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Social Media & Relationships: 47 Rules, Etiquette & Where Couples Go Wrong

Do you think that social media is ruining your relationship? Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are fun, but not when they get between you and your partner.

social media and relationships

Most people have a love-hate relationship with social media. And one of the “hate” parts is how it can negatively impact romantic relationships.

Decades ago, this wasn’t an issue. But now, it’s an integral part of our society for most people. With new technological advances come new technological threats to your relationship and social life.

In some cases, some people might be a little too obsessed with social media, and it might be hurting their romantic relationships. Could you be one of those people? [Read: Social media addiction – the 16 alarming symptoms & how to break out]

Is social media a threat to your relationship?

Research has shown that social media can affect the quality of our relationships. In fact, one survey of 205 Facebook users found that a higher level of social media usage was associated with less satisfaction in people’s relationships.

It also found that those relationships experienced Facebook-related conflict, such as feeling frequent feelings of jealousy

Even if the couple breaks up, social media makes it more difficult for a person to heal and move on. In fact, checking an ex’s profile led to more distress over the breakup, more negative feelings, and less personal growth. [Read: The toxic dangers of social media & 19 signs and ways it makes you insecure]

Social media habits that are ruining relationships

There are actually a number of things that make Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites a bane to modern relationships.

1. Oversharing

While you may think it’s okay to tell the world of Twitter or Facebook that you’ve just had the most outrageous fight with your boyfriend, he may not think it’s so cool to be so connected. 

If you’re the type to overshare, you may be alienating your mate by being the one who shares every tiny detail of what’s going on in your life.

In reality, oversharing fights through social media is not only both childish and disrespectful, but it’s also rude. [Read: Big girlfriend habits that guys hate]

2. You never stop checking your phone 

Are you obsessed with social networking? Are you consistently checking your Instagram, YouTube, Texts, and Twitter via your cell phone? 

There’s nothing more annoying than trying to have a conversation with your romantic partner, while they’re checking their phone for the latest updates. [Read: Phubbing – what it is, 18 reasons why we phub, and ways to stop it ASAP]

3. Friends list drama

Friend lists can be one of the biggest stress factors in a relationship, whether it’s new or long-term. Imagine your girlfriend is friends with 200 guys, most of which leave sexual or flirtatious comments on her newest pictures. 

Not exactly the most secure feeling for a partner. Or what if your boyfriend is friends with a girl you absolutely hate or worse: his ex? [Read: The types of toxic people you don’t need in your friends’ list]

4. The jealousy factor

If you find your mate chatting with members of the opposite sex through social media on a regular basis, you may have reason to worry. This worry can lead to paranoia, jealousy, snooping, and fights. 

Snooping into your mate’s social media account or their friends’ pages can be one of the most terrifying experiences for a couple. 

5. It makes you narcissistic

Facetime and Skype are just new ways we look at our own reflections, isn’t it? How many people choose their chatting partner to have the bigger Skype window? 

Not to mention, those with huge followings on social media may start to let their “likes” go to their head. 

The attitude that you are all-important and ultra-popular can make your partner see just how self-involved you are. [Read: 16 attention whore signs you should watch out for]

6. The invitation to flirt

Using social media is like having a formal invitation to flirt. It’s as simple as using too many emoticons or carrying on too long with someone commenting on your picture. [Read: Friendly vs. flirty – 34 subtle flirting signs to tell if someone is flirting with you]

Maybe you view these interactions as innocent, but what about the random guy who was searching the hashtag #Blonde and happened to come upon your hot photo? 

Always think about your partner when you have these interactions online. If you reversed the situation and stumbled upon a chat between your boyfriend and a girl who was flirting with him via an Instagram photo, how would you feel?

7. The ex-effect

Yes, your ex existed and your new beau will just have to get over that fact. But does he or she need to see tagged pictures of your ex slammed all over his newsfeed? [Read: Are you still obsessing over your ex online?]

The fact is that many people stay friends with their ex on social media, and it’s usually an invitation to disaster. The past should stay in your past, especially if you are trying to move on with your future.

