Dating the Internet: Is Social Media Ruining our Relationships?

The likelihood that neither you nor your significant other have Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram or Tumblr, or any other form of social media, is incredibly rare. This also means that if you are in a relationship or have been in a relationship in the past, you’ve probably experienced the pressure that social media adds to dating, which seems almost impossible to avoid.

As millennials growing up in a world where social media habits have become increasingly conflated with our real life identities, dating someone now not only involves dating the person themselves, but their social media presence too.

Before we had social media, any judgements we made about a person would be based solely on our experiences with them in real life. Now, social media provides a platform for people to express themselves, making it easier to get to know people online. Admit it – we’ve all ‘Facebook stalked’ people in the past to test their music tastes, analyse their photos, get a sense of their political views; to find out whatever it is that’s important to you in a partner. This allows you to easily discard those who you deem to be unsuitable before you end up inadvertently dating a right-wing misogynist who hates pizza.

My problem with this is that it seems bizarre to know this much about a person before you’ve potentially even met them. It also raises further questions about whether social media is an accurate portrayal of what a person is like in real life – to some extent we all manipulate our social media habits to present ourselves in the way we want other people to see us, so is it really reliable?

It also seems easier for jealousy to accumulate when you look too closely at your partner’s social media habits. It becomes a lot more obvious that the person you’re dating finds other people attractive too, whether that’s because they liked someone else’s profile picture, or reblogged porn on Tumblr. Naturally, this can lead to a lot of anxiety about your own appearance, and it’s easy to begin questioning whether your actual physical experiences are fulfilling. From my own experiences this is a totally normal way to feel, and is simply yet another consequence of being part of our social media-obsessed generation. Subsequently, overthinking things seems a little unnecessary, but if you are uncomfortable with anything your partner does then the rational move would be to discuss it with them instead.

The content of what your partner posts/reblogs/tweets can also cause tensions. I know that I can sometimes become even more opinionated on the internet and less cautious of what I say/reveal; it’s easy to hide behind the veil of partial anonymity that is a Tumblr url and reblog the occasional NSFW pic. This means that we end up finding things out about a person which we may not have known if we didn’t have social media, and it may not always be positive, especially if your values don’t align with theirs.

Additional problems can be created when your friends begin following your partner’s social media accounts. How do you explain to them why your significant other has a furry fandom Tumblr blog? Or why they always tweet really embarrassing jokes at 3am? You may have come to terms with their habits, but social media allows outsider’s perceptions of your relationship to become a lot more invasive.

Social media can become an even greater problem in the aftermath of a breakup. Cutting ties with your ex is no longer as easy as simply avoiding them in person; social media means every photo of them having a great time with another person is rubbed in your face every time you log in. Obviously there are ways around this such as unfriending/unfollowing all of their accounts in an attempt to escape the natural pangs of jealousy. But often this isn’t enough; Facebook’s new ‘memories’ setting meant the probability of seeing photos of you and your old flame increased dramatically. However in October they launched a new, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’-esque setting which allowed users to block memories with certain people from appearing. Google also released a potentially even creepier extension, aptly named ‘Eternal Sunshine’, which hides anyone you choose from pretty much every corner of Facebook, including Facebook Chat. There is even an app called ‘Killswitch’, which deletes all photos and interactions with your ex from Facebook.

But is saying goodbye to your memories, both the good and the bad, in such a drastic manner really healthy? The latter is a fairly permanent solution to a wholly temporary problem, which you might regret in the future.

It seems like we could spend hours over-analysing every status, like, tweet, and reblog posted by our significant other, and I’m not entirely sure it’s worth the added stress. Could you really justify breaking up with someone because they post too many selfies? I firmly believe that social media is a vital platform for self-expression, but sometimes it’s impossible not to feel uncomfortable with someone else’s social media presence. It’s entirely possible to have a relationship with someone who different online habits, however with such a large chunk of our time spent staring at our screens, it is important to feel comfortable with how our partners use such public platforms.

[Katie Fannin]

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