7 Fundamental Facebook Rules for Successful Relationships
Social Media Divorce Evidence
If you and your partner are constantly arguing about your social media accounts, then it will come as no surprise to learn that sites such as Facebook are increasingly being cited as grounds for divorce. A 2010 survey undertaken by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) identified that 81% of U.S. divorce attorneys had witnessed an increase in the number of divorce petitions associated with social networking sites. Of these cases, 66% cited Facebook as being the primary culprit.
Results from a 2014 study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, concluded that Facebook use is correlated with reduced marital satisfaction and divorce rates. The survey also revealed that frequent use of social networking sites increased acrimony and thoughts of separation.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic Ocean, the trend is pretty much the same. A 2015 survey by British law firm, Slater and Gordon, confirmed that social media was increasingly being cited as a contributing factor in divorce cases. 25% of couples surveyed said that they argued at least once a week about social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Skype or Whatsapp. 15% said they considered social media to be a real threat to their marriage, with Facebook identified as being the biggest danger.
So, what can you do about it? Below are listed some fundamental Facebook rules that you should consider adopting, if you don't want to become another social media statistic.
Using social networking sites is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.— Computers in Human Behavior (2014)
Rule #1: Discuss the Dangers of Social Media
While it sounds pretty obvious, the most important thing that you should do is to have a discussion with your spouse about the potential harm that social networking presents: especially when used inappropriately. Logging into your social media accounts has probably become such a habit that you are not even consciously aware of how often you do it.
Unless you know of someone whose relationship has been adversely affected as a result of these sites, then it is unlikely that you will have given any consideration to the dangers that they can pose. Now is a good time to raise the subject with your partner and consider if your relationship is at risk.
Rule #2: Establish Time Boundaries
While this may sound a little formal, you have been habitually setting boundaries throughout your entire life. More often than not, these boundaries relate to behavior that you consider to be acceptable: both from yourself and others. Everyone has a set of standards that they live by although, compromises are often made to accommodate loved ones.
The first rule that you need to establish is a limit as to how much time you will both spend using social media sites. This should cover the time that you are not together as well as the time that you spend in each other's company.
Also, make a pact not to check your Facebook or Twitter account, every time your phone beeps.There is nothing more annoying than sitting down with someone, only for them to be constantly checking their phone. It makes the other person feel insignificant and unimportant. While this may ruin friendships, it can also wreck your marriage. A study published in the Journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, discovered that people who access Facebook more than once an hour are more likely to experience Facebook related conflict with their romantic partners, than those who don't.
Likewise, you do not have to answer your phone every single time it rings. Of course, you may have children or elderly relatives and it is natural to want to check that everything is ok if they call. However, you do not have to answer the phone to an unknown number. It is probably only someone trying to sell you something. If the call is important they will ring back.
Agree to place your cell phones, laptops and iPads to one side, when spending time alone together, and try talking to each other instead.
Rule #3: Don't Friend Your Exes
While your old relationship may be over, it is rarely a good idea to friend an ex-lover. In a perfect world, everyone would behave like adults and your marriage would be solid enough to withstand any contact with your ex or exes. Unfortunately, life is rarely that black and white.
All relationships go through rough patches. After a while, couples begin taking each other for granted and the passion wanes. Neither takes an interest in their appearance and petty arguments seem the order of the day. It is all too easy to believe that the grass would be greener if you were still together with your ex.
When you come into contact with a former partner, you are stepping into an emotional minefield. You begin to wonder: what if you had stayed together? What would your life be like now? Rather than accept that it would probably be extremely similar to your current relationship, you begin to fantasize about some kind of relationship Utopia.
If you do receive a friend request from an ex, that you want to accept, you first need to do some soul-searching and ask yourself what you hope to achieve by reconnecting. Is it merely nostalgia, or do still carry a torch for them?
Once you are satisfied that your feelings are innocent, then speak to your partner about it. Tell them about the request and ask them if they have any problems with you accepting. Make sure you stress that you would never want to do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable or be disrespectful.
Also, it is never a wise idea to search for your exes on Facebook. Why invite trouble into your life? Remember, you and your ex finished for a reason.
