Is Social Media Affecting Relationships
By Jonathan Owen
Published 20th November 2018
Last modified 25th May 2022
Last modified 25th May 2022
Social media exposure is a simple reality of modern life – it’s made its way into nearly every facet our everyday lives, from our jobs and hobbies to our friendships and romantic relationships. But what are the effects of having 24/7 social media exposure on us and our partners, and how, ultimately, does it affect our relationships with one another. Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages that have the world at our fingertips has brought to 21st-Century relationships.
The most obvious advantage to having social media is the ability to interact with loved ones that aren’t near you. This can be especially important for couples that are in a long-distance relationship for several reasons. Not only do social media companies allow couples to communicate whenever they want – through apps such as Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp – they also allow each partner to see what the other is up to and ‘experience’ their life, even though they may not be there in person. For those who don’t get to see their partner very often, this gives them an idea of how they’re getting on and gives them something to talk about when they do see each other.
Likewise, for friends or family communicating via social media, the ability to post and share allows everyone to engage with one another without actually being together. For example, one family member could post a photo of an event and share it with their family, meaning that everyone can engage in the same conversation. In this way, social media has allowed us to make long-distance relationships more viable, and that can only be a positive thing.
A New Way to Meet
With increased connectivity, social media has given us a new way to meet romantic partners – in fact, 8% of all couples are now meeting online or through a dating app. Not only does social media allow you to engage with many more people than would be possible on the street or in a bar, it is also a great tool for putting you in groups or communities that share similar interests, thus increasing the chance of finding a perfect match. For example, if you’re interested in a specific sports team, you can easily find Facebook groups or sub-Redditt’s dedicated to that subject, making it easier to find friends or romantic partners with shared interests.
A Vetting Process
In the same vein as being able to start new relationships, social media also gives you unprecedented access into the lives of the people you meet, allowing you to make a more informed decision as to your compatibility. Whether it be friends or romantic interests, you can get a glimpse into how they behave, what they like, and what you could potentially be in for if you pursue a relationship. For example, you might think twice about a second date if the person you’re interested in has been retweeting Alt-Right propaganda. While it’s unlikely to be as bad as anything like that, the ability to vet relationships through social media platforms gives you greater control of who you interreact with on a day-to-day basis.
The Danger of Phubbing
One of the most negative effects of social media on relationships is the prevalence of ‘phubbing’. For those not in the know, phubbing stands for phone snubbing, meaning that one or both partners (or friends) ignore each other in favour of their phones. It doesn’t have to be purposeful or insidious, but the increased regularity of phubbing can lead to a lack of actual communication and a breakdown of the relationship. And with an estimated 210 million smartphone users suffering from some form of internet addiction, this is becoming increasingly common.
Phubbing may not lead to complete silence, but it will lower the frequency and quality of any interaction – which can be especially damaging in any new relationship.
An Errant Like
One issue that we face with social media is the idea of being always-visible. Nearly everything we look at and like is shown to our closest friends, relatives, and romantic partners, and this can be a source of conflict for those relationships. For example, what may seem like a harmless like or comment on another person’s profile or a status can seem like an endorsement or be taken the wrong way. While this may seem like a small thing, it can be blown out of proportion by the very impersonal nature of social media – it’s important to think of your partners/ friends before you randomly hit the like button.
A study by Match Singles found that nearly 50% of social media users feel disillusionment or rejection when they compare themselves to people online. The truth is that the majority of users present a false representation of themselves on social media platforms in order to garner likes and portray themselves as more fun, exciting, and interesting than they actually are – a vanity validation. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t fun, exciting, or interesting, it just means that they do not present the less glamourous aspects of their life.
This can have a severely negative effect on relationships as couples can find themselves comparing their relationship to those they see on social media. This can lead to one or both partners wondering why they’re not having as much fun, or going out more often, and create feelings of doubt or frustration. In reality, their relationship may be no different to thousands of others, but the perception of what a relationship should be is distorted by social media.