Social Media & You: Does It Impact Relationships? (Part 2)
... and, we're back! With the second segment on how Social Media impacts how we feel. If you missed Part 1 which focused on our inner emotions and self-talk as they relate to social media use, here it is: Social Media & You: What's the Impact.
There's been a good amount of attention to how social media and technology use impacts our relationships. Read on to consider where it might play a role for you.
In Establishing a New Romantic Relationship
The presence of social media in the dating world today is huge. Loads of people are meeting on dating websites and other apps. We've become acclimated to reviewing someone's 'dating resume' and making our own best judgments about whether or not they might be a good fit for us. But could this be a barrier?
In this scenario, there's a safe distance between you and the other person. It makes it challenging to get to know them as they are in real-time. How is this person in the real world? How do they treat their friends? Love their family? What's their capacity to be open? All of those questions that are absolutely essential to two people ultimately falling in love may remain shrouded in mystery... and perhaps, they remain behind that wall until it's too late, as we are able to make quick judgments about people based on their looks and profiles.
Maybe you go on a few dates with someone interesting, but after they friend you on Facebook and you see all their photos and activity, you start to feel a different way. You notice years of photos with an ex and you're totally turned off, or you wonder who that person is that seems to be in all of their photos. This type of innocuous exploration can also certainly shift how we feel.
Everyone wants love. Everyone wants to feel understood and cared for. It can be frustrating to wonder, "is that person out there?" when sifting through screen after screen of potential significant others. While the process can be distancing and disheartening, the positive flip side is that often times staying committed to this search does lead to lasting love for many, many people,
In Maintaining a Romantic Relationship
Using social media and technology as a go-to for communication in relationships can be a loaded emotional equation. As I mentioned above, social media profiles can be a time capsule for relationship baggage. Our histories are posted and memorialized for everyone to see.... especially during those late night endless dives into a significant other's Facebook or Instagram past. Did your boyfriend's ex-girlfriend wish him a happy birthday with a smiley face and now you're feeling all sorts of ways? Of course you are! It makes sense to, but these less-than-real interactions can influence our real and important interactions with those we love.
Our use of technology is very easily interfering with our intimacy, as well. Let’s go back to that idea of distraction from Part 1 of the series… How often have you “spent time” with your partner with both your phones out in front of you? Do you ever try to talk to your partner and they pull out their phone in the middle of listening to you and look at a text that came in? The frustrations around this are real. It sends the message, "I'm only half invested in what's going on in front of me right now."
All the time, I hear partners feeling badly about this and wondering about how to bring their significant others back into the real world of their time together. Sometimes, partners communicate primarily over text and a lot of important meaning is lost in translation, leaving them feeling disconnected, not understood, or even frustrated with each other.
What role do your phones play in how you do or don't communicate with your significant other?
In Our Friendships
We also are starting to prefer the “clean” interactions of technology to the “messy” interactions of real-time human engagement. Would you rather just text than talk? Has a friend ever called you and you let it roll to voicemail because you know catching up would take an hour and you just can't right now even though you want to? So then you text them back later to touch base that way?
Yep, me too. I love my friends dearly and have imaginary conversations with them in my head all the time! I'm always catching up with them mentally, but when it comes time to reach out for a chat it suddenly doesn't feel like I could possibly have enough time.... so I send a text... "hey! I'm thinking about you lots lately, how are you? what's new?"
One of the things people love most about social media is that it allows them to keep up with friends from afar. And that is certainly a bonus. But sometimes it can serve as a replacement for maintaining real, meaningful, and connecting interactions with even our closest buddies. We may realize we know more about what's going on in our friend's lives because of their social media posts and not because we've actually shared that information together.
Further, as I mentioned in Part 1, social media can incite those crummy, creeping feelings of envy or wistfulness as you see all the fun your friend(s) are having in their life via social media. You don't mean to feel kinda jealous, but you just do, because maybe that picture of your three girlfriends from college cheers-ing their mimosas at a Saturday brunch that you don't live close enough to attend just kinda hit home as a reminder that you weren't there. And now, shoot, you feel a little crappy even though you really don't want to.... the rational side of your brain says you're glad they had fun, but your emotional side now feels a bit on the outside.
So what does this all mean?
...whatever you want and need it to mean for YOU to feel your best and to live your best life with the partners and friends around you.
Think in general about how you spend time with other people. Are you fully engaged all the time? Or are you distracted? How often do you, or a significant other, pull out a phone in the middle of a conversation to check or respond to something? Do you scroll aimlessly during an interaction with someone else?
Are you glued to Facebook or Instagram because you do like following all the joy and fun of other people's lives but kind of wonder if it's making you question your own joy and fun? Or is it starting to feel a little bit like a competition?
I'm not suggesting this is you, only you know the answers to these questions for yourself -- I merely want to prompt your reflection and encourage you to take pause so that you might place for yourself what role your social media and technology plays for you.
When you're FaceTiming with a friend or family member whom you don't get to see as often as you like, technology can seem like the best gift the universe has ever given. Perhaps you "had dinner" over video chat with your mom when your roommates were out late and you were feeling a little lonely. Or you were able to text a friend for encouragement with one hand while holding your crying baby with the other and that made you feel like you really could make it through the craze of the moment. That's technology at its best.
So it’s a balance, but we have to know that as humans, we have a finite amount of time and energy. The more time and energy put into our social media and technology, the less for other things and people we also care about; so the question is, how will you spend it and spend it well? I hope you feel empowered to know that, as all things in life that involve a choice, it's entirely up to you.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 for your free initial 15-minute consultation.