Ah, the lure of social media.
Nowadays, our computers, smart phones, gaming devices and tablets have become the virtual gateway and a convenient one-stop wonderland for many of our personal, social, professional and recreational needs. Logging on to talk with 'friends' can bring instant relief to feelings of loneliness, stress and boredom, supplying an unlimited source of entertainment, connection, conversation and stimulation anytime, anyplace 24/7.
For many of us, social media has become the Viagra to a boring moment
We've got friends, followers, and even strangers liking and retweeting what we've shared today. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube is like having our own personal National Enquirer allowing us to become mini-celebrities, in our own mini-culture where our lives, our thoughts, our photos, and our emotional moments are broadcast through cyberspace and visible to anyone with an internet connection. All that attention equates to love in our mind. It feels like people care about us, our opinions count and our life has greater meaning because people are responding to what we're saying.
It's easy to get seduced by and addicted to all of the feel-good attention
Relationships are difficult enough. But, now with the rise of social media -- where sharing private moments is cheered, inspiring and revealing confessionals help build a following, hooking up with old flames is easy and tweeting about a botched date gets feedback --a new source of conflict for couples is rapidly arising.... what is reasonable and fair for sharing with the world?
As a relationship therapist and author of a book about online cheating, I've seen how easily the addictive nature of social media can inhibit common sense and lead to tension, embarrassment, hurt feelings and even divorce, when boundaries are crossed online or when online interactions begins to circumvent the intimacy with each other.
There's a reason why Facebook is mentioned in over 30% of all divorce filings these days.
Couples need to communicate early on about what's acceptable to post and what isn't. We each have a different sense of what's private and what's not, and exposing (even in jest) something that feels personal to our partner can feel like the utmost betrayal, akin to revealing a deep, dark secret behind their back. That's why I think everyone needs to have, no matter what stage your relationship is in, what I call a Social Media Pre-Nup. It's an agreement in place before anything goes wrong and an understanding about what to do, if it does.
Is it time for you to draft a Social Media Prenup?
Let's find out.
Do you or your partner...
- Spend time chatting online or texting when you could be with each other?
- Feel hurt, angry, embarrassed or even a little betrayed by something the other has posted/shared online?
- Have disagreements over who either of you should 'friend' or communicate with online?
- Feel jealous or suspicious of each other's online friendships and interactions.
- Feel like the other's texting intrudes or interferes with your time together?
- Feel like you are competing with your partner's cellphone, computer, or tablet for his or her attention?
- Never talk about what is or isn't acceptable online and texting behavior?
If you answered yes, to any of the above, it's definitely time to sit down and have your Social Media Prenup conversation.
Here are three steps to getting you started on your Social Media Prenup:
1. Attitude and communication is key. Give yourself and your relationship the quality time to discuss this matter seriously. Choose a quiet place, free of smartphones and distractions. You and your partner will appreciate being respected and heard, before any problems arise. Make sure to listen to what your partner has to say, how they feel, and committed to finding a solution that works. You each need to be willing to choose your partner over the internet.
2. Discuss and write down what's off-limits and what needs prior approval. Some of this is obvious: no nude or partially nude photos, no discussing yucky personal habits, no griping about your friends and family, no "revelations" about skeletons in the closet. But some things aren't obvious. For example, are you okay with your partner reconnecting with an old flame? What level of access to one another's accounts is appropriate? Are there any parameters for interacting with newly made friends of the opposite sex? How much time online is too much time online? Really take the time to think through what your comfort zone is.
3. Don't suffer the consequences. Everyone makes mistakes. Have a game plan in place if you or your partner accidentally says or posts something that crosses a line of how you'll make up for any missteps. Will you apologize publicly? Delete the post right away? Agree to run anything even slightly questionable by one another first?
The challenges of social media etiquette are just another opportunity to communicate better with your partner and stay connected and awake in your relationship.
Doing a Social Media Prenup tells your partner that your relationship is of primary importance, and hopefully they'll feel the same way. Just like what celebrities struggle with, it's too easy to get "seduced" by the feel-good attention of your friends and followers and lose all common sense in the moment. The next time you're tempted to post a compromising photo of your partner or reveal a little too much about what's going on behind the scenes of your relationship, make sure you are holding hands while you push the send button.
Sheri Meyers, Psy.D is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in Los Angeles, CA, and author of Chatting or Cheating: How to Detect Infidelity, Rebuild Love, and Affair-Proof Your Relationship. For a free chapter of Chatting or Cheating, please go to:chattingorcheating.com
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