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.
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.
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.