Most of us don’t think twice about sitting down and opening Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram on our phones for a browse session several times throughout the day. While you catch up with your digital relationships, have you ever wondered what you might be missing in your real-life relationships?
The reality is, social media use is playing an increasing role in the deterioration of marriages. A report by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that a third of all divorce filings mention Facebook, whether as the space where the intention to break up was declared, or as evidence against the other spouse.
Your relationship doesn’t have to fall victim to this trend. The best way to safeguard your marriage from becoming a social media casualty is by making sure you and your spouse are on the same page. We’ve listed a few tips to help you get started.
The easiest way to let social media interfere with your marriage is by not acknowledging it. You may not think you have an issue with social media use, but consider this: think of the last typical evening spent at home with your spouse. How much of that time was spent surfing social media? How many direct conversations did you hold with your partner? How much eye contact was made?
To start, you may need to designate specific “no-tech” time when you are spending time with your spouse. Because the fact is, you’re not truly present in the conversation when your eyes are directed toward your device. You might keep up with what is being said, but part of your brain is going to be focused on whatever is on the screen, or else why are you even looking in the first place?
If your spouse asks you to put your phone down, do it! Even if you haven’t planned for “no phone” time, if your partner directly asks you to put it away to talk or simply be present, their wishes should always come first. Be intentional about the time you spend with your spouse–work, children, and a variety of other issues can be enough of a distraction on their own. Don’t add social media to the list as well!
Manage Your Time
If you’re not sure if social media is negatively affecting your marriage, start by actually tracking the amount of time you spend on those sites for an entire day. Pay attention to when that time overlaps with time spent with your spouse, and you might be surprised. A typical “hot button” topic in our therapy room is the amount of time spent on computers or smartphones. How often do you and your spouse argue about “screen time” spent on social media?
Once you’re aware of how much time you actually spend browsing social media, make a conscious effort to cut back. Make sure when you’re spending time with your partner, either at home or out and about, your social media use doesn’t exceed the amount of time spent at full attention to whatever activity you might be engaging with your spouse.
Before you refresh the page or check for notifications, consider why you feel the need to connect with so many other people and tasks before your spouse, who is right in front of you.
Consider the Content
In addition to monitoring the time you spend on social media, have you considered the content you share or post? Before you share an article, or a meme, or post a fun anecdote about what your spouse said in his or her sleep last night, have you considered how they might feel about the content you’re sharing with the world?
Hopefully, since you married this person, you know them pretty well. You know when a subject will push
their buttons, or what might embarrass them without having to check with them first. However, it’s important you always pause before sharing or posting to ensure the content will be respectful of your partner’s wishes and feelings. In any case where you might feel unsure, the best thing to do is just ask! A momentary delay in posting whatever content you might want to share as you wait for their response will always be better than a potentially-damaging argument with your spouse later.
A positive way to use social media content toward your spouse is by building them up with what you post and share. A quick brag about your partner or a special note sent their way can strengthen your relationship, especially when you’re apart.
As soon as you start to feel like social media is being used in secret, whether by you or your spouse, alarm bells should start ringing in your head. You should question the motives behind the activity if you or your spouse feels the need to minimize windows or hide devices when the other person enters a room.
Start by sharing social media passwords and device lock codes with your spouse to achieve complete trust and transparency. If your reasons for using social media are innocent, there should be no reason to keep a password or security code from your partner.
Further, keep yourself accountable by reviewing any private messages you might be sending to others through your partner’s lens. Ask yourself how they might feel after reading the message or how you might feel letting them read it. This can serve as a check to be sure what you’ve written in the message isn’t miscommunicating what you meant.
If you feel like your marriage’s issues with social media go beyond what can be remedied yourself with these tips, you may want to consider speaking with a therapist. Contact us today to schedule a session!