When I watch classic 80’s movies like Sixteen Candles, I’m jealous. Not only do I wish for the great music and vintage clothes, I also long for the way dating used to be. If Jake wanted to talk to Samantha, he called her, and when he didn’t hear from her, he showed up on her doorstep. Then, even when he thought she was getting married, he waited outside the church to see her and swept her off her feet.
Nowadays, it looks a little more like this: Jake would text Samantha, and when she didn’t answer, he would send her a photo of himself at her house on Snapchat, and then message her on Facebook if she still didn’t respond. I’ll let you be the judge as to which scenario is more personal.
While dating in the digital age makes it easier to connect with new people, it also comes with many challenges. The two main reasons people use Facebook are to stay connected to friends and family and to keep tabs on other people – also known as “interpersonal electronic surveillance” (IES) – including their significant other. Although social media gives us access to an abundance of information, which would not have had access to in the 80’s, how much is too much? When does it trigger our insecurities and create problems in our relationships that wouldn’t otherwise exist?
Unlike the majority of my friends, I don’t monitor my boyfriend’s social media activity. My motto has always been “Ignorance is bliss” when it comes to social media and my romantic relationships. Of course, if he cheated, I would want to know about it, but I’m not going to cyber-stalk him. Most likely all I’ll find is something that will trip irrational ideas and anxiety. Besides, if I can’t trust him, I shouldn’t be with him in the first place.
While I will always prefer old-fashioned communication, I accept the fact that social media is here to stay and I no longer view it as relationship kryptonite. Here are three ways to make social media work for you, rather than against you:
- Openly discuss your concerns and make sure you are both on the same page.It’s important to understand how your partner uses social networking sites, so there are no surprises down the line. Let your partner know what social media behavior you think is acceptable and what isn’t. For example, if your partner still has a dating app on his or her phone, don’t be afraid to be honest and admit it bothers you.
- When a problem arises, ask yourself if the issue is truly about social media or if it’s an underlying problem in the relationship.Are you upset because you saw a picture of your boyfriend or girlfriend with their ex? That picture may be triggering deeper fears or your unresolved issues with trust. Of course it’s easy to take things out of context, but we should be able to separate our insecurities from an actual problem.
- Recognize the difference between virtual life and real life.An attractive girl liking your boyfriend’s profile picture is not the same thing as an attractive girl hitting on your boyfriend at a bar. If you feel yourself getting paranoid as you’re browsing through your news feed, try to keep things in perspective. Or you can just do what I do and avoid looking entirely.
To put it simply, social media isn’t the problem. Behaviors are the problem. If you know you’re an anxious person, then you should practice self-control and avoid checking your partner’s online activity. If you tend to get jealous easily, it’s probably best to stay clear of things you know will trigger irrational jealousy. It’s perfectly normal to have insecurities. It’s how you manage them which will determine your happiness.