mes­sage but he had just checked in some­where. I thought to my­self: ‘So he’s got time to check in but doesn’t have time to call me back or re­ply to my mes­sage.’ I was deeply hurt and that day, I made the de­ci­sion to un­friend him be­cause I wouldn’t have seen that post oth­er­wise,” she shares. Cou­ples should be able to be friends on so­cial me­dia as long as they set boundaries, Joburg-based cou­ples ther­a­pist Louis Ven­ter be­lieves. “I feel there’s noth­ing wrong with cou­ples fol­low­ing each other’s so­cial me­dia life, but they should de­ter­mine the rule of so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment in their re­la­tion­ship,” he says.

PRI­VACY

When­ever you use any so­cial me­dia plat­form, the is­sue of pri­vacy be­comes a rel­e­vant con­cern. Shar­ing too much on so­cial me­dia can take away from the in­ti­macy of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween two peo­ple, says Shal­don Fitzger­ald, a cer­ti­fied hyp­nother­a­pist based in Cape Town. “Don’t share ev­ery de­tail of your ro­man­tic jour­ney on so­cial me­dia, es­pe­cially if you’re the type of per­son who’d feel em­bar­rassed if the re­la­tion­ship doesn’t work out. Some spe­cial mo­ments are more spe­cial be­cause it’s just the two of you, and it’s not broad­cast to the whole world,” he cau­tions. Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished last year in the Per­son­al­ity and So­cial Psy­chol­ogy Bul­letin, the more in­se­cure you feel in your re­la­tion­ship, the more likely you are to post about your sig­nif­i­cant other on­line.

It is im­por­tant to keep in mind re­spect and pri­vacy and not to jump to con­clu­sions about your part­ner’s de­ci­sion to keep your re­la­tion­ship off so­cial me­dia, Quin­see warns.

“Some peo­ple want to pro­tect their re­la­tion­ship. That’s where you have to think more on the op­ti­mistic side. Think that, maybe they don’t want com­ments from ev­ery­body, or ev­ery­body giv­ing their opin­ion on what’s go­ing on in the re­la­tion­ship,” she says.

Ac­cord­ing to a Univer­sity of Kansas study, over-shar­ing ac­tu­ally harms some re­la­tion­ships and causes part­ners to feel less in­ti­mate.

IN­CLU­SION OR EX­CLU­SION?

Ro­man­tic part­ners must find a bal­ance be­tween be­ing “us” and “I” on so­cial me­dia. Yes, so­cial me­dia sites are a great way to con­nect with one an­other, but do you want to use them as a chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in your re­la­tion­ship? Your part­ner may choose not to par­tic­i­pate on­line, to keep the re­la­tion­ship pri­vate.

“Not ev­ery­one’s into dis­play­ing their re­la­tion­ship status. If you are, don’t get up­set if he doesn’t change his re­la­tion­ship status to ‘In a Re­la­tion­ship’. He’ll get around to it even­tu­ally, or he’ll nat­u­rally show you off in an­other way,” Ven­ter ex­plains.

Keep­ing your dig­i­tal lives sep­a­rate can play a huge role in your re­la­tion­ship, and avoid rais­ing sus­pi­cion when you see things on your part­ner’s so­cial me­dia ac­count.

“If you do choose to keep your re­la­tion­ship off so­cial me­dia, stay con­nected on mes­sag­ing apps or plat­forms like email, or choose a new plat­form you both can ex­plore and ex­per­i­ment with,” Ven­ter con­tin­ues.

Ac­cord­ing to Quin­see, while it may seem im­pos­si­ble to keep your new love com­pletely sep­a­rate from the dig­i­tal world, all cou­ples must be mind­ful of their re­la­tion­ship in the real world.

She says cou­ples should also con­sider the rea­sons why they want to share a so­cial me­dia ac­count with their part­ners. Why do peo­ple do it?

“A joint ac­count re­duces stress ini­tially but it quickly builds jeal­ousy even big­ger, be­cause of a jeal­ous per­son’s need to tighten the noose,” Quin­see ex­plains.

Some peo­ple have joint ac­counts for prac­ti­cal rea­sons rather than trust is­sues. Nokubonga Mbatha, 33, ex­plains her de­ci­sion to have a joint so­cial me­dia ac­count with her long-time boyfriend. “My boyfriend’s work doesn’t al­low him to have an ac­count, so he shares ev­ery­thing under our ac­count. We haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced any prob­lems ever since we cre­ated this ac­count,” she says.

Fo­cus on how your re­la­tion­ship works for you and not for the likes of your fol­low­ers, Ven­ter rec­om­mends.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant that, re­gard­less of how they choose to use so­cial me­dia, cou­ples can be real with each other and com­mu­ni­cate au­then­ti­cally when the fil­ters are off. If two peo­ple cre­ate a joint so­cial me­dia ac­count at all, they should be very se­cure and a part­nered or mar­ried cou­ple.”

Make sure you don’t live your re­la­tion­ship for the val­i­da­tion of peo­ple around you. “Aim to live your re­la­tion­ship for you and not for so­cial me­dia,” Ven­ter adds.

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