Roughly three-quarters of adults in relationships use social media, but how does social media affect relationships? Sometimes positively — sometimes very negatively. In fact, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports one-third of divorce filings have “Facebook” in them (although it is not necessarily directly to blame, and certainly there are deeper issues when social media becomes such a problem). So, when it comes to social media and relationships, where do you draw the line?
Social media boundaries in relationships are absolutely crucial to a healthy marriage or partnership. Discussing privacy constraints, when to post your relationship on social media, and what interactions with exes are off limits can stop an argument before it ever starts.
Discuss exactly what you and your partner expect from one another in terms of what to and what not to post on your respective social media accounts. Here are some guidelines to consider as you begin setting helpful social media boundaries in your relationship.
Be With Your Spouse More than Your Facebook
Spending more time on your social accounts than you are with your partner is definitely an indication something is amiss in your relationship. Do you ever find yourself engrossed in your phone instead of your partner over a romantic evening? Maybe you felt ignored by your phone-absorbed partner instead. A Pew Research study actually found 25% of cell phone owners in a long-term relationship felt their partner was distracted by phone use while they were together.
If you and your partner need to come up for a dose of the real world once in a while, come up with a plan to manage screen time. Social media can ruin a relationship when it becomes more important than the connection between the two of you. If either of you are serious social media addicts, setting realistic expectations can be important.
Respect Your Partner’s Privacy
Social media use can range vastly, from very little personal exposure to a great deal of detail. If you are extremely open about your life on Facebook and your partner prefers to keep things brief and impersonal, reconciling those differences in usage is important to a healthy relationship.
When the content you post includes pictures or other details of your family, keep your partner’s opinions on privacy in mind. This can be especially important if you have children. Some parents actually opt not to post baby pictures on their Instagram. If you know your spouse tends to have opposing privacy preferences, have a discussion about how much of your children’s lives you both feel comfortable sharing.
Always take a minute to pause and consider what you post before you hit the share button. Would your spouse probably prefer you not share that story? A compromise is certainly possible, but finding a common ground on which you both feel comfortable is key. If you are unsure, ask your partner — particularly if you know privacy is a big concern for them. Clearly define social media privacy boundaries in your relationship before the problem arises.
Ask Yourself Why You Want to Share
An ideal romantic or family life on Facebook can often mask problems. Are you writing a gushing post about your beloved for them or for the rest of the world?
If you find yourself posting because you need your spouse’s attention or affection, talk to them instead of turning to the internet.
Don’t Type What You Don’t Want Your Spouse to See
Can social media ruin a relationship? When you use it to be sneaky and inappropriate, absolutely. Consider the people you follow on social media, especially any exes or old flames to whom you may still have a little sentimental attraction.
If you wouldn’t flirt with someone in real life, you should probably avoid keeping up a running direct message with them. Would you say the things you write if your partner was standing next to you? If the answer is no, don’t say it through social media either.
While online flirtations can seem harmless, in reality they lead to real-world feelings — and even real-world flings. Avoid this by choosing your friends thoughtfully and keeping conversations appropriate.
Agree About Sharing Passwords or Accounts
No one wants to feel like a jealous snoop, but social media accounts can be a tempting invasion of privacy. One study found trust was directly linked to sharing account access (although relationship satisfaction was not necessarily related).
Trusting your partner’s social media use is important, but a conversation about sharing passwords is worth having. In fact, many couples decide to have open-door policies on social media to send a message of trust to one another.
This shared-password approach may not be for you and your spouse. You may, however, find giving your partner access makes you feel better about what you say and who you say it to — or you may find it makes you more careful, which is no bad thing either. The important thing to remember is to take concerns about your partner’s fidelity straight to your partner, rather than going straight to invading their privacy.
Setting Social Media Boundaries in Relationships
Set limits you both agree to rather than demanding more than either of you are willing to give. For example, maybe you need to start by turning off the phone completely during dates. When this becomes easier to do, create a phone-free time every day, when all of your attention is directed toward your partner. During dinner, perhaps, or for an hour before bed.
Find alternate activities to do together, like a new sport or board game. Take up a new hobby, like a cooking class or couples yoga. Conversely, shared screen time can work well for some couples. Avid video gamers may find playing the same game is a form of intimacy.
Find levels of privacy that work for you both: Decide what is strictly out of bounds to share and what you are both okay with. Maybe you need a weekly or monthly check in where you swap Facebooks and do a little pilfering.
Whatever you and your partner decide, enter the agreement with purpose, intentionality, and excitement to improve your relationship — not brainstorming how to hide off-limits social media surfing. If you find the agreement does not work, have a revisional conversation. Even if you trust each other implicitly, a chat about setting social media boundaries in your relationship is always worth having.
Contact Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center
If you have concerns about social media use in your marriage, our trained counselors can help. Contact Arkansas Relationship Counseling Center online or call (501)222-3463 today to schedule a free consultation.