Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marriages and Social Media: What is Unfair to Share?

I find it fascinating to think about the affects that social networking has on our everyday relationships, including marriages. Spouses can declare their love for each other, complain about each other, and outright fight - all without being in close proximity.

A recent New York Times piece by Laura M. Holson calls social networking a "new source of online friction" for some couples, and begs the question, "what is fair game for sharing with the world?"
If one half of a couple is not interested in broadcasting the details of a botched dinner or romantic weekend, Facebook postings or tweets can create irritation, embarrassment, miscommunication and bruised egos.
Couples may benefit from having a discussion about what is acceptable online behavior when it comes to the relationship. Is it OK to sharing embarrassing photos, complain about one another, brag (or gripe) about finances, or comment about a spouses' medical procedure? Is one-half of the couple extra sensitive about jokes made using him as subject matter? Can you trust the other person to keep private matters private? What happens if the relationship ends bitterly, and your former significant other wants to ruin your reputation using social networks as a platform?

An earlier article in the New York Times investigated what relationship spats look like on Facebook.
For most couples, the temptation to publicly slander each other is overpowered by the instinct to prove to their friends how happy they are, reality notwithstanding. But for others, arguing in front of others comes as naturally as slamming doors.
And as it relates to marriage and social networking, Michael Vincent Miller, psychologist and author of “Intimate Terrorism: The Crisis of Love in an Age of Disillusion” says:
Today, popular representations of marriage tend toward “two very self-protective egos at war with one another... each wanting vindication and to be right by showing that the other is wrong.”
I've seen Facebook relationship statuses change from "married" to "single," and I know immediately when some friends suddenly head for divorce. Online bickering is a little awkward for me, as a friend of the couple (please don't expect me to comment or take sides). I've seen online love declarations, and I wondered if it feels easier to say "I love you," on a social network than in person.

Thankfully, my husband and I both shy away from sharing much on Facebook, and we don't belong to any other social networks except LinkedIn, which is certainly not the forum to share personal thoughts, feelings and disagreements. We probably don't work on our marriage like we should, but at least we don't have to worry about throwing online drama into the mix.

I also wonder about what's in store for my kids. Hopefully they'll be seasoned enough to understand the risks of sharing relationship details via social networks. I hope they'll be able to have candid discussions with a boyfriend or spouse about expected online behavior, or at least have thick enough skin to deal with online mishaps or breaks in trust. Responsible online behavior will likely have to be a criteria for selecting a partner...as if there needed to be anything else added to the list.

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