8. Cheating

This is the big one, the full Monty of social media woes: cheating, and its unfortunate ties to social media. Think about it, if you’re a man and you see a hot girl walking down the street, you see her once. No harm done.

But on social media? You can stalk her photos and keep her in your mind and your consciousness from the comfort of your tablet screen. [Read: Horrible things emotional cheating can do to your relationship]

9. Revealing too much

You can reveal too much in your relationship even without words. Revealing too much can take the form of posting sexy and suggestive photos that you’re better off sexting to your partner. 

This can spark jealousy and insecurity from your partner, especially if you have male friends—or even strangers if your photos are public—liking and commenting on your photos.

Putting your body out there in a suggestive way, when it should be kept private and for your partner’s eyes only, can trigger negative feelings from your partner and cause you to fight with each other. [Read: Things you do on Facebook that makes you look really pathetic]

10. Flipping out

Your partner posts something random and seemingly harmless, yet you overthink it. 

Each time they post something on social media, whether it’s their food *Who did you have dinner with?*, their selfie *Where were you in that picture?*, a quote *What’s that all about? Is that about me?*, or anything else, you’re always bound to think it’s about you or your relationship.

You will find yourself unnecessarily on your toes, or restless because of the ghosts you have conjured. Step back, relax, and let them be. [Read: How to stop overthinking – secrets to go from overthinker to relaxer]

11. Passive-aggressive posts

Posting on Facebook instead of talking directly to your partner can make matters worse, instead of better. Posting vague statuses and quotes on Facebook, and hoping your rather oblivious and dense partner will notice and change isn’t really going to work.

Open communication is key in any relationship, so if you have a problem with your partner, talk to them directly instead of posting about it on social media. 

Besides, your petty rants and subliminal messages will accomplish nothing but annoy your friends. [Read: Things couples should stop doing on social media]

12. Facebook official

For some people, relationships aren’t real unless they’re “Facebook official.” There are countless fights about Facebook statuses when one party changes their status to “in a relationship,” and the other remains “single.” 

In the age of social media, there’s always pressure to let other people *the world* know what your status is or what you’re up to. [Read: Facebook official relationship – is your guy ready for it?]

Signs social media is affecting your relationship

Now that you know some of the things that social media can do to ruin relationships, do you know if yours is affected or not? Here are the signs to know for sure.

1. Decreased quality time together 

When a couple is together face-to-face, they should be focusing on each other and not be distracted by anything else. This is particularly in the evenings, which should be time for the two of you to reconnect at the end of the day.

So, if one or both of you constantly has your face in your phone and rarely look up to talk, then that is a problem. You are emotionally drifting apart if that is happening. [Read: 60 best free date ideas to have a romantic time without spending money]

2. A feeling of distance or disconnect

If you said yes to the last point, then this means that you are feeling disconnected or distant from your partner. With all the other people to “talk” to on social media, it is a bad sign if you feel like you’re not talking with your partner anymore.

3. Learning about important events in your partner’s life through social media instead of directly from them

As we’ve said, couples should talk to each other. In fact, your partner should be the first person you want to talk to when something good – or bad – happens in your life. They should be your safe place. 

So, if you learn about your partner’s life on social media, then there is definitely something wrong. That is a really bad sign. [Read: 70 seriously deep questions to ask your boyfriend to form a real bond]

4. Obsessively checking your partner’s social media to make sure they are not doing something you disapprove of

Maybe you have a gut feeling that your partner is guarding his or her phone a little closely lately. While it might not be anything, you feel the need to check their social media for any clues that they are doing something wrong.

This is not healthy. Trust needs to be the foundation of a relationship, and if you don’t trust your partner on social media, then the partnership could turn toxic – if it isn’t already.

5. An increase in conflict regarding social media use, posts, etc.

Your partner is always watching what you’re doing on social media and vice versa. So, if you are having a lot of fights concerning your postings, pictures, or friends’ comments, then that is a problem.

