Whether we like it or not, we can't deny that social media has taken over practically every aspect of our lives, and it’s not going anywhere. Even deciding to stay away from it doesn’t let us escape from it completely. As we grow up and learn to navigate relationships, jobs, and adulthood, social media is there. And it’s up to us to decide how big a role it will play in our lives.
When it comes to relationships, things get even more complicated. When you’re with someone, it’s not only your own virtual life that you have to think about, but also the other person’s. Depending on how much trust there is in the relationship, the use of social media can play a big role in its success or its downfall. Jealousy, in particular, is the biggest factor in the equation. Prior to social media, if you suspected that your partner was cheating, all the evidence you could look for was physical. These days, you can definitely still find that evidence, but there’s also an entire digital archive of your partner’s interactions with other people, the photos they “like,” and a list of hundreds and hundreds of “friends” that you probably don’t know.
And then, even if trust isn’t an issue for you and no one suspects the other of cheating, there are so many other reasons why social media could be hurting your relationship. Maybe they spend too much time on their phone, so you feel like you’re not actually spending time together even when sitting side by side. Or maybe they don't like that you’re always talking about your relationship on social media and that all of your friends, family members, and even strangers know everything about you two. Whatever the reason for the conflict may be, the point is that somehow something that only exists in the digital world is jeopardizing the very real relationship you have.
If you think this might be happening in your relationship, here are ten questions you should ask yourself before it’s too late.
1. What are we really fighting about?
Is it really about social media? Maybe the problem is something else, but social media makes it more evident.
2. If we took social media out of the equation, would you still have the same problems?
Imagine a world where social media doesn’t exist. To make the exercise a little more realistic, imagine that both of you decided to quit social media for good. What would your relationship look like?
3. Is there one app or platform in particular that’s causing the problem?
What does your partner do on this app or platform that you don’t like?
4. Is the time they spend on social media the biggest problem?
Would things really improve if they spend less time on it?
5. What’s the thing that bothers you the most?
Is it when they like something someone else posted? Or is it that they talk to someone you’re jealous of?
6. Would you feel reassured if you could have access to their social media accounts?
Would having their password, and being able to see everything they do, fix all your problems?
7. Are the things you see or read on social media creating even more problems for you?
Are you comparing your relationship to that of someone else? Or, are the “relationship goals” you see everywhere on the internet doing more damage than good?
8. Should social media be one of those things that we need to keep to ourselves so we don’t lose ourselves in a relationship?
Is your digital life part of the personal space your partner needs to respect in order for you to breathe?
9. What things are you both willing to let slide, and what do you consider unacceptable?
For example: is it okay if they like a random model’s half-naked selfie? What about when it’s their ex that posts the half-naked selfie? Is it still okay for them to like it?
10. Is anything that happens online reason enough to end a real-life relationship?
These are only a few basic questions you should ask yourself before giving up on your relationship. I’m not saying you should learn to live with anything you don’t like or that you should stay in a relationship that isn't working. What I’m saying is that you need to ask yourself these questions in order to figure out whether there’s a chance to save the relationship or if the relationship is worth saving. It’s not easy, and it’s definitely not fun, but nobody said relationships will always be easy. So take the time to sit down and really think about these questions, and maybe ask a friend to give you their input and share their experiences with social media in their relationships. At the end of this exercise, you could have a solution to your problems, and hopefully be on the way to a happy relationship again.
Cover image: Brandon Woelfel