How social media can ruin relationships

Credit: Creative Commons Jason Howie.

Communication between couples has changed drastically over the past decade, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.

From face to face conversations with their significant other to disagreements over how much time someone spends online, social media has shifted the way couples communicate.

Impact of technology on relationships, by cell phone, social media, and online dating status
Credit: Pew Research

The internet, cellphones and social media have become key factors for 66 percent of adults who are married or in a committed relationship, according to the center.

Some couples use technology as a way to communicate and provide support during minor or major events.

The majority of couples also maintain separate e-mail and social media accounts.

With the constant need to stay connected and maintain a social presence using applications such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram, many couples are experiencing increasing problems in their relationship or marriages, according to Pew.

“Communication is bad and it is not just among romantic couples.”

Audrey Chapman, author and relationship expert, said she agrees with the findings and said using technology for communication with significant others is terrible for a relationship.

“Communication is bad and it is not just among romantic couples, Chapman said. “It is bad period amongst people, because people use technology to communicate everything. Sometimes in the midst of doing that, the message is confused and lost.”

She said communication requires good listening. “If you are not a good listener, you may misinterpret what someone is saying,” Chapman said. “Therefore your perception of what is going on is incorrect and then you react to that. But, you are reacting to something that is incorrect and that creates a problem.”

Ways social media affects relationships

1. Lack of presence 

Some couples go out to dinner and sit on their phones instead of engaging in conversation with one another.

“Social media can be detrimental to real life relationships. Social media is meeting society’s need for connection and attention. This is affecting how people relate to each other. Social media has caused a sense of urgency and caused people to overshare,” said Rachel Dack, licensed Psychotherapist and Relationship Coach.

2.  The lack of attention and jealousy 

Credit: Creative Commons. A couple on their cellphones.

Married couples and people in committed relationships have experienced their significant other spending more time with their phone than spending quality time together.

Some people are more concerned with the instant gratification of the number of likes, followers and comments while using their social media applications.

This creates jealousy and tension in the relationship, according to the authors of a recent National Institute of Health study.

The authors define jealousy as a combination of thoughts, emotions, and behavior that a person perceives as a threat to one’s romantic relationship.

There are three types of jealousy: cognitive, emotional and behavioral.

  • Cognitive jealousy is regarding a person’s emotional or irrational thought of their relationship. It addresses worries or concerns regarding their partner’s infidelity. (e.g., “I believe my partner is cheating on me.”)
  • Emotional jealousy refers to a person’s feelings of being upset in response to a jealousy-evoking situation. (e.g.,”I would be very upset if my partner became involved with someone else.”)
  • Behavioral jealousy is the physical action of a person when a relationship rival (real or imagined) is perceived to be a threat. (e.g., going through a partner’s belongings, looking through the partner’s text messages or e-mails)

“There is a client that came into the office having a problem where he reached out to a woman on Facebook about a specialized expertise that she [is] known for and the significant other found it. The partner was confused as to why his girlfriend was upset. They ended their relationship because of it,” said Bob Gordon, relationship and marriage expert from The Pastoral Counseling and Consultation Center of Greater Washington.

Why do partners become upset when their significant other uses social media? 

People don’t want to feel as though they are competing for a person’s time while they’re using social media.

Credit: Creative Commons. Woman depressed about smartphone.

“Social media can be addictive and cause people to miss the meaningful moments in their lives. People might be chasing the instant gratification of a Facebook like or trying to take the perfect Instagram photo. It is not all bad and it depends on how the user is interacting with the application, but people need to be mindful of how social media impacts the way people around the individual feel,” Dack said.

3. Lack of trust and insecurities

Credit: Creative Commons Women searching through their phones.

An estimated 31 percent of people surveyed in a USENIX study admit to snooping on someone else’s private messages.

Some people actively monitor their significant other’s social media accounts, due to the uncertainty of their relationship. Fears about the future, no reciprocity, exes, or their own personal insecurities can be causes.

Communication through social media sites can have a variety of meanings.

Small gestures such as liking a photo, accepting or requesting friend requests, and tweeting an emoticon all can pose different meanings whether the action was intentional or not.

With technology, people have the ability to portray a false perception of themselves online.  While in person, the individual can sometimes appear to be different than their online persona.

Credit: Creative Commons. Couple having drinks at the coffee shop.

What causes people to be insecure in their relationship?

A loss of trust can negatively affect a person’s behavior during a relationship. An individual may have a fear of abandonment and will have a tendency to seek out information due to their insecurities, according to the National Institute of Health study.

The individual will also be less likely trust people in general. In a relationship, this person will become defensive, sensitive to rejection by their partner and behave in a destructive manner based on what they believe is a negative trust experience.

They will begin to emotionally distance themselves from their partner and will seek out information confirming their suspicious beliefs of wrongdoing in their relationships.

Insecure partners will begin to search through their significant other’s social media, cell phone, wallet or purse. Sometimes, suspicion will even lead them to keep track of their significant other’s whereabouts.

These actions will create conflict and ill feelings of mistrust.

Often times, the significant other will begin to feel offended by being monitored-as the other person will perceive it as confirming their justification for suspicion.

Why do people use social media to spy on their partners?

In a study by Muse A. et al, the authors came up with four main reasons:

Credit: Creative Commons. Woman checks boyfriend’s phone.
  1. In today’s society, seemingly private information is easily accessible online.
  2. There are a variety of ways for people to retrieve posted information online from photos, videos, and websites. The usage of photos and video can communicate information about a person’s location, behavior, and social interactions with others.
  3. On social media profiles, there is a remarkable amount of archived information. Many people do not delete their old photos from timelines and feeds.
  4. Information can be collected secretly. Majority of social networking sites do not provide the user with information about who is viewing their information and how often they are viewing the information.

However, there are ways to maintain a healthy romantic relationship and still be present on social media.

A few tips to have a healthy relationship and keep your online presence:

Rachel Dack, a licensed Psychotherapist and Relationship Coach, offered several tips for balancing relationships and social media.

  1. Have conversations in person
  2. Reduce the amount of information that you share on social media
  3. Limit the amount of time spent using technology

Committed couples and married partners can receive relationship counseling services from several therapists and relationship coaches in the Metropolitan area. For a comprehensive list of therapists in D.C., visit PsychologyToday.

About La'shawn Donelson 4 Articles
Multimedia Journalist. Native Washingtonian. Hope College Alumna. American University '18.

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