With internet and easy access to computers, we have a plethora of ways to communicate that didn’t exist prior – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a bunch of other means that those of you with teenagers know the names of. Social media has brought together people who would not have otherwise met, reconnected people who would not have found their way back to each other, and provided people answers to questions by just tapping a few buttons. It has also brought people together who should have never met, reconnected people who should have stayed unconnected, and provided conflicting answers to questions in a way which left people confused.
So is social media good or bad for marriage? That’s like asking if a knife is a good or bad. A knife is a handy tool for cutting food into bite size portions, releasing dolphin entangled in net, or whittling down small branches for marshmallow toasting. It’s a good tool. The same knife can be used to slash tires, pop a child’s balloon, inflict pain on a body. It’s an evil tool.
A knife is a knife. It’s neither good nor evil. But how it’s used can be helpful or destructive. We control how it’s used. You see where I’m going with this, right? We can use social media in a way that enhances marriage or destroys marriage.
As a Family Law attorney, I have a front row seat to witnessing devastation caused by misuse of social media. Following are four bad ways to use it.
1. “Catching up with” old flames. You tell yourself you’re going to see if they’re online – just to see what they’re up to. There they are! You tell yourself you’ll just say ‘hi.’ It’s okay to just check in and see how they’re doing, right? No. It’s not. Would it be okay with you if you found out your spouse was ‘facebooking’ with a prior romantic partner? Most people don’t plan to have a physical or emotional affair – intimacy evolves one innocent step at a time. Don’t take the first step.
2. Criticizing a spouse online. There is no good venue to criticize your mate. But doing so online is the worst of bad, because it’s permanent. You have your little vent. You justify making a snarky remark online by telling yourself your mate never gets online anyway and others will think it’s funny. How funny would you find it if you were the subject of said snark? And long after you are on the other side of your tiff, others will still have the perception of your mate that you gave them in a moment of anger.
3. Sharing too much personal information. Social media is not a diary. If you feel the need to talk about what’s going on in your marriage, your financial information, family discord, or other topics that would make your mate wince if they knew you shared, find an outlet other than the public forum of social media. Seek out a trusted friend, a respected counselor, or a lovely journal wherein you can write to your heart’s content.
4. Spending too much time on it. Many a good thing becomes a bad thing by becoming excessive. Think shopping, eating, alcohol, prescription drugs. Examine your social media habits. Are you are missing out on family moments? Have you stopped going to bed at the same time with your mate? Are you secretive or defensive about the amount of time you spend on the computer? Has the issue caused arguments with your spouse?
Used with care, social media is a wonderful tool. In addition to making new friends, staying connected with existing relations, and being exposed to a world of topics you would not otherwise encounter, it can be used to enhance your marriage. Here are four ways:
1. Brag about your spouse. Post a picture of that delicious pasta dish your husband whipped up. Or that yard sculpture your wife made out of garden tools. Publicly congratulate them on their achievements.
2. Connect with your spouse. Facebook them a birthday greeting – complete with a post of that adorable picture from a long-ago birthday. Tweet them the haiku that you came up with to say “Happy Anniversary.” Send them a no-occasion “you are the best” message.
3. Share your family adventures. From recipes to vacations, there is plenty of fodder to share publicly that celebrate your marriage. Adventures don’t have to be exotic – whether you’re dating your mate (for free) or cooking up something new, adventure can result from attitude.
4. Update people who care. During challenging times social media can be a gift for those who appreciate the support of others but who are unable to interact with each individual. Updating friends and family on how a job search is going or the progression of health issues can result in receiving marriage-sustaining support and assistance.
Social media is a powerful tool. How we choose to use it can have a significant effect on our marriage. We need to control our use of it, so it doesn’t control us. Use it thoughtfully. Be selective. And remember to, on occasion, use it to celebrate your mate!