How Social Media Affects Relationships (According to 7 Experts)

In this modern digital age, technology can positively and negatively affect our lives.

So, how does it affect our relationship with other people?

Ashleigh Diserio

Ashleigh Diserio

Behavioral Consultant at Ashleigh Diserio Consulting

Social media can have positive effects on relationships.

It allows relationships to be established and continued from a distance. Countless people create real friendships or start romantic relationships through social media.

Whether people meet via online groups where individuals share commonalities, dating apps, group learning sites, or somewhere else, people can create a sense of connection and belonging through these outlets. This social support has plenty of mental health benefits.

Social media can also negatively affect all types of relationships

On the other hand, social media can also negatively affect all types of relationships, whether it be intimate relationships, friendships, work connections, or even the relationship we have with ourselves.

People spend a lot of time online. This affects how they view their own life and personal self-worth or value. The more time an individual spends online, the more susceptible they are to anxiety, depression, loneliness, the feeling of missing out on life, and diminished self-esteem.

Related: The 30 Best Books on Confidence and Self-Esteem

People often only share joyful, positive highlights online, creating a facade of having the “perfect life” while things are actually falling apart in their life.

It can appear to someone that others are always having a great time, cultivating positive relationships, going on fabulous adventures, buying the best/most popular items, and living a dream life. When a person compares their “real” life to this false reality portrayed by others online, it can have negative effects when their life doesn’t match up.

The truth is if more people would show the not so pleasant aspects of life – the weaknesses, insecurities, trials, and tribulations – the more helpful this would be at improving lives.

When people witness others sharing adversities or how they triumphed over them, people start to feel more normal and possibly learn how to get past their own hardships or where to turn for help.

We could turn a negative effect social media is having into a positive one.

When it comes to dating, relationships can start and end almost entirely over the internet. With so many ways to meet new people, the options for potential new partners are unlimited via the web. People are having more “superficial” relationships, but calling those “real” relationships.

These superficial relationships lack a quality, deep connection where two individuals truly learn about the other through shared activities, talks about life/goals/dream, or discovering each other’s flaws and how to come to love that person because these flaws make them unique and special.

People jump ship at the first obstacle or speedbump in a relationship to move onto the next instead of working on the current relationship to see what potential it has.

There are so many distractions that relationships often become more about, “Who messaged you? Why didn’t you post a picture with me? Why are these thirsty people liking, loving, and commenting on your posts?”

Relationships are becoming so watered down, cookie cutter, and shallow. This is making it easy for people to be replaced in one another’s lives.

Social media can complicate relationships

It was over 15 years ago when I sensed how social media would complicate relationships. A sensitive young housewife came into a session feeling miserable because she had seen on Facebook that two other friends had gotten together for lunch and excluded her.

This heightened visibility of who’s “in” and “out” is one aspect of today’s technology that can cause pain. Not long afterward, a client came to a session complaining that it was painful to see that her ex-husband‘s new wife looked so beautiful in a bathing suit, as she had seen online, and disparaged her own appearance by comparison.

Clients report that dates are cut short – dates that wouldn’t have happened at all if the two hadn’t met online because they suspect that the other has accessed a social opportunity elsewhere via their phone, and sees no need to further explore an evening that isn’t progressing perfectly.

Texting can also be highly problematic, in that it robs the communication of all the non-verbal elements, so intended humor can come off as cruelty, and many messages can be misinterpreted in unintended ways.

I always suggest that clients phone in anything important, so that misunderstandings happen less and the emotional aspect of what’s being said isn’t lost. Ending a relationship via email or text is awful. No matter how painful it feels to face our soon-to-be-former lover or friend, finding the courage to do it in person is imperative.

If we’re the recipient of that behavior we need to remind ourselves that we deserve someone more mature in our lives, and move on to find someone more worthy of our respect.

Yes, social media exposes us and the lives and motivations of others in a way that was previously unheard of, so it’s doubly important that we care for ourselves and support ourselves even more than ever before.

Remind yourself of the personal qualities about yourself that you cherish, whether your date is fully attentive, or you don’t receive as many “likes” as you’d hoped on a post.

Remember that what’s important isn’t the number of people who show you approval, but how you feel about yourself, and your realization that you’re always trying to be the best – most genuine, true to yourself, loving, caring – person you can be.

