5 Feb 2016

The Impact of Social Media on Intimate Relationships

There is no doubt that technology has always played a part in communication between people. Before Graham Bell invented the telephone, the predominant way people separated by distance could communicate was to write letters, and wait days between each correspondence. Things have changed quite dramatically in the last 20 years with all sorts of technological advancements linking us together in unimaginable ways. Two of the most significant innovations have been the cellular and internet revolutions, which have fundamentally changed the way we interact with one another.

Whilst technology has helped us stay more connected, it has also presented us with a number of challenges. We are far more available to one another than ever before. Our sense of personal space and boundaries has become somewhat diluted and blurred as we have gained greater access to one another through various social interfaces like Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. This has all placed a far greater responsibility upon the individual to manage their ‘online’ activities, in order to preserve privacy and self-determination.

What I have seen in my practice as a psychologist is how there has been a progressive increase in technology related couple problems. The growth in inappropriate online activities with ‘third’ parties, whether it be addiction to online pornography or gambling, cyber-sex, email, texting, internet dating, or Facebook activities, all have an impact on the wellbeing of relationships, as they fundamentally undermine trust. Added to this, the way couples tend to communicate with one another has also been changing with technology. Texting has become the norm. This very often leads to greater misunderstandings as couples dilute their communication to the bare minimum.

I would recommend that couples sit down and consider the influence of technology upon their lives, and discuss how they would like to position themselves in relation to all these ‘outside’ influences. I would also encourage couples to consider their own communication patterns, to ensure that they are really connecting in life-giving ways. Now more than ever, couple counselling is a highly recommended investment that protects and strengthens a couple’s interconnectedness in an increasingly hostile and invasive social milieu.

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