People love social media and, with more than one-third of American marriages now beginning on-line, it is understandable that this technology is impacting relationships. As a member of the millennial generation, the demographic most commonly using social media, it is my lived experience and my observations that have informed my understanding of this particular topic and allow me to draw some conclusions about the detriments and benefits of social media's impact on relationships.
Social media is more likely to impact the relationships of younger people. This aligns with my experiences, as I and my friends have heavily relied on social media to navigate our respective relationships. Personally, I believe the impact to be generally detrimental. Moreover, I believe that social media fosters inauthentic connections between people, favouring anonymity, anxiety and superficiality, ultimately impacting negatively on relationships. Apps such as Tinder, which allow users to judge whether or not they want to talk to someone based solely on looks, are essentially glorified “hot or not” games, perpetuating the notion that it is acceptable to judge someone on physical appearance alone. In short, social media has changed the way we communicate with each other, leading to a decline in healthy face-to-face communication.
Studies have shown this link between social media and a decline in positive relationship experiences is well established, again aligning with my personal experiences and observations. An example is the continuously increasing accounts of intimate partner cyberstalking, made possible by the rise of media technology, which cultivates anxiety in an intimate relationship. Additionally, social media often provides unrealistic role models for expected behavior in relationships, further exacerbating each partner's anxiety.
In my opinion, there are myriad negative ways in which social media impacts relationships, however I also recognize that there are ways in which this technology can enhance and enrich these relationships. For example, through the use of social media, partners have multiple avenues for communication, making them feel closer and more connected. Extrapolating this, social media has also made it easier for people to connect with a like-minded people through online communities, or maintain a long-distance intimate relationship. Again though, this technology can have divergent impacts; it is incredibly easy to connect with someone online, although conversely it is just as easy to disconnect from someone completely.
The positive or negative impact of social media on a relationship is determined by each partner's capacity to manage, monitor, and reflect on its use. When considering that poor relationship satisfaction and inadequate responsiveness from one's intimate partner is associated with increased boundary crossing through the facilitation of social media, it is easy to see why partners need to emphasize face-to-face communication and reflection.
If society changes it's attitudes about social media, treating online interactions with the same regard as face-to-face encounters, there would be a shift toward positive impacts on relationships. However, I do not see this happening any time soon, so I remain resolute in my belief that social media is negatively impacting relationships.