Social media should not come between the two of you. It should just be something fun that you use from time to time. It shouldn’t be something that creates conflict in your relationship. [Read: How to resolve conflict – the 15 best ways to cut out the drama]

6. Secrecy between the two of you regarding your social media accounts

Secrecy is a huge downfall of relationships. That’s because it breaks trust. And without trust, a relationship cannot survive long-term. So, if you are being secretive or if your partner is, that is not good.

There shouldn’t be anything you’re doing on social media that you have to hide from your partner. If there is, then you know you’re doing something wrong. [Read: Sneaky people – 20 subtle signs and what defines sneaky behavior in someone]

7. Negative body image issues

Maybe one or both of you are following hot people on social media. It could be someone you know, or it could just be a total stranger or celebrity. 

If there is too much liking and commenting on these hot people’s profiles, then there is bound to be a comparison that goes on. Social media is full of unrealistic standards that normal people can’t live up to. [Read: How to build self-esteem and love life with simple life changes]

How to navigate social media as a couple

No one wants social media to come between them and their partner. So, what can you do as a couple to avoid the pitfalls? Here are some great ideas.

1. Set boundaries regarding social media time

Parents set boundaries for their children regarding how much screen time they can have per day. So why not do the same with your partner? 

This might sound a bit much, but not only will it help you a couple, but limiting your time on social media might actually help your mental health too. [Read: Boundaries in a relationship – 43 healthy dating rules you MUST set early on]

2. Plan quality time together weekly

Life is busy for most people. So, it’s understandable that you might not get as much time together as you want. That’s why you need to plan for it. 

But that doesn’t mean sitting on the couch next to each other on your phones. Put technology away and talk so you can stay connected to one another.

3. Be aware of what you are posting

Your parents might have told you as a child, “Think before you speak.” And that is great advice. You don’t want to say anything that you regret and can’t take back. 

Well, too many people don’t think before they post, too. Not only should you think about how your posts reflect on you as a person, but you should also think about how it will affect your partner and the both of you as a couple. [Read: 37 rules to be a good partner in a relationship and better your love life]

4. Be transparent & honest

If you are trying to hide something that you are doing on social media, then you are doing something wrong. It doesn’t even have to be cheating. It could be something like following and commenting on too many hot people.

A good rule of thumb is to not do anything that you wouldn’t want to tell your partner that you’re doing. If you want to keep it a secret from them, then you have crossed the line and trust could be broken. [Read: Signs of dishonesty in a relationship that push couples apart]

5. Communicate & find compromises when needed

Neither you nor your partner is a mind reader. What you find acceptable or unacceptable when it comes to social media might not be the same for them. 

So, that’s why you need to talk to each other about it. Talk about what boundaries you would like your partner to follow and see if you can come up with comprises if the two of you aren’t on the same page.

6. Try a social media detox

Many people do detoxes for their bodies, and there’s a good reason for that. Detoxes get rid of a lot of toxins that can make your body sick – and they work. So, why not try a social media detox too?

Completely cutting out social media from your life can be very freeing and good for your mental health. Plus, you can now focus on the things that really matter in life – you and your partner. [Read: Social media detox – ways to wean yourself off social media]

7. Delete apps from your phone

If you find it difficult to stick to a social media detox, then just do all the way and delete the apps off your phone. That way, you won’t be able to give in to the temptation and engage with social media. 

Sure, you can always ace them if you have a laptop or iPad, but it will be more of an effort to do so. You won’t have social media at your fingertips in your pocket or your hands.

8. Prioritize quality time without social media

As we mentioned earlier, you should have quality time with your partner. Go out on dates, and talk to each other like you did at the beginning of the relationship. 

This should be a priority in your life. Who wants to be with a person who would rather be on social media than go out on dates with you? Probably no one. So, hold you and your partner accountable for quality time together. 

9. Check in with your partner before you post about them or your relationship

You might have some very loose boundaries when it comes to social media. In fact, some people think that “anything goes.” But there are a lot of people who don’t feel that way. [Read: How to communicate with your spouse without resentment or fighting]

These people might value their privacy a lot more and don’t want their personal lives out there for everyone to see. So, check with your partner before you post anything about them or your relationship, and that includes photos too.

