Does social media help or hinder your intimate relationship?

There's no doubt it - Facebook, Twitter and other social media have greatly enhanced our ability to connect to friends far away, organize catch-ups, and keep others informed about important things in our lives.

But there is a down side. According to researchers (as summarized in http://mashable.com/2012/06/14/social-media-real-world-infographic/, for some of us social media may be eroding the quality of our friendships, and perhaps our more intimate relationships as well.

If you are falling into some of the following traps, chances are your intimate relationships may be negatively affected.

  • you spend more time interacting with friends online than catching up with them in 'real time'
  • you tell a few whoppers to make yourself appear more interesting and 'cool' in order to impress people you may not know well, if at all, outside of FB or other interactive social sites.
  • you flirt with people online, convincing yourself it's 'not real' (and therefore harmless).

Why do these things matter? They may or may not be significant. However, think about the cumulative negative affect of missed opportunities  for real, face-to-face intimacy and connection - for example, you're so busy posting/tweeting/chatting online that by the end of the evening you realize there has been no time to connect with your partner or children (who may also be conversing with others online rather than with each other or with you). On it's own, in the context of a 'bigger picture' where you spend both quantity and quality f2f time with your loved ones often and regularly, it's probably not such a big deal. But if you're like so many of us - time and energy poor, juggling work, running a household and possibly managing a range of other family commitments as well - it becomes even more important that we use that finite amount of time/energy to really connect with those we love, to 'fill the tank' for each other of those things we just can't live without - love, nurturance and support.

Even more insidious is the temptation to behave in ways that in 'real life' we wouldn't dream of doing. For example, flirting, telling lies to impress may seem more harmless online, less likely to have negative consequences than if we did the same thing at work or at a friend's BBQ. However, the resulting sense of betrayal for a partner can have far-reaching and negative consequences for the integrity and security of our bonds with each other.

Pre-eminent couples therapist Dr John Gottman, in his ground-breaking research about what makes relationships succeed or fail (http://www.johngottman.net/?page_id=7 ) determined some key elements in what we need to maintain and strengthen our most important relationships. These include:-

  • building and maintaing a sense of trust - we are there for each other, have each other's back.
  • keeping a detailed, up-to-date map of our partner's world, both inner and outer.
  • nurturing fondness and admiration for each other
  • turning towards each other rather than away
  • dialoguing and actively working on problems
  • talking and agreeing about the meaning of our lives together, and having rituals, stories and symbols that express and build this.

All these things take regular time, effort and energy. It's like looking after a garden - if we don't water, weed, prune etc then we can't be surprised if our garden fails to thrive.

My advice? Enjoy the many benefits of social media! BUT make sure it doesn't erode into the precious time you have to spend with your partner and children. Keeping in touch sometimes involves being physcally with those we love, as well as emotionally and mentally.

 

Till next post, Vivienne

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