Social Media and Relationships

Social media holds an undeniable, and arguably pervasive, place in our lives. Whether you love it or hate it, the fact remains that nearly everyone you know is scrolling, posting, or talking about it. When it comes to social media and relationships, there are strong arguments for both the benefits and the detrimental effects of social media. Although there are many more, we’ve identified a small handful of pros and cons of social media’s impact on relationships of all types.


Builds community


One of the most frequently mentioned benefits of social media is its positive impact on connection and community building. Internet access has allowed millions of people across the world to suddenly have access to people they may have never otherwise connected with, allowing them to form friendships and commune with others who have shared identities and interests. Additionally, it allows people to stay connected to friends, colleagues, family, and other loved ones from afar. Social media also greatly influences and facilitates dating, allowing romantic connections to blossom that might otherwise have never occurred.


Offers education


With the growing popularity of content creators and crowdsourced information, social media has become a tremendously popular place to learn things. Individuals who may not have access to audit a lecture on astrophysics can now follow their favorite creator who is a doctor of astrophysics and receive up-to-date, accurate information via 2-minute TikTok videos. The same goes for skills-based information like checking coolant levels in your vehicle, learning how to sew, or even dancing and fitness instruction. In the vein of relationships, there is also plenty of information available on creating healthy relationships. This can be highly valuable for an individual who is lacking personal, real-life examples of that. Access is key to growth and evolution and individuals from whom information has been kept in the past have a new and powerful way to arm themselves with, sometimes lifesaving, information.


Introduces new ideas


The benefits of introducing new ideas can be heavily debated in a conversation about algorithms and targeted content. Being excessively online can break individuals out of their echo chamber, but it can sometimes put them into one as well. As social media algorithms learn your interests and biases, they tend to pump similar posts and information your way based on what you engage with. However, the search and explore functions of many social media platforms are easily used to bring new topics to light, often sending users down “rabbit holes” of interesting and engaging information.


Creates distraction


One undeniable downside of social media and relationships is the high level of distraction that it can create. In addition to the individual harm it can cause, it can be detrimental to friendships and romantic relationships alike because it creates an easy avenue for escape, validation, and attention during conflict. Social media use without boundaries also consumes a lot of our time and can cause us to miss indications that our partner is seeking connection. When hanging out in groups with friends, it can be easy to pull out our phones and scroll, pulling us away from the moment at hand.


Establishes unrealistic expectations


People often say, “social media is a highlight reel” and it’s true. Despite our universal desire for authentic connection, social media is a place where we’re perpetually putting our best foot forward. Whether it’s posting the perfect angle in a photo, adjusting the lighting before snapping a picture of your afternoon latte, or sharing the high points of your year in a NYE photo dump, the fact remains that social media cannot capture the fullness of any live moment. Despite knowing that when we’re posting our special moments, our brains seem to lose grasp of that when we’re scrolling through our feeds comparing our life and relationships to what is seen online. We see best friends always vacationing, going to Target and brunch in the middle of the day on a Tuesday, and spending hours in the gym and find ourselves wondering what’s wrong with our friendships.


When it comes to romantic relationships, extravagant gestures like flying someone out for a first date seem like they’re the norm when they are most certainly the exception. These unrealistic expectations can cause us to question ourselves and those around us. Seeing “insta famous” couples talk about how they have passionate intimacy 7 days a week suddenly has us questioning what felt like a normal and healthy amount of intimacy in our relationships. If you find yourself deep in comparison that is affecting your romantic relationships, couples therapy can be very valuable for identifying realistic boundaries and expectations outside of the influence of social media.


Impacts mental health


Although social media offers a great many benefits (like connection and education) that can improve mental health research repeatedly shows that even moderate use can impact our mental health negatively. In addition to the personal impacts of poor mental health, having poor mental health undeniably affects the way we show up to our friendships and romantic relationships. It can reduce our ability to be present, impact our ability to listen well, prevent us from contributing to our relationships in the way that we want to, and even affect the level of enjoyment we get from these in-person connections.


At the end of the day, it is important to observe our habits and relationships with social media and determine the right amount of usage for ourselves as individuals. For some, this means none at all, for others, it may mean moderate usage with strong boundaries. If you are looking to reduce your social media usage, this blog on goal setting is a great place to start in creating effective changes around your relationship with social media. When it comes to preserving and investing in your relationships you’ll find that they flourish and thrive when you have more intentional energy to spend on them as you reduce your social media connection.

Looking for more support in reframing your relationship with social media and improving your personal relationships? Schedule an appointment with us at Genesis Counseling of South Tampa.

#mental health, #relationships, #social media, #wellness
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