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November 8, 2016

Is Facebook Ruining Your Relationship?

A large number of studies and surveys tell us that Facebook is cited as a factor in anywhere from 25% to 66% of all divorces. In some cases, pictures, check-ins, and tags provide evidence that someone has been lying about something. In other cases, Facebook behavior is part of a larger pattern of bad attitudes, dishonesty, emotional abuse, or infidelity.

Even when a couple is not (yet) divorcing, online behavior is often the basis for some serious arguments. People often think that their spouses have friended inappropriate people. They feel violated when their spouses reveal personal information. They are very upset when their spouses won't share passwords.

Not long ago, I read a post by a woman who was broken-hearted because her husband refused to friend her on Facebook. It was clear from the context that this wasn't the only problem in their marriage, but it was probably the most blatant symptom of trouble. Her husband's vague comments and refusal to discuss the issue seemed suspicious, especially in the context of a relationship that just wasn't what it used to be.

When someone behaves secretively and refuses to explain what the problem is, it's natural to feel hurt and distrustful. Flirting and cheating are oft-cited problems with Facebook, but there are other reasons why someone might resort to blocking a spouse.

Someone who was honest about refusing to accept that friend request might give one of these reasons:
  • My partner posts too many things I don't want to see. Daily cat videos, recipes, silly quizzes, pictures of sunsets, and humorous quotations are filling my news feed when I'd rather see other things that are of real interest to me.
  • I'm in contact with people I'd rather avoid. My partner's relatives and friends, many of whom have strong opinions on various matters, see what I post and make unwelcome comments. Or I see the annoying things they've posted. Or I get a lot of friend requests from people who know my partner, even though they don't really know me.
  • I feel scrutinized. My partner likes and comments on everything I post, often comments on my friends' posts as well, and shares a lot of links with me. The intention is friendly, but I feel like I'm being supervised and don't have any space of my own.
  • For me, Facebook is business, not personal. I'm using my page to promote my career, and I only connect with colleagues. I don't think it looks professional to have family members involved.
  • My privacy gets violated. My partner likes to upload pictures and tag me, or tag me when we go places, but I'd rather not tell everyone everything I do.
  • My privacy gets extremely violated. My partner posts too much information about our home life, even including our money problems or arguments we've had. It's embarrassing and inappropriate.

Some of these problems are very easy to solve, requiring just a click or two. You can hide posts you don't like and tell Facebook to show you less of those things, or to completely block certain sites. You can change your privacy settings so that you can't be tagged unless you agree. You can change your settings so that your posts are seen only by your friends. You can limit who can send you a friend request and quietly dismiss unwanted requests.

Others may require you to have an honest conversation with your spouse. In any relationship, it is important to agree on boundaries. If you have a Facebook page that is business only, perhaps your spouse can "like" the page but not make comments. If you are uncomfortable with your spouse's level of involvement in your online social life, you may need to look inside yourself to understand why you feel that way, as well as working with your spouse to make changes. When it comes to revealing personal information in a public forum, you should both respect each other's privacy on Facebook and other sites.

If you just can't seem to work it out, or if your social media issues are more serious than these, perhaps the best thing would be to quit Facebook altogether. While that may sound extreme, studies have shown that people who leave Facebook are happier and less stressed. That's good for any relationship.

1 smart person said something:

  1. Yes, boundaries. That's the big argument.


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