There is no question that the social media revolution has brought countless benefits with it. It is easier now than ever before to keep in touch and communicate with friends and loved ones across thousands of miles. Families can now feel close to one another even if they are separated by continents. Of course, as has been well documented, not all the changes that social media has brought with it have been good. In addition to things like online stalking and bullying, marriage counselors have become increasingly concerned about an unhealthy phenomenon that is becoming increasingly prevalent. Counselors are seeing weeks and months of work to put a broken marriage back together undone in an instant by impulsive postings put on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites. It has never been easier to rashly and publicly express a criticism, a frustration, or an irritation with a spouse. And once these outbursts are online there is no taking them back. Counselors are seeing efforts at reconciliation ruined in an instant by a thoughtless tweet.
To avoid becoming a statistic, let me encourage you to talk with your spouse about setting ground rules now (before they’re needed) that you both promise to uphold even through the rocky patches all marriages go. Pamela Rutledge, Director of the Media Psychology Center and a faculty member in the Media Psychology program at Fielding Graduate University, offers these suggestions for social media users:
• Identify your larger goals. Before sending out a rash tweet, ask yourself what your larger goal is. If you’re trying to heal a broken marriage, maintain cordial relationships with an ex for the benefit of children, or simply lower the stress level in your life, ask yourself if that tweet will help or harm those goals.
• Evaluate your social media use. Many of us swim around social media like a fish in water never considering the impact it may be having on us. Yet, Enrich Canada has reported that 25% of cell phone owners in a committed relationship have felt their partner was distracted by their cell phone while together. Further, 8% of internet users in a committed relationship reported having arguments with their partner about the amount of time one of them was spending online. Indeed, Enrich Canada has reported on a Pew Research Center study, Couples, the Internet, and Social Media, which found that 20% of couples reported that internet use had had a mostly negative impact on their marriage. This is just further evidence that we need to be intentional about our use of social media. As Rutledge says, you should be the boss of your technology, not the other way around.
• From time to time take a break from social media. It’s important to “unplug” yourself occasionally and remind yourself what this feels like. If you can’t do this, you may be heading towards a social media addiction that could cause problems for you down the road.
So much of life is about intentionality. Each of us need to be intentional about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and who we’re doing it with. Our social media use is no exception. Let me encourage you to think through and develop rules around your social media use. Don’t let it become a tool that the Evil One uses to harm the most important relationships in your life.