The Complexities of Social Media & Relationships by Phoebe Repeti

Social media! The omnipresent product of technology! it has changed the way we interact socially forever. We use it for continuous communication, maintaining social connections and it has now become a way to gain social capital. But what does this mean for intimate relationships? What are the real life consequences of this intangible obsession? I began to wonder after I realised social media was having an affect on my relationship. But that effect was not an issue I could address, because well, it’s social media, who cares? However, studies are showing that social media does have an extremely profound role to play in relationships.   

The paradox about social media and our real lives, is that we are all acutely aware that these platforms are used to construct our most idealised selves and our interactions online do not exactly mimic those in real life. Yet we immerse ourselves in these configured representations so much, it becomes inseparable from our daily lives. By us placing so much meaning and value into social media, it ends up having a much bigger impact on our lives then we would like to admit. 

So how do we marry the love we have face to face with our online lives? We all are privy to gratification from social media, so it makes intimate relationships no different. We use it as a tool to depict our (best?) selves to our social community. So often if there are misrepresentations or misinterpretations on social media it can contribute to offline tensions in a relationship. Social media alone doesn’t cause tensions, but what it does do is exacerbate destructive traits already present within our minds. 

If you see your partner posting regularly on Instagram about friends and food, and you don’t make the cut, it can become a “something”. It can make you feel insignificant, that your partner doesn’t want to include you in their online representation. This can then make you wonder if it, at all, reflects feelings in the offline. When you are spending a major portion of your life with someone and there is not a satisfactory online recognition it can really inflate feelings of low self esteem and inadequacy. 

Social media inflames pre-existing feelings of low self esteem, jealousy and insecurities in our intimacy. They are agitated by social media because we now have access to more information about our other halves without ever having to directly communicate with them. We can see what they have done through Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram without ever actually talking to them and the information itself now seems more significant than before because it has been chosen to be documented on a permanent public forum.

If you see your partner interacting with a potential romantic mate, it can incite jealousy without first knowing context. 

Not all effects of social media are negative though. Studies have found that social media is a new way in which a couple can assert themselves in the eyes of their peers in one instantaneous collective moment. A study by Journal of Computer Mediated Communication found that having a healthy online relationship does contribute to overall relationship satisfaction and happiness. The Comparative Journal of Anthropology and Sociology found that certain social media rituals like a relationship status, posting photos and interacting online can be a new channel and focus for a couple to depict where their relationship is going. It found that these rituals can bring certainty and assurance to a relationship. These rituals are new ways of expressing public declarations of love, which can be indications of commitment and relationship longevity which are all beneficial and contribute to strengthening a couple’s offline bond.  

What is frustrating about this entire thing, is that at the end of the day it really shouldn’t be important. Most of what is online is a maze of rubbish and untruth. Yet every single moment we are bombarded by the “reality” of it. So we can’t help but be influenced by it. However, we must understand the limitations as well as the consequences of social media, and be especially aware of the role it can play in intimate relationships. Only then can we return it to the triviality where it truly belongs.