10. Don’t snoop through your partner’s social media

As you know, trust is the foundation of any healthy and loving relationship. So, it’s important to build and maintain trust with your partner as much as possible.

With that being said, don’t snoop around on your partner’s social media. It’s almost like you’re going around looking for trouble if you do. Just let them have their privacy, and they should give you yours too. [Read: Snooping in relationships – are you snooping?]

11. If you wouldn’t do it in person, then don’t do it online

This should be an obvious one for most people, but sometimes it’s not. A lot of people think that it’s important to get attention from strangers on social media so they might do some outrageous things that they wouldn’t normally do.

But if you wouldn’t do it in person in real life, then don’t do it online. Just keep some things private, because that’s the healthy thing to do.

12. Tone and intent are harder to gauge online, so give your partner the benefit of the doubt

Body language is so important when it comes to communication. In fact, it accounts for most of the meaning of a message – even more so than the words that are spoken. [Read: Emoji sexting – 30 emojis to make any text seem extra flirty and naughty]

So, just remember that when your partner does or says things on social media, it’s more difficult to discern what their intent and tone are. Just give them the benefit of the doubt and don’t assume the worst before you actually ask them about it.

13. There’s more to your relationship than your Facebook status

Instead of stressing yourself out about what to post on social media, try to look at your relationship and your partner. Find out what makes your relationship better and more productive. 

It doesn’t have to be the places you go to or the food you eat that you post on social media. It is all about how you treat each other, even without other people knowing about it. [Read: Healthy relationship – 27 signs, qualities, and what it looks like in real life]

14. Be transparent

This shows that you have nothing to hide from each other, thereby fostering more trust. 

However, while it’s fine to share passwords as a way to reassure your partner that you are not doing any monkey business on Facebook or any other social media platform, it is still best to know your boundaries. 

Giving your passwords to one another is a nice gesture, but you don’t have to feel like you have to use it—or worse, troll through your partner’s social media accounts, messages, and friends. [Read: 19 reasons why we’re afraid to open up to people and steps to overcome it]

15. Don’t be friends with exes 

Exes should be left in the past, as still seeking them out is rarely provoked by good intentions. If you must, add your ex to your friend list—but only if your partner is okay with it. 

Think about how you would feel if the tables were turned, if it was your partner who was communicating with their ex. [Read: Reasons why the no contact rule always works with exes]

16. Don’t give room for misinterpretation

Words, especially in spur-of-the-moment posts, can be open to different interpretations.

This is true, as well, when you post something that your partner thinks can be a problem with them or with the relationship. [Read: Kinds of annoying social media users that make you want to scream]

Think before you post, and make sure that you are clear and articulate. Don’t give your partner any room to misinterpret or be hurt by your posts, and avoid any posts that may stir problems, confusion, embarrassment, jealousy, or even gossip.

17. Don’t air dirty laundry

Avoid posting nasty fights and angry messages aimed at your partner. Whether it is on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or any other site, you can’t solve anything by airing your dirty laundry. 

At best, your friends will laugh about it behind your back. And at worst, your partner will hate you more for it. [Read: How to stop feeling sorry for yourself and end the pity party]

If you really want to talk to someone, send them a private message, give them a call, or better yet, talk to them face to face.

18. “Friend” with care

Facebook is a great way to connect with long-lost friends and family, but it’s a whole different thing when you accept friends left and right. 

Social media is for sharing things with your close and trusted family and friends, but it’s a no-no to add people to your friends list just because you want more likes and shares. [Read: Little texting mistakes new couples make often]

And it’ll always leave your partner wondering if you have something more in mind each time you add someone who could rouse your partner’s jealous streak.

19. Public exchanges

PDA has now turned digital—especially when you can send your loved ones icons and emojis. However, it’s good practice to keep your cute and cuddly exchanges out of the public eye. 

