Has Social Media Screwed Up Intimate Relationships? – Nathan Thompson

People are tweeting and Facebooking about first kisses, relationship statuses, fights, and so much more. Should we be using social media to talk about our intimate relationships?

Over at the blog Notes from the Dating Trenches, there is a good post about sharing, boundaries, and social media. Kelly writes:

There have been a few articles lately on the effect social media is having on us in terms of over-sharing. I just read one on Yahoo! about how one man’s tweet about a bad date caused hundreds of people to respond and share their own, obviously worse, stories. Like a competition. One woman said that when she showed up for her date the man asked her to go home and change because he didn’t like what she was wearing. Another man said he was freaked out because his date brought 25 photos of Sylvia Plath’s gravesite as a conversation starter (she sounds like a treat). Another admitted to accidentally pushing his date down the stairs. The man who started the tweet-a-thon was surprised, noting: “People don’t mind recounting things that in a previous age would have been considered deeply personal.” I’m sure he got over it though since he gained 5,000 followers.

Like Kelly, I’m troubled by the ways social media are sometimes used in the context of intimate relationships. Especially of the romantic kind. It seems to me that the lines between public and private have become quite blurry, sometimes to the point where people are willing to subject their entire relationships to public scrutiny (like on these reality-dating-competition TV shows.)

Introducing social media into the world of dating amplifies and magnifies every little high experienced and every mistake made.  You tweet your first kiss to a thousand “friends” and receive several dozen virtual high fives in a matter of hours. Or you write about your latest fight on Facebook and have dozens of sympathizers calling your partner all sorts of names and telling you to get rid of him or her.

How is it possible to develop and maintain a clear and realistic assessment of your relationship amidst all of this?

Furthermore, how is it possible to stand on your own two feet, and make your own decisions about your partnership when you have dozens of other voices nearly instantly appearing in your head to compete with whatever your gut is telling you?

Here are a few guidelines I have created for myself:

1. I Don’t share current relationship conflict on social media. If I want to talk about current struggles with others online, I might head to one of the numerous dating and relationship sites;

2. I don’t have a relationship status on Facebook. Early on, I did change my relationship status a few times, and found that it just led to confusion and having to tell people stories about very short term relationships that really didn’t need to be told. Dating someone for 3 or 4 weeks doesn’t need to be highly publicized, nor does the end of that connection;

3. I don’t write about “real-time” intimate relationships. Perhaps there might be some reason to break that rule in the future, but for now, I think it’s a smart decision that also upholds point #1.

How about you? How do you handle social media and your intimate relationships?