I’m sure all of us have either heard of or experienced “Facebook drama” which usually pivots around romantic relationships and friendships. Often, it’s Facebook that is blamed for these relationship upsets, but I take a different position. I believe social media simply provides a medium for patterns that already exist in individuals and offers opportunity to explore and correct unhealthy relationship dynamics. In my experience as a San Diego therapist, lack of trust, emotional affairs and jealousies are not caused by social media, but are given a bigger platform because of the frequency and type of interactions inherent in social media relationships.
It is true that social media has completely changed the way people relate. We no longer need to be face to face, sound bites have replaced conversation, and 24/7 access is now available into the “world” of others if you have access to their profile and status updates. This in itself is neither good nor bad but will become one or the other depending upon how it is used.
If a person has trouble trusting others, communicating openly, expressing intimacy in the form of vulnerability or coping with insecurities, Facebook can prove quite challenging to say the least. One potential problem is the “snippet of reality” Facebook displays of other peoples’ lives. For the insecure or untrusting person, this snippet of truth will be rewritten and blanks will often be filled in with fears, worries and what-ifs. This insecurity will start to look like reality for that person and that relationship is bound for struggle. Another possible social media pitfall is the potential for quick and passive-aggressive remarks that are intended to “make a point”, hurt another person or move one up the ladder of tit for tat. This would rarely happen as often with face to face dealings, but status updates and “comments” leave a lot of room for this unhealthy way of relating. A third common relationship drama I often hear about in my practice are “Facebook affairs”. Yes, it’s very true that this does happen. But, Facebook does not change the moral fiber of a person and cause them to have an affair. It may make it easier to begin an emotional affair, but as I said, a person’s character and ethical position are not altered by Facebook or any other social media forum. Facebook has been the platform for many infidelities, but the infidelity would surely have been played out elsewhere in a matter of time.
So given the above, what does a person do with this information? One of my mantras is always, “opportunity, opportunity”. I say to myself and others, “don’t worry, if you didn’t get the change correct this time, another opportunity will present itself in due time and you’ll have another chance to get it right”. So, instead of blaming Facebook or other social media, I suggest looking at your role in the relationship dynamics, your reactions and contributions.
Are you a jealous person? If so, explore this and be curious about where the jealousy is coming from. Perhaps consider a completely different stance and stop trying to control what goes on in the cyber world, and instead heal wounds that trigger jealous reactions. Spend less time focusing on others, and start first with yourself.
Do you spend an excessive amount of time on Facebook trying to “piece together stories” of other peoples’ lives or circumstances? Instead, ask the person directly and talk to them face to face or at least on the phone about that which you are wanting answers. Try expressing more of how you’re feeling and question them less about what you think they are doing. Plus, limit the amount of time you spend on social media sites if you are prone to begin creating a picture of reality that might not be accurate.
Are you communicating important relationship matters mostly through text and social media? I suggest going back to communication basics and reserving the meaningful relationship exchange for face to face conversation and dialogue. Reserve Facebook messages and texting for the less important issues. If you have difficulty doing this, I highly recommend examining this and gathering tools which will lead to more effective and meaningful dialogue. Usually there are emotional and relationship wounds of some sort that lead to poor or avoidant communication. Instead of continuing to repeat a harmful behavior, consider going to the source of the problem and tackling the root of the issue.
All in all, social media has given us another medium of expression and it can be used in a very healthy way. If you are finding yourself having bad experiences on Facebook, first check yourself and make sure you’re not part of the problem by asking yourself the above questions. If you feel you’ve taken care of your part, then go ahead and talk to others about how their actions are effecting you.