Social media is becoming ever more intertwined in our lives and relationships. In an earlier blog we looked at the concept of the ‘digital shadow’ and the risk to relationships between parents and children. The conclusion being that parents who share every aspect of a child’s life on social media risk damage to their future relationship.
Social media and relationships
Social media can of course enhance and advance good relationships. The opportunity to connect families living thousands of miles apart in shared experiences is just one example of the positive impact of platforms like Facebook. However social media has created a whole new type of risk to positive relationships amongst families and friends.
A virtual ‘sharing’ society has been created by social media. In that process, we have all – willingly – opened up aspects of our lives that were previously hidden. Dates, family gatherings, nights out and the like are now all open to anyone who is interested. With that accessibility comes some risks.
I know what you did last Friday night
For example, recruiters are now using social media extensively to vet potential candidates. Suddenly that picture from last Friday night of your cousin, drunk as a skunk and fast asleep in the pub is not so funny or harmless.
It used to be a joke to say that families out for dinner do not talk as everyone is just scrolling through Instagram or Facebook on smartphones. Now it is a depressing reality; mum, dad, daughter and son wired to their social media feeds. Often son/daughter also have their headphones in – literally present in body but not mind.
Some words cannot be deleted
A distressing by-product of social media can be its power to create feelings of jealousy, envy and low self-esteem. As a friend or family member captures every moment of their ‘perfect’ life on Instagram, others genuinely struggle to get by. It is not inconceivable that relationships might be irrevocably damaged because jealousy leads to hurt, anger and eventually boils over into harmful words/actions that cannot be deleted as easily as a post or tweet.
Relationships are what make humans tick. The belief that they keep us happy and healthy is now a proven fact. They need to be protected and looked after (a bit like a Tamagotchi – remember them?!).
But social media is here to stay so how do we enjoy the benefits of what it has to offer without compromising our most important relationships? Here are 3 tips.
1. Be in the room
It will sound ridiculously simple but spend time with the people you are physically in the same space with. When you are visiting family or spending time with friends, be present. Leave phones at the door or put them on flight-safe mode.
Talk, enquire, respond, laugh and cry with the people in the room. Be ‘social’ with the people right in front of you. Make that network the one you focus on during your time with them. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram will still be there when you head home after visiting your family.
2. Think before you post
A concept wasted on many people (high profile world leaders included). Before tapping the post button ask yourself: who might see this? In the context of work emails, the aphorism has been ‘don’t send something you wouldn’t like your boss to see’. For the social media sphere we can adapt to ‘don’t tweet/post something you wouldn’t want… mum/dad/husband/wife/friends to see’.
It is not a call to censor what you do on social media. Consider it an opportunity to be empathetic and considerate to your network of friends. You may love your newborn baby and want to share pictures of them every day but what about your friend who is going through infertility treatment?
3. Do social media then switch off
A radical thought but set time aside to be social online and then switch off. Enjoy the opportunity to be social with the people around you as much as those you only know by their Instagram handle.
Social media has given us a severe case of FOMO – fear of missing out. What is he/she saying? Did you see her pics on Instagram? Why are people tweeting about Boaty McBoatface? The cure is of course to switch off and spend less time online. Occupy your mind (and those twitching thumbs) with a book, exercise, or – shock horror – actually using your smartphone to call your mum for a chat.
Soon you will realise that the world will not stop turning if you ignore Twitter and spend an hour having coffee with a friend. Donald Trump will still have offended a person/city/gender/country when you check in later.
Making relationships work
The Spark’s mission is a simple one: to make relationships work.
Through counselling – for couples, individuals, families and children – and support services The Spark aims to make relationships in Scotland work. We operate from locations across Scotland providing local counselling and support.
We also provide a free Counselling Helpline for anyone coping with relationship problems. Find out more about the Counselling Helpline which offers telephone and online support.