Social media is everywhere. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. LinkedIn. YouTube. There are also dating and gaming sites, and more. Social media is a part of the fabric of our lives today, and can be an integral part of our lives. You may want to consider establishing a few ground rules to avoid any potential dangers of social media on your relationships.
The Pros of Social Media and Relationships
Social media can play a significant role in our society today. The effect of social media on relationships can positively impact couples who spend a lot of time apart. Alexandra Samuel, PhD, director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and a social media consultant, suggests that when both partners participate in social media together, it can be a way for busy couples to connect when apart. Samuel and her husband regularly Tweet to keep in touch and cheer each other on.
According to an article written by Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., in Psychology Today, social media can aid relationships by making it easier for partners to integrate their once disconnected social networks. Lanier-Graham says her Facebook feed makes her husband’s co-workers feel as if they know her, and has served as an icebreaker when meeting those people in real-world social settings.
The Dangers of Social Media on Relationships
Social media may not always be used in positive ways. Understanding the pitfalls can help you be aware of the potential dangers of social media on today’s relationships. Darren Adamson, PhD, , LMFT, Chair of the Department of Marriage and Family Sciences at Northcentral University, lays out three potential dangers facing couples:
- Social media serves as a distraction from focusing on the interactions that nurture relationships. “Social media use can become compulsive,” explains Adamson, “making it difficult to manage the amount of time spent on it.” In fact, according to a study cited by PsychCentral, American college students describe abstaining from social media the same way they describe drug and alcohol withdrawal—cravings, anxiety, feeling jittery.
- People share their best lives on social media, so couples sometimes compare their mundane lives with other’s exciting lives, which can create destructive comparisons. “This can lead to discouragement with one’s primary relationship,” says Adamson. “That discouragement can lead to conflict, fear, unrealistic expectations—why can’t you be like the partner portrayed in the social media posts?—or an overall discontentment with the relationship.”
- There is the potential for another relationship that looks so much better than the primary relationship. “This can lead to extra-couple relationships that ultimately destroy the primary relationship,” warns Adamson.
Guidelines for Maintaining a Healthy Balance Between Social Media and Relationships
As evidenced by couples who do use social media to their advantage, it is possible to have healthy relationships and be actively involved in social media. In fact, a 2013 study in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that people who share information about their relationship on Facebook were comfortable in their relationship. However, Adamson points out that setting guidelines on how to effectively use social media can mean the difference between a healthy use of social media in a relationship, and taking it into the danger zone.
- Don’t use social media as a negative point of comparison for your relationship. “If you feel compelled to make comparisons involving your relationship,” explains Adamson, “compare where your relationship is today with what it was like a year ago—or five or ten years ago for those in a long-term relationship. Let the results of the comparison prompt changes in behavior that can build your relationship.
- Spend time nurturing your relationship. “Do things that create closeness in your relationship,” encourages Adamson, “and do them regularly without distraction.” This means leaving the cell phone at home—out of sight and out of mind. The distraction factor is one of the biggest challenges with social media. According to a study by Scientific American, the presence of a cell phone can be detrimental to interpersonal relationships.
- Do not maintain a separate social media life. “Share your social media world with your partner,” Adamson encourages.
Social media is a part of our modern society, but there are also dangers in social media if couples let it get out of control. As Adamson points out, you must keep in mind that social media is exactly what the name implies—media. “It is not a separate and distinct world,” Adamson maintains. “It does not sustain relationships, because it is based on virtual reality that, by its nature, is not able to support the activities required to make a relationship work.” That is up to you as individuals, and it still requires old-fashioned hard work.
Pursuing a Career in Marriage and Family Therapy
If you’re interested in pursuing a degree to help counsel individuals, couples and families navigate the natural stressors and unexpected challenges of life. NCU offers doctoral, master’s and post-graduate certificate programs1 in marriage and family therapy. NCU offers the first distance-based MAMFT program to be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), plus the first and only distance-based PhD in MFT program to be accredited by COAMFTE.2
With coursework delivered online3, you will also gain experience with face-to-face client interaction through practicums and internships in your local community under the direction of an approved clinical supervisor. Courses are taught by professors who all hold doctoral degrees, so you learn from seasoned professionals in your field of study.
Click here to view NCU’s Marriage and Family Therapy programs.
1For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed programs, and other important information, please visit our website at www.ncu.edu/program-disclosures.
2The MAMFT and PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy programs at Northcentral University are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education (COAMFTE), 112 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314, (703) 838-9808, firstname.lastname@example.org.
3Marriage & Family Sciences courses are primarily online, however, practicum/internships/clinical supervision activities include traditional engagement in the communities in which our students live.