Social media can get a bad rap. Try connecting online with your partner instead of checking in with others first. You may find a more authentic connection.
Around the world, 1.39 billion of us use Facebook daily. We already send birthday greetings, birth announcements, well wishes, congratulations, event invitations, how about divorce papers?
A judge in New York has paved the legal way for Facebook to be a legitimate way to serve your summons for divorce. With social media as an integrated and ubiquitous facet of daily life, the trend to capitulate to the convenience of social one-stop shopping is real.
While our online personal storefronts are often perceived as inauthentic window dressing, the way we relate to what we see on social media is deeply impactful. As we all continue to to depend on digital communication as a valid, necessary method for connection, we will all need to adapt the skills to use that method authentically to support healthy relationships.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are not going away, but will continue to evolve. We will either learn to relate using these tools as an enhancement of real connection or we will fall further into expedient pseudo-communication.
As a relationship coach, I have heard the lament that social media is to blame for couples’ troubles. I have seen the emotional carnage of couples that perceived connections via social media as not having the same gravity as meeting face-to-face. What is clear is online interactions are as authentic as we make them. There are real world consequences to our digital world interactions.
We need to realize that feeling of distance from the emotional consequences of online communication is a figment of our imagination. While we are still learning how to utilize these newer tools for communication, our skills have not caught up. So many of us remain in a digital communication adolescence where we feel safer passing the note in class instead of employing direct, honest communication regardless of the medium we use to do it.
It is time to grow up and reject the habits of pseudo-communication by viewing social media as exactly what it is: real human-to-human connection. It will be as useful to our relationships as we make it. We just need to learn how.
Habits of digital communication can enhance rather than detract from quality relationship communication. It is just a matter of relating to the actual humans behind those profile pictures when you are texting and posting. That can take a cognitive and emotional shift to behave in the digital world just as you would if you were in the physical presence of your partner or anyone else.
In my office, I often hear from clients that their time on social media is used as an escape. Anytime we are adopting an escapist mindset, we are not mindfully present. Any relationship viewed through that escapist lens will be an unbalanced, unrealistic picture of what that relationship is.
The medium is not what causes the discrepancy between escape and reality, our escapist mindset that does. Tuning into the full spectrum of human experience regardless of how you interact helps resist that fairy tale that warps reality.
All relationships are stronger and healthier when we show up in a whole and authentic way. We can blame Facebook for the downfall of relationships all we want, but that is simply abdicating responsibility for our own behavior. Shocking as it may seem, people have been cheating on their partners for millennia. While the means may be closer at hand, let’s not embarrass ourselves by claiming digital communication dictates our choices.
Social media will endure, so now is your chance to learn to use it as an asset to your relationships, rather than the liability that conventional wisdom says it is. In the last decade helping people create fulfilling partnerships, I have encouraged clients to embrace all types of communication. More quality communication means a stronger, healthier relationship foundation. And that foundation is fortified with every interaction.
Here are five ways to use social media to support quality relationship communication:
1. Negotiate how you use it together.
Have the conversation about what works best for each of you then honor each other’s wishes. Do you prefer Facebook? Instagram? Texting privately? How much detail are you each comfortable sharing? What professional concerns do you each have to consider when posting activities? How does it feel to be in contact with former partners?
Talk it all out. Find common ground then honor your partner’s wishes. Check in periodically to see what continues to work for you both and what you may need to tweak.
2. Find a mutually agreeable level of transparency.
Decide what amount of privacy each of you expects to maintain. Do you know each other’s passwords? Can you browse a partner’s texts? Can you ask to see interactions on social media that happen behind the scenes? Asking all of these questions ahead of time avoids the scenario of tackling these concerns during a time of high emotion or trouble.
Trust is paramount in all relationships. While we all have individual lives, choosing how much you openly share with each other is an important point for mutually negotiated agreement.
3. Prioritize interactions with your partner.
Agree to prioritize your partner’s communication in every way. Communicate in a way that makes your partner feel loved and special. Answer their texts first. Celebrate them on social media. Portray them in their best light as you would want to be treated. Recognize that digital communication is a real reflection of your emotional connection.
4. Use face-to-face communication first.
Digital communication is not a replacement for face-to-face communication. Resist the urge to say the hard things via text. Practice saying the hard things and the beautiful things to each other in person. Plan explicit time for talking about your relationship without distraction. Allow text and social media to be the bonus. Physical connection and conversations allow for the most complete understanding of the context made up of eye contact, non-verbals, and loving touch.
5. Mindfully recognize that behind every interaction is a human connection.
When you receive those digital messages, really receive them. Stop and picture your partner sending the message. When you send a message, pause and hold your partner in your mind for a moment picturing them reading your thought. Honor each other as whole human beings even as you tap out words on a keyboard. Remember that send button is a conduit for real, authentic connection.
Adapting to connecting authentically in our digital world is not optional. Those who focus intention on building social media savvy relationships will find greater fulfillment as we ride this trend of constant connectivity. Make it work for you.
This article was originally published with the Good Men Project; republished with the kindest permission.
[image: via shutterstock]
About the Author
Krista Hammerbacher Haapala is a passion instigator and pleasure advocate. As a sex and relationship coach, she supports humans of every stripe in creating fiercely fulfilling lives. Krista finds her own edge daily as a CrossFitter, mountain biker, and a poet. Living in Maine a few steps from the woods, she is the mama of two sons and partner to her Love, Brian. Connect with her at KristaHaapala.com.