Relationships and Social Media

The growth of social media has expanded the definition of what constitutes cheating and provided new mediums for initiating and maintaining an affair. Internet infidelity, emotional affairs and inappropriate sexting with an ex weren’t an issue before the advent of laptops and smart phones. Navigating a relationship in the age of social media can thus seem trickier than climbing Mount Everest. There’s no guidebook or set path to follow.

What are five tips for avoiding some of the relationship pitfalls and dealing with what really matters in the age of social media?

1. Ground Rules: At a certain point in a relationship, patterns develop and rules are discussed. You know how often you’ll be seeing the person. You know who typically will be paying for a meal, doing most of the driving when you go out of town or picking up a bottle of wine for a dinner party. Once you move in with a person, there will be additional rules established for housework, bills and home maintenance.

Set ground rules for using social media. What photos do you feel comfortable sharing online? What accounts, information and pictures can be public? Can you be friends with people that you used to date? Does relationship status on Facebook matter to you? Could sharing too much about your relationship have negative professional ramifications or make you feel awkward around your family?

2. Established Norms: There are some rules that shouldn’t need to be discussed. However, it’s best to address everything before to avoid a potential fight later. Relationship issues or problems should not be discussed on any social network. There is absolutely no need for your friends, family and co-workers to know about your relationship problems. Period.

For those of you who blog, the same rules apply. Your significant other shouldn't be finding out your thoughts about the relationship for the first time by reading a post.

3. Friendships with Exes: As a general rule of thumb, it’s worth remembering that women traditionally care about any other woman that their significant other loved. Men, by contrast, care about any other man with whom their significant other had sex. That's important with respect to online communication since a huge benefit of social media is reconnecting with old friends. When those friends are exes, that’s not always a good thing for your current relationship.

Discuss this openly and make sure that you both are on the same page. One person in the couple may have more of a problem with friendships with exes online and off, and a compromise will be in order. You might need to weigh the costs of liking an ex’s status updates and photos against your current partner’s contentment. That should be an easy choice, but if there’s a reason why you want to stay in touch with a particular ex, communicate those reasons with your significant other.

4. Public Accounts: A healthy relationship requires trust, honesty and communication. Keep your accounts public to ensure that you think before you friend, follow, Tweet or comment. Don’t say anything via text, Gchat or email that you would have a problem with your partner seeing. It’s a slippery slope if you start to communicate with a member of the opposite sex in a secretive way. In this day and age, you don’t need to meet someone for a drink or have sex with another person for your significant other to feel as though you have been cheating.

5. Break Ups: For those of you who are over the age of 21, I would also address the fact that social media should not be used to end a relationship. (Breaking up via social media is tacky at any age, but there’s no excuse for it after college.) If you’re in an adult relationship, an in-person break up is warranted since there are emotions involved and possible logistics to discuss.

Communicating with your significant other offline is the key to successful online relationships.

What would you add to this list? How have you and your partner navigated social media pitfalls?

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