Sure, some people will find it sweet, but your partner is most likely the only one who will truly appreciate it. [Read: Public display of affection – how to do it, PDA etiquette, and 26 must-knows]

That is, if he or she isn’t embarrassed by it. Regardless, most people will find it off-putting, so please don’t do it in front of everyone.

20. Fight in private 

So, you don’t like how your partner responded to you when you called him or her out for being too clingy. Your post about it on social media and the next thing you know, you and your partner are exchanging angry tweets or comments for everyone to see. 

Then you get mad at someone for telling you that Facebook isn’t the place to fight—and you call that person names. This is just plain tasteless and rude. Keep your fights off of the internet. [Read: Couples love trends that are seen most often on social media]

21. Friending your partner’s friends

It’s alright to establish a good rapport with your partner’s social circle, but don’t circumvent the middleman when “friending” his/her friends on social media. 

This means you should first ask for permission from your partner, and be genuine about it instead of plainly scouting for your next squeeze as you build your roster.

22. Never compare

What’s worse than taking cheesy photos and publishing cheesy tweets or posts on social media? Comparing your ex with your current one AND posting it on Facebook. 

Not only is it disrespectful to your ex, whom you at one point shared a special bond with, but it is also embarrassing to your current partner, who may think you will do the same to him/her if or when your relationship ends. [Read: Couples and social media – how much to share and where to draw the line]

23. Don’t create a fake page

Whether you want to troll your ex or see if your partner is being loyal to you, never create a fake profile. 

It may seem funny or interesting at first, but it’s a lot of effort for something that won’t really add to your relationship or your personal growth. In fact, it’s juvenile.

When and how to find relationship help

If social media has been causing problems in your relationship, how do you know when it’s time to seek help? There are plenty of online resources to help you find the right therapist. [Read: Relationship therapy – 25 clues to know if it’ll help your romance]

And so here are some signs that you would benefit from therapy or relationship coaching.

1. No intimacy

No emotional or physical intimacy in your relationship is a big sign that your relationship is deteriorating. Sure, it’s not uncommon for your sex life to slow down as time goes on. 

But if there are obvious and significant changes in the frequencies of being intimate with one another, that is very concerning. If you haven’t had sex for a long time or if it’s become too routine, then counseling can help. [Read: Sexless relationship – why sex matters and how to spark passion in marriage again]

2. Unhealthy communication *or no communication at all*

When fights get blown out of proportion, one or both of you might find yourself avoiding conversations about certain topics. This might lead you to avoid talking to each other altogether.

It could be something small that you don’t like about your partner on social media or it could be something big. But if you are afraid to talk about issues because you think it will lead to more fights, then you could benefit from coaching or therapy.

3. Resentment

It’s normal for couples to be annoyed by one another and have arguments come and go from time to time. [Read: 19 signs of resentment in a relationship that hurts both and how to fix it]

But if you find that you are always resentful toward your partner – or vice versa – then you should find the underlying issue that is causing it.

Therapy or coaching can help couples find the past hurts in previous disagreements and arguments. If you don’t figure out why you’re resentful, then all future conversations won’t resolve any of your problems.

4. Lack of trust

Trust is a must for a healthy relationship. Everything begins and ends with it. [Read: 46 must-dos to regain and rebuild trust after cheating or lying in a relationship]

Trust is hard to earn and easy to break. So, if you have past trust issues, you have to work through them in order to fix the relationship.

Your partner isn’t your enemy, even if it feels like it. So, therapy can help you stay on the same team and give each other the emotional support you need. If you need to build trust, then you really should get some outside help.

5. Keeping secrets

Sure, everyone likes their privacy – even from their partner on occasion. But when you’re a couple, if you have secrets from each other, then you can break the trust you have.

If you’re doing something on social media and you’re not telling your partner, then there is a problem in your relationship. You need to examine why you are doing it and how to fix the issues. There should be no secrets in your relationship.

[Read: Is he hiding something? 20 signs he feels guilty for hurting you]

There is already way too much drama spent on social media without getting your romantic relationship involved. Play it smart, and keep social media in its proper place!

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...