Sierra Marling

Sierra Marling

Certified Social Media Marketer & Strategist, Public Relations Consultant

It expanded our ability to communicate

Social media has greatly expanded humanity’s ability to communicate and added many different layers to the relationship-building process. It’s actually really interesting. While our worldview is greatly shaped by our geography, income, etc., now we have to really consider how social media really affects our relationships, both on and offline.

People with difficulty communicating in-person may flourish in online communities, and their circle may consist of people living all over the globe.

That is not to say that people who communicate well in-person should be discounted as active social media users; they may use social media to create a brand or to market themselves to potential friends or partners with the same interests that they have.

It’s kind of like peacocking, except it’s all on a screen. In that same vein, it also causes tension in relationships, because social media allows people to discreetly converse and interact in ways that were typically unavailable before, even in plain sight.

For example, likes on an Instagram post can translate to “I like you a lot” or “I would like to get to know you better.” Now everyone in your offline life can see those interactions, and depending on what they are, you could face real-world consequences for it.

Kirstin West

Kirstin West

Social Media Manager | Owner of We Can Do Marketing

There’s a downside to social media

Social media was just a hobby until I did the Digital Mums course. Then I went from being on my phone to take family pictures and uploading my disastrous attempts at cooking to being surgically attached to it trying to find all the trending hashtags and latest ways to repost on Instagram.

Suddenly it wasn’t me telling my children to get off their phones, it was them telling me. “Must you look at your phone at the dinner table?” Both funny and upsetting in equal measure when it’s your 8yr old asking you the question whilst looking disapprovingly between the device in your hand and your pathetic face as you realize that once again, social media has got in the way of quality, family time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love working with clients and helping them grow their businesses. I love the fact I’m able to provide for my family because of it.

But there’s a downside. It takes over my life. It interrupts dinner time and steals my weekends. It turns me from a responsible adult into a ticked-off teenager.

It also, and this I’m very ashamed to admit has happened on more than one occasion, has kept my attention whilst sitting through many a music recital or drama performance. In my defense, I think you would turn to it too if you had to sit through 19 children all playing the same tune on the recorder!

I now have a pact with my children. When we go out bowling or to the cinema or even just walking the dog, the phone stays in my pocket. Not to be touched unless it’s an emergency. Time is too short and too precious to be ticked off all the time, especially when you’re 44!

Austin Iuliano

Austin Iuliano

Social Media Consultant | Corporate Trainer | Keynote Speaker

There is both a net positive and a negative impact

The truth about social media when it comes to relationships is that there is both a net positive and a negative impact on us depending on how we use the platforms.

The pro’s to social media is that it is extremely easy to find like-minded individuals who express interest in similar subjects. For example, growing up I was labeled a geek and a nerd. I played dorky games like Dungeons and Dragons.

My small group of other dorky friends where all I knew and we didn’t think there was many of us out there.

Fast forward to today, Dungeons and Dragons is extremely popular. There is a whole community of people who watch a group of nerdy ass voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons live on, it’s become the most subscribed Twitch channel. There you can find thousands of other like-minded individuals and join a community.

The con’s of social media comes from the macro level. Social media gives everyone a voice and enhances that voice with a megaphone. What ends up becoming apparent is that only the most extreme are showcased on the platform as it generates the most engagement.

For those same people who are seeking a community that supports them, they can also find the haters and trolls of the internet.

The other con of social media is its addictive nature. Instagram consultant Emelina Spinelli says “People become addicted to ‘chasing the likes’ and our self worth is tied up in external metrics. How many likes we get on a photo doesn’t determine if we are a good person or not, it only determines how well we are playing the Instagram game.

Overall, social media is a tool and nothing more. How we use that tool determines it affects our relationships. I’ve made some of my best friends in the world through social media, I’ve been able to achieve great success and meet amazing people.

I’ve also personally had to deal with the worst people on the internet because of it. It’s your choice how you let it affect you.

Kristin Hinman

Kristin Hinman

CEO of Peare Media

Social media can affect not only existing relationships but new ones

Too many people and influencers put out content online that is unrealistic and often what I see is that it’s simply for self-validation. Yes, it attracts likes and attention but it’s a one-sided conversation. It starts off new relationships on the wrong foot Social media should be exactly that, social.

Your posts should educate, entertain, encourage, provide solutions and be the door to opening actual social relationships.

