Deciding whether or not social media has a good or bad impact on romantic relationships can be a very conflicting question to answer, especially when looking into several people’s personal experiences and opinions. Like most people, I used to find myself believing that social media and the Internet generally ruins relationships and has very few positive benefits if any at all. After committing myself to a serious, long-distance relationship for the past two years, I now have a much different perception however. Social media and the Internet have been very crucial in the maintenance and growth of our relationship over the past two years while going several weeks a part to only spend time with each other for a weekend here and there. Therefore, I believe it is difficult and unfair to come to a conclusive answer as to whether social media and the Internet is either “good” or “bad” for romantic relationships because everyone has had different experiences. As I said, no person or relationship is the same so it simply becomes difficult coming up with a definite and straightforward answer.
Most research on this subject seems to try to prove how social media affects relationships negatively, but I believe our relationship is different from this and unique. I would argue that social media and the Internet have had a major and positive impact throughout our long-distance separations. Has it been perfect with all sunshine and butterflies? By no means – no! Therefore, instead of trying to compare how our personal experiences compare with outside studies and published research on this topic, I thought it would be a fun twist to compare how my impressions of social media’s impact on our relationship compares with my fiancé’s thoughts. Here, we have the same experiences because we are in a relationship together, but possibly different perceptions which could be fun to unfold! So my question is this, how does my and my fiancé’s impressions of social media’s impact on our relationship compare to each other?
First, I will start with my thoughts of how I believe social media, the Internet, and technology in general has impacted Jake and I’s relationship. My initial thought is that it is almost irreplaceable and we couldn’t live without it. I know that sounds extreme, but I seriously can’t imagine trying to have a romantic relationship with someone and not being able to talk to them every day and share everything with them. Jake and I started to talk and date right when he was finishing up his last semester of school and planning to move back home to farm to work the rest of his life. So from that point forward, we have relied HEAVILY on social media and technology to communicate throughout our journey together of a long-distance romantic relationship.
The Masters of Media at the University of Amsterdam published an article titled: “Relationships 2.0: Social media – Taking the distance out of long distance relationships” and what an accurate point! If you read through the article at: http://mastersofmedia.hum.uva.nl/2011/10/02/relationships-2-0-social-media-taking-the-distance-out-of-long-distance-relationships/ you can find some very interesting points as to some pros and cons of social media and relationships. So many people write about the dangers and criticisms of online interactions, but the same social media can also act in a positive way in our real human relationships as well, as the article suggests. I think this is a common theme as I’ve looked into published articles and outside research on this topic – the negative aspects of social media that are mentioned really haven’t been prevalent in our relationship.
One downfall to social media use that I would agree with is that social networking sites and communicating over technology really doesn’t substitute the human contact and real relationships. It’s a great way to feel a sense of connection when we are a part and keeping in touch is easier, but the value of virtual communication is not even close to physical presence. I’m not sure how Jake feels quite yet about that (because men can be different!), but coming from my point of view I do still feel lonely for his physical presence even though we text, talk on the phone, FaceTime, and Snapchat basically every day. So does communicating via social media and technology with Jake have the same effect as physically being in his presence? Of course not! But… When you don’t have a choice being in a long-distance relationship, I definitely take what I can get. I thought this image pictured to the right was a very cool depiction of how communication for long-distance relationships has evolved over time – It’s a little comical but also accurate! I find myself thinking that I can’t even imagine having to write letters “back in the day” and only hearing from Jake once a week, at best. Well, couples before the “Postal Couple” actually had it even worse than that!
Jake and I are avid users of Snapchat and FaceTime to communicate with each other in a different way than texting or phone calls. I really like it because I think I’m able to receive a greater “taste” of that physical presence by being able to see him versus just communicating to him through a text or phone call where I don’t get that. I also enjoy seeing what he’s up to on the farm that day and things like that. Texting throughout the day can tend to get very repetitive and monotonous so Snapchat is another way to keep in touch throughout the day for a change of routine.
