In an age when people connecting through social media is second nature, some new couples have found that there’s a darker side to being “friends” online. While it’s true that many romantic matches have been made on the internet, researchers have also found that relationships, fragile in their early stages, can be negatively impacted by the kind of jealousy that can be stoked by diving into a partner’s social media posts.
A 2010 study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that 81% of divorce attorneys saw an uptick in the number of clients who relied on (or were hurt by) evidence from social media sites in their divorce proceedings. Clearly the way we represent ourselves on Facebook and in dating app profiles can be misleading and ambiguous, and in the seemingly endless amount of personal information we post online, there’s plenty of room for discord.
In fact, the degree to which we rely on social media to convey who we are, what we care about and where (and with whom) we spend our time, has dramatically affected the kind of organic, human connections that can only be developed naturally, in person and over time. Getting to know a new partner through their online posts is no substitute for getting to know who they really are, and the digital world partners create can often give rise to jealousy informed by assumptions about past relationships, infidelity and open and honest communication about one’s past.
So in a dating landscape that is often approached by people through the prism and pervasiveness of social media, it may be tempting to “play detective” by delving into a new partner’s past online. But more and more, experts agree that healthy relationships are supported by good old-fashioned romance, where face-to-face connections cannot be replaced by Facebook.
Although technology has enhanced our society in a multitude of ways, it has made it more challenging for couples and individuals to communicate effectively. Many couples in my clinical practice report to me that they have to compete with their partner’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod, or laptop. No matter what the device, people don’t have adequate face-to-face communication when they are high users of technology.4 Creative ways to limit the use of technology:
- Turn off your phone! Or better yet put them away for at least one hour each evening. It’s also a good idea to have a “Tech Free Zone” in the most important areas of your home, such as the dining room, where people silence or put away their phones and devices. Be sure to talk though tough stuff face-to-face and reserve texts for quick check-ins or scheduling issues.
- Socialize during mealtimes and turn off your phone. You can have more meaningful conversations during mealtimes when you power down.
- Spend two to three hours together on weekends as a couple and/or with friends unplugged. Go outside or go somewhere fun. Try a low-key activity such as playing a game of checkers, chess, or cards. What you do together is less important than connecting as a couple and with friends and significant others.
- Turn off technology one hour prior to bedtime when possible. Some people might have difficulty with this but can adapt over time by reading and/or listening to music.
Most important to many individuals, conversations revive sharply after they unplug during mealtimes and other social times. Kicking a tech habit can be tough, but the rewards of face-to-face contact are many. But the best part of powering down is that when you start connecting more socially and emotionally with the people in your life, you will can feel more secure and content with them!
Twitter, Facebook, and, movingpastdivorce.com. Terry’s award-winning book Daughters of Divorce: Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy a Happy, Long-Lasting Relationship is available on her website.
I’d love to hear from you and answer your questions about relationships, divorce, marriage, and remarriage. Please ask a question here. Thanks! Terry