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Friday, June 1, 2012

stay online, dear.

Tonight Tim and I were hanging out in a Starbucks in two easy chairs pushed towards each together, my feet propped up on his lap, talking easily about big and little life things.
Eventually, as is normal for us, we talked through everything we had on our minds and then turned our eyes to our iPhones and starting scrolling through our various social media apps.

"Did you see this picture so and so posted to Instagram?"
"Listen to this quote an old acquaintance you think that's true?"
"This blog post is so riveting..."
"Ha! ______ is so funny on Facebook."

And this is how it goes for us. We use technology to explore new concepts and ideas and art and music and articles, and then we share them with each other and talk at length about what we're seeing. It's so normal to us that we've stopped thinking about the process. We do this at home when we're not working and when we are working. Now that I think of it, we have a specific type of work-related social media study and discussion that we usually do while Tim is editing photos and I'm taking care of administrative tasks. We do this in the car a lot too. I hate battling Chicago traffic, so I scroll and talk through what I'm reading on my phone, entertaining Tim while he drives. We do this when we're out to dinner or coffee. We don't so much do this when we're with friends. The phones stay in my purse and his pocket when we're connecting with other people.

So why do I always hear criticism about how time spent on social media is bad for the relationship health of couples? It's no longer a new argument, yet I see a reference to a new article written on this topic (usually by a major world news publication) almost weekly.

I know that a major reasoning for social media bringing hardship and separation to couples is the opportunity to connect with new crushes or reconnect with old flames, and I know this could be a big temptation for a relationship that's already in trouble...but it's not like cheating was impossible to do before the internet. Divorce rates (and marriage rates, for that matter) started falling before the social media age and have continued to fall as the internet takes over.

If anything, my own family experience has proved otherwise: that the internet brings couples together. My sister and I both met our husbands thanks to the internet. You'll have a hard time convincing us this is a bad thing.

I think that the internet and social media are neutral mediums (kind of like money) that anyone can use as a tool for good or harm. We use it to learn new things every day, adapting to a world that's changing faster than we can imagine. Somewhere along the short line of our new marriage, Tim and I unconsciously created some social media boundaries that work for us and help us to benefit each other with their use. I did a little brainstorming and came up with a few to share:
  • No hiding. Our phones and computers are not off limits to each other. Our computer screens face each other while we're working and we're constantly switching phones throughout the day to look up different information. This happens naturally, no spying necessary. He could scroll through my text messages to look for a picture or lost phone number we need to look up and that wouldn't be weird or uncomfortable for me.
  • We know each other's passwords. I can't remember how this happened, it just did. He asks me to answer his Facebook messages for him sometimes because email is a pain to him and enjoyable to me. This is normal for us.
  • We're connected on every social medium. Facebook friendship, Twitter/Path/Instagram following...basically everything but Pinterest because he's just not that into it. Whatever I'm looking at, he can see the same thing.
  • We routinely delete Facebook friends if it's someone of the opposite sex whom we just don't need to be connected to anymore.
  • No lonely vacuums. As I mentioned before, we talk about what we read online. We don't disappear into our solo internet worlds. We keep the connection to each other open. 
All this is not to say that we don't have private conversations with our same-sex friends. We've just found an easy balance between being private and being secretive. Privacy means you can have access if you respect each other in the information that you want to know. Secrecy is different and not applicable to our relationship. Unless it's what I'm getting him for Christmas. 

What do you think? Is social media getting a bad rap in your mind or should couples be on their guard and spend less time interneting?
Tim's wedding day text messages to me. Photo cred.


  1. Love this. And totally agree. Yet again, more evidence to our parallel lives. :)

  2. crud. i had the longest response ever typed out and then clicked on that picture for a bigger view and lost it. CRUEL, CRUEL INTERNET.

    in short, that's an idea relationship to me. i personally witnessed you and tim exchange phones like three times on our rainy chicago adventure day. my current boyfriend is always looking up sports scores and random things on his phone during our time together which doesn't bother me because it's something he talks about and engages on. i don't know if i'd be so comfortable with it if he were on facebook during that time, for example.

    though not in the same trust/marriage context, facebook (which i've been off of for almost two months!!!) creeped me out with trusting other people. when i had that huge breakup with he who will not be mentioned by name, it had a lot to do with this other girl finding out what he liked by stalking my facebook (through other peoples facebook, because mine was private!) and using that information to falsely woo. it sounds really stupid and it is! it really is so stupid that someone would spend time being malicious like that, but it seems like maybe i had been too quick to accept people on a level like that--a social media level--when they would allow another person to basically stalk me through their accounts, with ill intent.

    i'm less worried about my boyfriend being a creep on the internet and more worried about other people being creeps, in short.

    but i miss the connectivity of facebook. i should have just really thinned my feed instead of getting rid of it all. maybe i'll go back.

    this reply is related to this post but just barely.