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Overcoming the Negative Effects of Social Media on Relationships

Social media has influenced just about everything in our lives.  Business, politics, and even our relationships.

Whether you scroll and post regularly or just peek and comment on occasion, you have an online identity. 

It can be challenging to manage our individual online presence properly, yet we are responsible for what we share and how we engage online.

Social media can be a great tool for keeping in touch with people and maintaining a sense of connectedness. However, it can also be especially harmful to our relationships.


The human brain is wired to think negatively. This can quickly wreak havoc on our relationships. We expect to have problems, but we quickly question when things are undefined or going relatively well.

We seek answers, predictability, and pleasure to avoid pain. We yearn to be accepted, liked, and supported.

Social media provides us with our dopamine fix when we see or post what we like especially when it comes to relationships.

We tend to compare our relationships to others and comparisons can be a social media relationship killer.

A survey conducted in the fall of 2019 by the Pew Research Center, found that 8 in 10 adults notice relationship oriented posts and women are 7% more likely than men to see them.

Age factors in as well. Women under 50 are more likely to notice and be affected by the relationship posts they see as compared to women over 50. 


Megan 29, and Mike 30, were dating for over 2 years and were considering marriage.  They lived together, had a dog and wanted kids.  Megan wanted to get married right away and was concerned about her biological clock.

Mike was not ready to get married and wanted to ‘get his affairs in order’ before the big step. 

Soon Megan started noticing posts of engagements, weddings and births on social media and began resenting Mike.  She would compare her life to everyone else’s and somehow she always came up short. 

Many of us compare our lives to what appears to be a better one from what we can see on social media.  Comparing is a potential relationship killer.

Everyone seems to have a happy life on social media.  It looks like they have the perfect relationship, motivated kids, and a great job.  Pa-leease! You can’t go by a picture of them at the beach… on vacation…  3 years and 25 pounds ago!

Keep in mind, people post what they want you to see.  Some people are excellent at painting an enhanced picture of the high points of their relationship.  The extravagant vacations, the romantic dinners, the custom ring, the lengthy heartfelt birthday/anniversary dedications. But what’s behind the curtain?

Perhaps a very different picture…  criticisms,  insecurities, inconsistencies, the list goes on.

Do yourself and your relationship a favor, avoid comparing. If your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife posts daily pictures of them together and yours doesn’t it’s okay.  It doesn’t mean anything. Your relationship is not in trouble or any less special. Be mindful not to jump to conclusions. Talk about the role of social media in your current relationships. 


Establishing the role of social media in the relationship is vital to maintaining harmony and balance.

Setting boundaries and outlining rules of engagement is necessary to build trust both on and offline.

Consider drawing a road map for your partner as to what your concerns, expectations, and needs are as an opportunity for them to get to know you on a deeper, more intimate level and vice-versa. Ultimately, it’s growth. 

It’s important to communicate without pointing fingers and be open to compromise. 

This technique was helpful to Tammy and her boyfriend Paul. Tammy was concerned when she noticed Paul liked a picture his ex posted of herself and her new dog.

This is a classic example of what I refer to as Indiscriminate contact.  This is the act of “liking” a post or communicating with someone your partner would likely consider off limits.

Tammy began to question the relationship and Paul’s level of commitment. She wondered if he still had feelings for his ex. Paul insisted this was an innocent ‘like” and reassured Tammy she was the only one for him. 

Over the next several weeks, Tammy began monitoring Paul’s social media activity and his whereabouts. She also demanded he dissociate from all girls online and questioned him each day.

The suspicion and indiscriminate communication forged a wedge in their relationship and they fought regularly. In therapy they were able to explore the feelings that were triggered through some of their social media interactions (insecurity, low self-esteem, abandonment, commitment issues, trust) and they set clearly defined boundaries and rules of engagement.  Both would make a conscious effort to avoid indiscriminate contacts, overthinking, constant monitoring, and jumping to conclusions. 


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