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How Social Media Affects Couples
And how the equality of women leaves guys without dates
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As promised last week, here we go. How does social media affect relationships, especially couples? Let’s take a closer look. If you can’t wait to find out why equality of women leaves guys without dates, skip to the Food For Though section below.
We spend a lot of time on social media. Depending on who’s doing the research, in the US, on average, people spend 97 min/day to 2.14 hours per day. That’s a lot, and a lot can happen while we scroll through the feeds of various platforms.
The obvious thing – comparison.
Even though we know that people curate their online image, couples can still fall into the trap of comparing their relationships to others on social media. Perhaps, they feel like other couples have more fun, take better vacations, live in better homes, show more affection and love each other more. Someone’s beautiful flower bouquet or “amazing” birthday celebration may cause others to question if their own partner cares just as much. Despite the glamour and the exciting adventures, couples portray, remember that you do not know what happens behind the scenes.
Comparison with others on social media amounts to a recipe for perpetual disappointment, envy, and even unfairly accusing your partner of not caring. You may even perceive them to be not good enough, not clever enough, not romantic enough, not attractive enough, not creative enough, etc. If insecure about quality time spent together, comparing your life to the curated life of other couples may exacerbate the insecurity. It can fuel resentment and arguments.
This study concludes that excessive social media use leads to dissatisfaction in romantic relationships, conflicts, and negative outcomes.
“…we found that increased IG usage reduced relationship satisfaction, which led to an increase in both conflicts and negative outcomes. The sequential effects of reduced relationship satisfaction and increased conflicts then triggered addictive use of IG. In contrast, tendency to make sacrifice for the relationship partner in everyday life produced a positive effect on relationship satisfaction, which in turn reduced the likelihood of conflicts, negative outcomes, and addiction.”
The least obvious thing next – boundaries.
What someone does with their social media account may be completely unknown to their partner. Snooping around to keep tabs on high school crushes, flirting with others, or getting straight up explicit behind the scenes can remain unnoticed for a very long time. Sometimes, these behaviors can escalate to major emotional events in real life, though. What starts out with curiosity and supposedly innocent likes and comments can acquire a life of its own that may seem more exciting or alluring than the relationship the person is actually in. The other partner may find out and feel betrayed and left out.
Even though many of these connections will never transcend cyberspace, they can still rise to the level of infidelity and still hurt the other person. The time spent maintaining contact and nurturing that online relationship is time taken away from the person’s actual relationship, keeping one focused on their phone instead of the people around them. Distracted and addicted to online interactions, one can become irritable, preoccupied, and unavailable for real-life connections.
At the same time, some people already dissatisfied with their relationships may turn to social media to distract themselves or to line something up on “the back burner” before deciding how to handle their relationship problems. Sadly, having a back door could possibly make people feel less committed to working things out. In addition, it may give them a false sense of security or confidence in how successful they will be in finding a better relationship.
The unconscious thing – pressure
Seeing how frequently others post updates and what kind of updates can create pressure on couples to keep up with the social media Joneses. People can feel pressured to do things and document everything they do in the most fun and flattering way possible in a bit of an unconscious competition. No one wants to feel like their life is not that interesting, and convincing a bunch of strangers online that you have it going on must be the cure.
In last week’s post, I said that people who are insecure about their romantic relationship post more frequent updates and glorify their partners and life together the most. This is because the likes and comments they get on their posts validate that they have what they want. It also commits their partner to being together even when the other person doesn’t feel the same way or to the same extent. In other words, portraying the relationship in a particular light obligates the other person to live up to it. Some people try. Others retaliate. Either way, this kind of thing can be a manipulation strategy. It can be just a form of insecurity, or both.
Data shows that most often, women describe their husbands on Facebook as “the best, the greatest, so cute, and adorable.” But the most searched words by women on Google are “My husband is a jerk, annoying, mean, and not having sex with me.”
Yep. Just for shits and giggles, I decided to run my own search and have Google autofill the sentence “My husband is….” These are the results. So, unless all the nice husbands live on Facebook and the crapy ones live in the real world, there’s no way to reconcile the discrepancy.
“Always angry, yelling at me, depressed, boring, verbally abusive, lazy, selfish, and not attracted to me.”
The annoying thing – past relationships
Everyone’s social media feed reads like a history book of who, what, where, and when, unless one wishes to scrub their social media timeline clean of any mention of past relationships. Usually, people don’t bother to do that. They often remain “friends” and continue to “follow” their exes. They may continue to share the same social circles and stay connected through children, friends, or work. They may comment and react to each other’s posts. Other mutual friends sometimes comment or react to an ex’s content. An insecure partner may have a serious problem with this “continuity” and give the other person a hard time. They may compare themselves to the ex. Or compare their life experience now to the life the partner had with the ex and extrapolate how much the person cares. This can be an endless source of fights and drama.
