Now more than ever, our phones and social media are often what we spend the most time looking at, with our mobile phones regularly being the last thing we see at night and the first thing we see in the morning. Needless to say, as a society we’re having less face-to-face interaction than ever before, so it’s inevitable that social media use is going to impact our entire lives, including our relationships. But what impact does it have? Can it be used to enhance our relationships, or does it pull us apart?

Social media was developed to make individuals feel connected and that’s exactly what it does a lot of the time; it’s a fabulous tool for allowing us to foster and develop relationships online. But unfortunately, this is having a not so positive effect on our ability to develop relationships in the real world. Leslie Shore, an expert in the field, suggests that social media use can actually hinder our ability to build relationships offline as it results in a decrease in the level of social intelligence that we have, which in turn causes us to be less able to read and understand people face-to-face, which is essential for building any relationship, including romantic ones. It can also make us feel less connected from people, as even if they’re sitting right next to us, social media takes our attention away from the person we’re actually physically conversing with. How many times have you gone out for lunch with someone who’s sitting there scrolling whilst you’re trying to have a conversation? Not only is this extremely frustrating, but the bond between you will definitely take a toll if it becomes a regular occurrence.

In the real-world, comparisons definitely occur – you go on a first date, which isn’t going as planned and see a couple sitting a few tables away who are laughing, holding hands and seeming to have a great time. As a result, you feel deflated; why couldn’t that be you?

On social media comparisons are everywhere.

Whilst it’s pretty well known that people often only portray the positive aspects of their life, including relationships, on social media you can often get sucked into these “perfect” couples and truly believe they have the perfect relationship. When in fact, for a lot of them, it couldn’t be further from how they’re really feeling. As a result, we’re constantly exposed to “ideal” relationships rather than real relationships. This exposure causes us to question our own relationship and what it should be like and puts pressure on couples to act in a way, which may not be natural to them. Similarly, it creates the notion that the grass is greener and that there are better relationships out there. But again, it’s all about portrayal – behind the scenes could be a very different picture.

Based on these factors, it isn’t surprising that studies have found that frequent social media use is negatively correlated with relationship satisfaction, and that there’s a link between increased social media use and increased partner conflict.

But, interestingly, whilst studies suggest that social media use has a negative impact particularly for couples who have been together less than 3 years; potentially due to trust still developing. For couples who have been together for more than 3 years, there’s actually a positive link with social media use and how satisfied they are both in life and in their relationship. Taking this one step further, studies have also shown a positive link between the amount you post about your partner online and feelings of intimacy and relationship satisfaction, but of course this does depend on how private your partner is and the nature of your posts about them.

Whilst there’s definitely a down side to social media, according to a survey by a UK law firm, 1 in 7 people said, they’d considered a divorce due to their spouse’s social media use. However, that being said, there are some positives too.

One massive positive of social media, is the fact that it allows people to meet online when they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. Online dating is a huge part of this, with a third of Americans dating online. It allows people to connect to individuals similar to themselves, who perhaps feel lonely and isolated. Social media is also a great platform for reducing the perceived distance in long-term relationships, as it makes it easy to feel like you’re able to actually experience another individual’s life through photos and videos and increases partner connectedness and day-to-day contact through low pressure communication.

In the last few months, more than ever, social media has played a huge role in allowing people to continue to date throughout a global pandemic. It’s allowed us to take communication one step further and still go on video dates, where we’re able to e-meet and interact with people who we can’t currently meet in person and get to see their personality, mannerisms and other aspects that usually we’d only pick up on in-person dates. It’s allowed us to get as close to in-person interactions as we can, and if you’ve tried video dates, they probably seemed a bit strange at first, however they’re very much becoming the new norm and something, I’m sure, most of us will be quite used to and experts at pretty soon.

Throughout this pandemic, social media has also allowed us to attend dating events online and has been hugely beneficial for allowing people who are otherwise isolated to communicate.

So, social media can have both positive and negative impacts depending on how it’s used. But if you are feeling like your relationship is being negatively impacted by social media what are some things you can do?

  1. It’s essential that you find a way to balance both time on and offline in order to keep the bond strong within your relationship; why don’t you try and find something you both enjoy where you can’t use your phone for example running, hiking, playing board games or cooking.
  2. Have designated time with your phone away such as date nights.
  3. Have guidelines as to when and where you can use your phone, maybe have a no phone rule at the dinner table or for movie nights.
  4. Have time limits on social media use – this will not only improve your relationship but also your overall wellbeing.

If you are feeling like your relationship is being negatively impacted by social media, then here at Maclynn we can help. With our in-house experts and relationship coaches available to carry out coaching sessions with you and your partner to explore what can be done to improve the relationship. Whether you’re a member or not, there are coaching sessions available for you. Get in touch today if you’re interested in finding out more.