Liz Jeneault

Liz Jeneault

VP of Marketing for Faveable

It can make your partner feel insecure

As a fitness influencer with a following of 11K+ between my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, I’ve personally experienced how social media can affect your relationship.

I’ve found that when you have a large following, it can make your partner feel insecure.

On Instagram, anyone can send me a message and strike up a conversation. While I’ve always been completely faithful and loyal in my relationships and have never given a partner a reason to question me, social media can make people falsely believe you are talking to someone else.

It’s the ease of access to people interested in you and your content that can make your partner feel insecure. That can also contribute to your partner feeling angry or annoyed when they see you on your phone. They may make comments about it, which could lead to a larger fight between the two of you.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can couples use social media to strengthen their relationship?

Social media can be a powerful tool for strengthening relationships when used consciously and intentionally. Couples can use it to celebrate their love, share memories and communicate their feelings by creating a digital scrapbook of their journey together. They can also follow accounts or join online communities that promote healthy relationships and offer valuable advice.

Couples need to find a balance between their online and offline interactions. By setting boundaries and discussing their expectations around social media use, they can avoid potential misunderstandings and ensure that their digital presence supports and enhances their relationship rather than detracting from it.

How can social media affect long-distance relationships?

Social media can play an important role in maintaining long-distance relationships by facilitating regular communication and helping couples stay connected despite physical distance.

Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and video calling apps allow couples to share their daily lives, experiences, and feelings, bridging the geographical gap.

However, over-reliance on social media can lead to miscommunications or isolation if partners try to avoid having more personal and meaningful conversations.

For couples in long-distance relationships, it’s important to find a balance between using social media to stay connected and prioritizing deep, emotional communication.

How can couples set healthy boundaries for social media use?

Setting healthy boundaries around social media use is critical to a strong and satisfying relationship. Couples can start by having open and honest conversations about their habits, expectations, and potential concerns about social media.

This may include discussing what kind of content they want to share, how much time they want to spend on social media, and what privacy they want.

Some practical strategies for setting healthy boundaries include establishing “phone-free” times or spaces, not using devices during meals or before bed, and being mindful of how social media use affects the quality of time spent together.

By setting and respecting these boundaries, couples can ensure that their relationship remains a priority and that social media doesn’t interfere with their relationship.

Can social media help couples overcome challenges and grow together?

Social media can be a resource for couples who want to overcome challenges and grow together. By following accounts or joining online communities that focus on relationship advice, personal growth, and effective communication, couples can access valuable insights and strategies to improve their relationship.

Sharing and discussing content related to personal growth and relationship enhancement can also serve as a catalyst for meaningful conversations between partners.

However, it’s important to remember that while social media can provide helpful advice and resources, it should not replace open, honest communication and active participation by both partners in addressing challenges.

How can social media impact the process of moving on after a breakup?

Social media can complicate the process of moving on after a breakup because it can prolong contact with the ex-partner’s life and activities. Seeing photos, updates, or comments from the ex-partner can trigger feelings of sadness, anger, or jealousy, making it more difficult to heal and move on.

To facilitate the process of moving on, one may choose to unfollow or mute the ex-partner’s social media accounts or take a temporary break from social media. This can help create emotional distance and provide the space needed to focus on personal growth and healing.

How can couples ensure their social media use doesn’t negatively affect their mental health?

Couples can adopt a few strategies to ensure that social media use doesn’t negatively impact their mental health. First, they should pay attention to their social media consumption and recognize when it triggers feelings of anxiety, jealousy, or inadequacy. Taking breaks from social media or reducing screen time can help alleviate these negative feelings.

Second, couples should maintain their social media feeds and follow accounts that promote positivity, self-care, and healthy relationships.

Finally, open communication about the impact of social media on mental health can help partners support each other as they navigate the digital landscape while maintaining a strong, healthy relationship.

How can couples deal with different opinions about using social media in their relationship?

Dealing with differing opinions about social media use in a relationship requires open communication, empathy, and compromise.

Couples should have an honest conversation about their expectations, preferences, and concerns about social media use. By understanding each other’s perspectives, they can work together to set boundaries and guidelines that respect the needs and well-being of both partners.

It’s important to have these conversations with a willingness to compromise and find a balance that works for both parties. Regular check-ins can help ensure that the agreed-upon boundaries continue to meet the relationship’s needs and that new concerns are addressed.

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