Sometimes, it’s not even an ex that triggers a partner’s insecurity and jealousy. It could be a random good-looking person, a successful one, someone in some way perceived as better, or a threat that the partner interacts with on social media. They may not even know each other in real life. The interactions can be superficial and still trigger jealousy.
The positive thing – connections
Couples can stay connected with other couples and plan and share experiences. They can swap memories, get ideas, and discuss future adventures. In addition, they can organize events, participate in each other’s philanthropic causes, and share information. They can support each other through hard times, follow each other’s progress, and share kid pictures. As a result, people feel like their community is much bigger, more vibrant, and more inclusive. They may even make friends with each other’s friends.
Social media is a great way to spread the word, from what to watch to where to eat to what businesses to support and rant about bad experiences. People find babysitters, recommendations for car mechanics, and get involved in group fitness all over social media.
It’s definitely not all bad.
What can couples do to minimize the potentially harmful effects of social media?
Remain honest, transparent, and communicate with each other.
If you’re doing something and hiding it, you shouldn’t be doing it. So, stop.
Build good quality time together to nurture your relationship, so no one feels threatened or left out.
Monitor social media use and minimize it. It’s easy to overdo it.
Work on individual insecurities to prevent unnecessary conflicts.
What is NOT necessary and actually intrusive
Give access to your social media accounts to your partner. If they ask for it to keep tabs on you, they already don’t trust you. If you have a history of sneaking behind their back, they may have a good reason not to trust you. Still, this is not the best way to rebuild trust. You may consider it to keep the peace, though, and prove yourself. If you have no such history and you’ve never done anything to cause your partner not to trust you, perhaps your partner is just an insecure and/or controlling person. Perhaps, this is not a relationship you should be in.
Delete all past relationship history – see above about an “insecure and/or controlling person.”
Fear retaliation from your partner if you like, comment, or in other ways engage with your ex, your ex’s friends-in-common, etc. – see above about an “insecure and/or controlling person.”
Feel the need to explain your social media interactions to your partner all the time - see above about an “insecure and/or controlling person,” unless you have an addictive personality and are clearly addicted to social media, continue to use it despite promising not to.
I can probably keep going on this subject, but let’s stop here. You get the point. Social media is here to stay, but you don’t have to let it ruin your life.
Instead, let’s look at some interesting consequences of equality on the dating life of women… Guys should pay attention, too.
As a result of changing laws and social norms leveling the playing field for women in society and the labor market, together with the invention of birth control, we now have more and more ambitious women who deliberately postpone having children until they have their desired education and career in place.
But the flip side is that successful women have a harder time finding partners later in life. Successful, smart, accomplished women end up with very few satisfactory choices for mates, as per evolutionary psychology. So, there’s a slew of single women 45 and up who can’t find a date! Not because there are no single guys.
It’s because there are no single guys worth their time!
This has never happened in the history of humanity before. Usually, as a dependent and disadvantaged group, women have historically relied on marriage to become secure and move up in society. In fact, the less egalitarian a society is, the more polygeny exists within it. Successful and wealthy men can have all the women they want and can support, usually scooping up women much younger than themselves. Not so for the guys at the bottom of the economic and social scale.
From a woman’s perspective in such restrictive societies, it’s better to be the 2nd or 3rd wife of a very wealthy guy than to be the one and only wife of someone who’s broke and not upwardly mobile. It sounds calculating, but in reality, it’s all about genes and survival.
Don’t judge. Read some anthropology and evolutionary psychology and consider this with an open mind.
In more egalitarian societies, women get picky. Rightfully so, I think. After all their hard work to get to where they are, no way will they end up with a loser, even if he’s hansom. It’s not that it never happens because it sure does. But usually, it doesn’t happen. So, many professional, independent women choose to remain single and forgo the desire to raise a family than end up in a relationship with someone way below their payscale… literally.
This leaves many single guys on dating sites complaining that women put on their profiles stuff like, “I am financially independent and secure and want my partner to be, too.” It turns out that sleeping on the parents’ couch used to be overlooked by horny teenage girls when guys used to be babyfaced, had all their hair, and a promise of a great future ahead. Not so, at 40 or 50.
It’s not all about money either. Women have PhDs, incredible life experiences, travel, own property, etc, so they want their partners not just to be able to afford all those amazing trips but to be engaging, interesting, funny, intelligent, creative, etc.
Women have long lists of what they want in a guy because now they can!
Meanwhile, old dudes in dusty judicial robes want to roll back protections for women and jeopardize their social achievements.
Are they afraid that if dumped by their wives, they will never get a date again?
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