Now in the next breath (which might be one of Jake’s comments ha-ha), is that jealousy can tend to occur. We have never had an actual issue of jealousy in the sense of not trusting each other or an issue with privacy and/or constantly checking up on each other. My kind of “jealousy”, on the other hand, is when we start to hit two or three weeks apart from each other and I wish I was out with him and having fun – I start to get “jealous”, for a lack of a better term. I’ll get a snapchat of him out having a few drinks with our friends in town, and I’ll be sitting there in my apartment by myself, three hours away, and doing homework. Feelings of loneliness and jealousy (or wishing I was there) start to set in. Is this a bad problem to have? I don’t think so… And I think it is probably pretty normal to miss the one you love after being weeks apart and wishing you were with them! I hate to even say it’s “jealousy” because most people’s jealousy stems from taking a picture with a different man/woman, texting someone else, going behind each other’s back, etc. We really don’t run into those issues at all. According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of teens who use social media and have dating experience say social media makes them feel jealous or unsure about their relationship, with 7% feeling this way “a lot.” Roughly two-thirds (68%) do not feel jealous or unsure of their relationship due to social media. This statistic kind of surprised me – I thought there would be more feelings of jealousy among teens using social media in their relationships. The article (http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/01/social-media-and-romantic-relationships/ ) also mentions that “many people in relationships view social media as a place where they can feel more connected with the daily contours of their significant other’s life, share emotional connections and let their significant other know they care – although these sites can also lead to feelings of jealousy or uncertainty about the stability of one’s relationship.” I do believe this to be a pretty accurate statement – For many relationships, those negative aspects can really get in the way and social media can end up doing more harm than good to their relationship.
So now that I got my two cents in, let’s hear from Jake – I’m sure it will be short and sweetJ. To get him to start thinking and talking… I went right ahead and asked the same four questions from the Pew Research site and article but with the added notion that it applies to our long distance separations:
1. Does social media make you feel more connected to your significant other’s life when you spend weeks at a time apart?
Jake said that he does feel more connected to me during our long-distance separations through social media. Although he rarely posts anything on Facebook ever, he likes to see what I’m liking, sharing and posting because he sees it as a direct reflection of my interests and beliefs so he feels like he is continuing to constantly learn about me even when we aren’t in each other’s physical presence. I thought this was a very cool way to look at it.
2. Does social media make you feel like you have a place to show you care about your significant other?
Jake said he doesn’t like to use social media as a way to express his feelings for me and/or to show he cares for me. He would much rather send a personal text message that is just between us. As long as I know he cares, he doesn’t feel the need to share “lovey-dovey” posts with me on our wall for everyone to see – he prefers the privacy and doesn’t feel like the attention needs to be drawn on us. Here, I think he has been thinking mostly about Facebook, but I did remind him that he will send me a snapchats wishing me luck on an exam or that I look beautiful that day… So he does use social media to show he cares to an extent!
3. Does social media make you feel emotionally closer to your significant other?
Jake didn’t know how to exactly answer this but he expressed that he generally doesn’t feel an emotional connection to me through social media. Once I told him to think of other means of social media and technology besides Facebook (like Snapchat, Facetime, or even texting for that matter) he said Snapchat can really provide that sense of physical presence that texting can’t, but we usually don’t have serious, emotional discussions over social media so doesn’t believe it has made us grow emotionally closer together.
4. Does social media ever make you feel jealous or unsure of your relationship?
Jake said he really couldn’t think of times when he has felt really jealous or unsure about our relationship. Maybe the only time is when I go to a college party with my teammates or something like that where other guys are going to be. He said it has nothing to do with not trusting me by any means, but a similar feeling to how I described my “jealousy”. He just starts to miss me and wishes he could be there to go out and spend time with me. He did mention that I probably get a little more bothered by the distance and this sense of “jealousy” is more common coming from me – Which I could definitely agree with actually!
So when looking at Jake’s perceptions of how social media affects our long-distance relationship in comparison to mine, I see a lot of similarities with a few slight differences. I do know that I “crave” that physical presence more and therefore that sense of “jealousy” affects me a little more. I think Snap-chatting, texting, and Face-timing fills that void for him better than it does for me. When it comes down to it, though, we both would agree that social media and communicating via technology does not even come close to being together in-person. That’s where the most emotional and physical feelings really grow – There’s no way to get the full effect over social media. But like I said, when you don't have any other option, you take your best option!