Tell the truth. When was the last time you did any of the following:
- Took your phone with you to the dinner table with your partner
- Checked your phone at the dinner table
- Checked your partner’s Instagram or Facebook account or checked who they were following
- Got into bed at the same time as your partner and started scrolling through your feeds
- Turned off your alarm off in the morning and went straight on to Facebook in bed?
In the last hour? In the last day? The last week?
Never? Good, you’re some kind of super-evolved human and you can go and click elsewhere because this piece isn’t for you.
The rest of us? Like it or not, we are chipping away at the foundations of our relationships. We feel more starved for time than ever, yet the time we have, we’re using to numb ourselves by scrolling mindlessly through – let’s be honest – crap that doesn’t matter.
Relationships Australia Executive Director Kylie Dunjey recently told PerthNow that more than half the couples accessing the organisation’s services were worried about how technology is impacting their relationships. And it’s not just the time suck of the phone and computer, it’s the temptation they bring into a relationship – dating apps, online gambling and porn are all just a click away.
“Before you had to go out an make contact with these vices. Now they just come to you,” Ms Dunjey said.
And this unhealthy relationship with technology can start at the very beginning of a relationship. We’re stalking people as we fall in love with them, using our emotional wounds as an excuse. We’re exacerbating tiny fears by constantly checking on our partners to see where they’re at, who they’re with, and putting together puzzle pieces that don’t necessarily match. In the age of social media-heightened anxiety, we are putting the bonds that form the basis of our day-to-day lives at risk. Instead of dealing with our issues we’re letting them play out through our online behaviour.
Our brains form habits easily
The more we do or think something, the better we get at it. Wake up? Scroll. Bored? Scroll. Not sure what to say? Scroll. In the queue waiting for coffee? Scroll. Sure, there are also broader societal implications, but when the behaviour pervades our homes too, that’s when we’re simply demonstrating a lack of respect both for ourselves and our families.
Why are those things I listed above bad habits? Most of them, simply, because they erode the quality of our already-limited time together. Choosing to look at your phone says ‘I choose not to be present with you’. It’s in the little moments: morning coffee, getting ready for bed, cleaning up after meals.
If you’re going further than that, you need to think about why
If you’re genuinely suspicious, distrusting or jealous, work out why. If you’re worried that your other half is following their ex-girlfriend(s) (or boyfriends), talk about it. And if you can’t ask, spend less time on Instagram and more time working that sh*t out. Even if it means seeing a therapist. Because if you don’t, it will come back to bite you. I’m reminded of Jamila Jameel’s Instagram post (I know, ironic,) that says: ‘If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you’ (original post from @yrfatfriend). Which brings me to this:
Social media: Making Breakups Worse
I was never one of those people who paid any attention – any – to who my partner followed, their friends list, the apps they were using, the content they were liking, whether they were spending their time on their phone for work or leisure or banking or…you get the drift. Blind faith would be the kind interpretation (blind ignorance might be another suggestion). But after a breakup that hit like an unexpected wrecking ball, dragging on for months like a slow-motion multi-car pile-up with little explanation, I suddenly become the FBI of not just Facebook but also Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. It wasn’t pretty, it was grief. But (see point one), it became habit, and it took a long time to unravel all the ways the behaviour and subsequent lack of trust in others threaded through my life.
I’m just looking, I’m allowed to, it’s not doing any harm, they’re not important in my life, etc
If you follow a bunch of hot guys purely because they’re hot, then be aware that, as Janne Robinson says: ‘you are what you eat’ (digitally speaking). She’s talking about men, but it applies equally to both genders.
Yes. It matters. Red flag. It completely and entirely matters.
You are what you eat, gentlemen.
When you follow a bunch of “hot chicks” on Instagram you’re energetically opening up your field and energy body.
When I see that a man is following a bunch of soft porn accounts where women are objectifying themselves (probably unconsciously) for attention because they think that’s what men want here’s what I think: Gross. And also— shallow. And also — lacking integrity. And also — opening himself up to be distracted and engaged to women who are choosing to portray an empty part of themselves.
The quality of the water we drink, the quality of our food, the quality of the people we hang out with, the Television we watch, the books we read, the conversations we entertain all become who we are.
Yup. Applies equally to both genders.
There was a time we wrote letters to the ones we love
Thoughtfulness and anticipation were once part of the courtship process. Yes courtship. When mystery was an element of romance. Remember that? (Me either, at 35, I’m too young. The closest I got was when I received a mystery Valentine’s Day card in year nine from someone in my orchestra).
These days, it’s all too easy, all too accessible: information, reaction, connection, conclusion.
From seemingly benign to flat out wrong, if it’s not used the right way, social media can wreck, or rock, the foundations of your relationship.
My take? If it feels icky, it is icky.
So, where to from here?
Set some personal boundaries for your social media consumption, before you even think about your relationship. If you’re sharing content of the two of you online, ask your partner before you do it, and if they’re more conservative on that front, be respectful and maybe just don’t. Stop engaging in small-scale habits that are degrading your relationships and showing your partner that your phone is more important than they are. And if you find yourself straying into territory that you know isn’t right, create some circuit-breaking activities to stop the behaviour. Or you know, just delete the app for a while. The social media circus will go on without you.
Is social media affecting your relationship? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.