Social media, specifically pictures and posts on Facebook, are now being routinely raised in the course of divorce proceedings— Andrew Newbury - Slater and Gordon Solicitors
Rule #4: Mind Your Status
If you are married or in a long-term relationship, then it is natural for couples to indicate their status as such. This sends out a clear message that you are not looking for anyone else. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to change this in a fit of pique. Every couple has arguments, but changing your status is extremely petty and hurtful.
Also, whatever you do, never block your spouse. All of your posts, photos and comments should be entirely transparent. If you feel the need to conceal anything from your partner, then you need to ask yourself if you are behaving appropriately.
Furthermore, it is a good idea to use a photograph of yourself with your partner as your profile picture. While this may not be entirely essential, you should at least include joint photographs in an album that is accessible to your family and friends.
On average, how many hours a day do you spend on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter?
Rule #5: Never Argue in Public
Airing your dirty laundry in public is rarely a good idea. However, when you do so on the internet, there is a permanent reminder of what was said. While you may regret what you posted, it is difficult to retract your words when they are there in black and white, staring you in the face. Furthermore, you have now shared all of this information with your family, friends and possibly even work colleagues.
Sadly, there are also people who relish drama and upset in other people's lives. Do you really want to give them the satisfaction of knowing what goes on in your marriage?
I know of a newly married couple who posted tirelessly about their perfect relationship, only for it to end a few years later, due to the husband's infidelity. Battle lines were drawn with both sides of the bride and groom's families jumping in with their views on the breakup. I have to confess that it made for compelling reading. Nonetheless, fast forward three months and the couple reconciled. Needless to say, the reunion was not well received. Hurtful comments had been made and not everyone was happy that the couple had got back together.
Just like in the film 'Groundhog Day,' several more months ensued of shared photos of every meal they ate together and every place they visited: until they split up for a second time. Apparently, the husband had not ended his affair and was now leaving his wife to live with his lover.
Take heed. Some things in life need to remain private. If you and your spouse are annoyed or upset with each other, then discuss it behind closed doors.
Rule #6: Don't Disrespect Your Partner
Whatever you do, you should always consider your spouse's feelings before liking or commenting on any posts that your partner may take offense at. As alluded to earlier, you should never conceal anything on your Facebook profile from your partner. If you ever feel the need to hide something, then you must first ask yourself why and secondly, consider the effect your secrecy will have on your partner.
Although not publicly visible, you should also consider how your partner would feel if they were able to read any private messages between you and a member of the opposite sex. Imagine being called away suddenly and leaving these messages visible on your computer screen. Would you be worried or wouldn't you be bothered?
Belittling your partner on social media, whether by posting cruel comments or unflattering photographs, is also another no-no. You must consider their feelings first and foremost. The same applies to their family members and friends. Even if you don't like them, why create unnecessary friction?
Rule #7: Live in the Moment
You don't have to be a fan of mindfulness to realize that there is a lot to be said for embracing life and living in the moment. While social media is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, it is not a platform for you to live your live your life through. Indeed, witnessing how 'perfect' everyone else's relationships appear to be can lead to feelings of resentment and disillusionment.
It is important to remember that there are so many people who use sites such as Facebook to boast about their extravagant lifestyle, their wonderful marriage and their adorable children. In reality, this is often far from the truth. If you scratch beneath the surface, you will discover that they are probably facing exactly the same challenges as yourself.
People who have the impetus to carefully compose these posts are obviously not spending time actually living their lives. Think about it carefully. If you were truly having fun and enjoying your life, why on earth would you feel the need to seek the approval of your friends, family or old classmates? Many people who do this repeatedly, either feel extremely insecure or are trying hard to conceal the truth about their own life.
It is imperative that you do not allow yourself to become obsessed with social media sites. Whatever you do, don't neglect your partner by sitting at the computer all evening interacting with everyone and anyone, except that one special person in your life.
Remember: life is for living, not pretending to be living.
- Valenzuela S., Halpen D. and Katz J. E. Social Network Sites, Marriage Well-Being and Divorce: Survey and State Level Evidence from the United States. Computers in Human Behavior, 2014: 36: 94 -101. [17 August 2017]
- American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) (2013). Big Surge in Social Networking Evidence Says Survey of Nation’s Top Divorce Lawyers. [17 August 2017]
Slater and Gordon (2015). Social Media Is the New Marriage Minefield. [17 August 2017]
Questions & Answers
© 2012 C L Grant