Impact of Social Media and Technology on Relationships

We often use social media and other online activities as a pleasant distraction, a way to keep in touch or as part of winding down our day.  Usually, this has no impact on relationships unless it is perceived as an activity that has become preoccupying and distracting to what’s going on off-screen. Unfortunately, when it takes priority over your partner’s need for your attention, then at the very least, it can appear rude but when there are already problems in a relationship, it just adds insult to injury.

How can social media affect and technology affect relationships?

It really all depends on the length of time we spend and the purpose for using social media and technology in general. For most people, it is a normal part of theirday to spend some time online.  However, if it becomes a substitute for the relationship you’re not having, then it can provide you with a ‘missing component’ of an existing relationship.  Again, this might not be a problem, unless your partner is willing to give you what you want and you reject what they are offering, choosing instead to go online.

Conversely, there are some people who have online relationships without ever having an offline one, where they can be intimate (emotionally and/or sexually) whilst remaining on the other side of the screen. The screen provides a safe environment for us to explore.  Perhaps there is a desire to expose a part of ourselves (emotionally and/or physically) or to behave a particular way that is just too risky in real life. It is also possible that having a fantasy life protects us from our fear that will not match up well enough or even perhaps we are just bored with our real life. Creating something that no foundation in reality and has no apparent or harmful consequences can be exciting and can help us get over a hump.

Escaping Online

The screen on our laptop/phone/tablet can be a form of protection, narrowing the risk of the painful feelings of rejection – after all it is not the real me.  An online presence is absolutely flat – it is the presentation of how someone wants to appear to another, which may be at odds with who they really are.  If they ever met up face-to-face, what can be the most damaging is the betrayal of thereal self (which might actually have been perfectly good enough for another).  It can sabotage a chance for happiness by reinforcing the belief that they really aren’t good enough if they are rejected.  Sadly, so much more is expected of a face to face relationship nowadays and many of us fear that ’the real me’ will be a disappointment.  It can just be too hard to go there! Many therapists are familiar with this core fear, which can get in the way of a person’s dream of meeting someone and having a happy and satisfying relationship.

Online Infidelity

What one person might consider as cheating might be perfectly okay to another.  It really comes down to what has been clearly agreed between the couple.  A general rule of thumb is to consider whether you believe your partner would be okay with what you’re doing.  If you are feeling even marginally uncomfortable, then that is probably your answer.  Some people believe that their partner won’t care anyway.  This, however, may just be an excuse to justify the behaviour.  They are often surprised at how upset their partner can get if they feel their trust has been betrayed.

It would seem that problematic online behaviour is yet another ‘issue’ that can threaten the happiness of a relationship. What can be helpful is the willingness of the individual(s) to accommodate their partner’s wishes in terms of what they are sharing with the rest of the world, much in the same way as they do in their off-screen lives.  This includes how often they are online and how they are spending their time on-screen which might also be a mirror reflection of how much intimacy/closeness is still there between them.

Respect for Technology

Failing to exercise a reasonable regard for the frequency and purpose of technology usage can either create a problem or deepen an existing one.  Sadly for some, problematic use of technology can become compulsive and out of control, subsequently developing into a full-blown addiction. For most of us though, it remains as a tool that allows us easy access to information, contact with others, etc. and is generally seen as something that supports the rest of our lives.

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