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Social Media in Relationships: Making it Work

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Research shows social media can be a positive tool for bringing people closer together. But, when couples disagree on the role of social media in relationships, it can cause friction.

You and your partner can take steps to avoid the negative aspects of social media by finding ways to use it that make you both comfortable.

Setting expectations for social media use

As with everything else, it’s a good idea to be transparent with each other about your online lives. Set expectations about how you use social media and set some ground rules about engaging with each other online, if necessary.

  • Talk about which platforms you use regularly. Your partner may be active on an app you rarely open. Or one of you may rarely use social media at all. Knowing this ahead of time will help set expectations for how much you and your partner will interact with each other on different platforms.
  • Discuss how much you’re comfortable sharing online. One or both of you may want to keep a low profile and not want photos or personal updates shared online. This could be for personal or professional reasons. Be sure to respect each other’s wishes.
  • Talk about what engaging on social media means to you. If one of you is hurt when the other doesn’t acknowledge every new post, discuss each other’s expectations. Harboring bad feelings because your partner didn’t react to your latest photo may lead to an argument. But your partner may not know that’s important to you.
  • Avoid demanding your partner like or comment on your posts. This can be controlling and make your partner feel trapped. If your partner does this to you, have a conversation about it. If your partner persists, that may be a sign you need to address a deeper problem in your relationship.

Avoiding the downside of social media in relationships

Social media posts offer a window into other people’s lives. Sometimes, that can trigger jealousy and uncertainty, particularly if you’re in a new relationship and still getting to know one another or have recently broken up with someone. Remember, what you see online is only part of the story.

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. You may see your partner post a photo or engage with someone online who you don’t know. Before jumping to conclusions, consider your trust in your partner. If you have serious doubts, have a conversation, preferably in person and without being confrontational.
  • Avoid comparing your relationship to others online. Social media often presents a skewed version of reality. People tend to post only the highlights of their lives, leaving the impression everything is perfect. In comparison, you may feel your own life and relationship fall short. Make a mental checklist of all the positive things you’ve posted about yourself or your relationship. Do they tell the whole story? This may help you understand there’s often more below the surface than what appears on social media.
  • Stay away from social media when you’re angry. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid scrolling through social media when you’re mad or upset, whether it’s with your partner or something else. Staying off entirely means you won’t post something you’ll regret or will make you feel worse.
  • Try not to rely on social media to communicate with your partner. Only tagging someone in memes can become boring. If you’re physically separated, use video chat. Share your day-to-day thoughts and activities to stay connected. Learn some tips for communicating effectively through text messages.

Finding the positives of social media in relationships

If you or your partner feel uncomfortable with social media, it can feel like one of you is looking to find a problem. Instead, think through the positive aspects of engaging online. These include:

  • Letting your partner know you’re thinking of them. Tagging your significant other in pictures, videos or memes shows them they’re on your mind. It also reinforces that you pay attention to what they like.
  • Scroll through their pictures when you miss them. This is especially nice if you or your partner are deployed or otherwise separated. Leave nice comments to give your partner a boost.
  • Note your partner’s accomplishments and share news of them. As long as your partner is comfortable with this, it shows them you are committed and proud of their achievements.
  • Join online groups with your partner. These groups can be about shared common interests, such as sports, pets, photography or other topics you and your partner can chat about.

Being on the same page with social media and using it in a positive way can strengthen your connection and bring you closer. For more tips and resources for every phase of your relationship, visit the Re the We page on Military OneSource.

Service members or spouses in need of a relationship boost can seek additional support via Military OneSource by live chat or by calling 800-342-9647, or through the Military and Family Life Counseling program.

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