Social Media: the Relationship Killer?

Social Media: the Relationship Killer?

Q: My fiancé is driving me crazy! She is obsessed with posting on social media about how awesome her life is. Every time we do something, she has to take a ton of pictures just to get the “perfect one” to post on Instagram or Snap Chat. She calls me her best friend and says that we know each other so well in a photo comment, but she can’t seem to connect with me in a normal conversation, without checking her phone for likes and mentions. It feels like she’s in a relationship with her phone and not with me. Every time I try to bring this up to her, she gets super defensive and tells me that she’s just likes connecting with friends and documenting our life together. This has all gotten so much worse since our engagement- I don’t know if she actually wants to marry me or just enjoys the attention she gets on social media. How can I get through to her that she is sabotaging our relationship? Help!

Jen Says

As with most things, I think that social media is a great thing, which can be ruined by a select few. Personally, I think there are a couple of different groupings of social media of over-posters. I do have friends who, I think, document their lives as sort of digital scrapbook. These people can be creative in their posts and seem less motivated to construct the illusion of a ‘#blessedlife’, and more enjoy the artistic side of capturing and sharing life’s little moments. Then there are the people that like to portray their perfect life, with their perfect kids, and their perfect vacation…. Only to be turned upside down the next week with a vague attention-seeking “things can only get better from here” post (p.s. I’m always a little more surprised that their friends will play into this by commenting).

There is a psychology to social media… and once you catch onto a person’s posting pattern it’s easy to figure out if the person is posting because they are happy, or posting because they are trying to make everyone around them believe they are happy…reminiscent of, I drink because I’m happy, versus I drink because I’m sad. It’s important for you to figure out which one is your fiancé. Is she over-posting because she is trying to cover up some insecurities? Or because she is so excited to share her life with her ‘friends’? A good conversation might shed some light on this question. And most important, it is your life too… you also get to choose how public you want your trips to the grocery store to be.

It is probably a good time to come up with some solid boundaries around the amount of your life that you are ok with being publicized. It’s all blissful wedding planning now, but soon you may be the subject of a …. ‘How do you know when you have made a big mistake….?’ post.

Andy Says

I agree with Jen- there are gradations of egregiousness when it comes to this type of behavior. The broadcasting of one’s life has its benefits and pitfalls. As a busy person with a meager social life, I appreciate being able to stay connected with people and see what they are up to. But I approach posting on social media much in the same way I approach a conversation. Try to keep it interesting, and honest.  I don’t want to have a conversation about your breakfast waffle, I also don’t want to see a picture and read a status update about it. In the same vein, I don’t want to have a conversation with you about how perfect your life is and similarly don’t want to constantly see posts attempting to portray that.

It seems like your fiancé is demonstrating some aspects of each of the above examples: a horrific combination of banality and braggadocio.  She sounds like a handful, but it’s your fault. As Jen mentioned, boundaries are what is needed. That’s up to you. Strongly suggest that she leaves that phone in the car when you go out to dinner. If she balks, say you want to eat at home instead. If she wants to take more than one picture, say no. An “only one” picture rule will make her a better photographer and make you far less annoyed.  Breaking her from the habit of constantly posting and monitoring will be a bit like breaking any other type of addiction: it’s going to be pretty rough at first then gradually better. Leaving this behavior unchecked will do nothing but make it worse.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for 12 years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California. Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

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