Did you spend Valentine’s day single and alone, forced to endure cloying Facebook friend status updates that read like middle school love notes written by a short bus-riding version of Pablo Neruda? Updates like “2 my love – I love you soooooooo much! I love loving you!!!!!!! Love love love love love!!!!!!!!!” or “im the luckiest dude in the WHOLE WURLD. Thank u GOD for sending me my 4eVr AnGeL <3333 :-)~ 143.” Hopefully, you had the foresight to cover your mouth while reading that. If not, send @alanmichaelvan the bill for your ruined keyboard. I love hearing your complaints (no, I actually don’t, but I needed a cheap ploy for more Twitter followers).
The advent of social media in the new media age has of course changed the way we conduct our relationships, as well as how we see them. As our lives and identities become increasingly and inseparably intertwined with the Internet, the difference between “real life” and what the Internet may have once represented in diametric opposition has blurred away. What was once a sometimes-tool for relationship maintenance and building has become a lifestyle exercise for many, and may simply be life for some. Social media as a simulacrum of “real life” and all its relationship dynamics is in part so effectively real because the consequences of it are real. What you do on Facebook and Twitter matters to other people.According to an American Academy of National Lawyers poll of its 1600 members, 81% of them have seen an increase in the use of Facebook as evidence in divorce proceedings in the last five years. The UK law firm Divorce-Online announced that 33 percent of the 5,000 divorce petitions filed with the firm in the last year cited Facebook as a contributing factor. The other 67 percent cited “bad teeth.” I kid, I kid. It’s simple; the things you do on Facebook negatively affect your relationships. Here are three common ways:
1. Social media makes cheating easier
In a recent survey of 1,000 Americans by Euro RSCG Worldwide, more than half agree that the Internet has made it easier for people to cheat on their partners, and nearly a third (31 percent) knew someone whose relationship ended because of their actions online. Only 6 percent agreed that online sex didn’t count as cheating. So much for “but the Internet isn’t real life” excuse.
In 2010, about 60 percent of Facebook users set their relationship status as “being in a relationship,” “engaged” or “married.” If you’re a heterosexual male that’s on Facebook then, chances are that your significant other was also on Facebook since women outnumber men on Facebook by a significant rate of about 1.28 to 1.
Remember that the Internet has not only given you access to all the rare collectible tin lunchboxes in the world that your little ol’ nerdy heart desires, but also to attractive people (to you) that you would never have met or known of. The amount and variety of people you can meet multiplies exponentially using social media, and that means that you have much more means and opportunities to bolt for greener pastures.
So how do you get caught? There may be photos of you hanging out with someone you shouldn’t have, or hanging out somewhere you shouldn’t have that are posted to your wall. Were you dumb enough to update your status to “MAKING IT RAIN AT DA CLUB BIG BALLA STYLE WHOO HOO!!!!” when you told your girlfriend that you needed to work overtime because new shipments coming into the stockroom at the Best Buy you work at don’t stock themselves? For shame. Or perhaps an old flame connected with you out of nowhere and your partner finds your flirty messages. Whatever the reason, remember that what you do on Facebook is public. And it’s probably public forever.
2. Social Media can make an already rocky relationship rockier
Is your relationship on shaky ground to begin with? Putting it under the public social media microscope can make it worse. Over 38 percent of respondents in the Euro RSCG survey agreed that their feelings about their relationship status were “open to better offers” or “looking to spice things up.” There’re a lot of people who are unhappy in their relationships. And that’s not even counting the over 13 percent who agreed that they were “bored” in their relationship.
Dissatisfaction with a relationship can of course lead to flirting and cheating, but you may just decide to vent instead. In a fit of rage or jealousy, did you post a nasty comment on your partner’s Facebook wall? Or maybe you grumbled in a Tweet or Facebook status update, and your friends decide to pile on only knowing your side of the story. This can weaken the intimacy and trust in your relationship. Instead of spilling your feelings online with people you may or may not know, discuss how you feel with your partner and agree to come to a resolution that you can both live with.
3. What you put online is public
Even if your privacy settings are set to some configuration like “above top-secret private for Romulans only,” just remember that any one person with access to the information you put out can also put it out for the rest of the world to see.
This means you might spend time unhealthily checking on your ex’s progress in life. Most of us have known people that constantly checked on their ex’s Facebook just so that they could “make fun of how pathetic they are”….. every single day. And all of the comments left on your Facebook page – keep them and cry on them like tears on your pillow, or banish them? Are you okay with keeping them because you’re on friendly terms with your ex? How does your current girlfriend or boyfriend feel about them? If you’re in a relationship but insecure, you may spend time overanalyzing their Tweets, Facebook status updates and friend comments. Just take a deep breath and move away from the social media.
So maybe all of you single spinsters have reason to celebrate; no relationship = tweeting all you want about your recent trip to Tijuana. Unless you need to hide it from your current and future employers. Or your family. Your moooooom. I give up.