I didn’t become Facebook friends with my boyfriend until four months after we had started dating. In that four months, we got to know each other, started a serious relationship, met each other’s friends and families, went on a trip, fought, made up and took lots of really great pictures. But none of it, not one bit of our relationship, lived online.
This social media abstinence was done intentionally. I entered this relationship knowing I wanted something more serious. And one of the common denominators that I saw affecting my past relationships was the messy layer that social media was adding. That misinformed perception that inherently comes along with judging someone based on a handful of pictures, on the slice of life they choose to share online, denies partners the intimacy and depth that comes with really getting to know each other. Getting to know all sides of each other’s lives, not just the bits and pieces displayed in a news feed.
There are plenty of ways to keep social media from playing third wheel in a relationship, but since most of us aren’t ready to go off the grid, here are some ways we can use it to our advantage.
Stalk and talk
I won’t lie and say I didn’t Internet stalk him after our first date. Of course I did. And I discovered all sorts of private information that I didn’t need to know yet. It’s difficult not to use the technology that’s sitting in our hands, and before I knew it my fingers were traipsing over the keyboard typing his name into the Google search bar.
For some reason, we are under the impression that we have the right to know everything about a person, immediately. But we forget the consequences of unearthing information that we aren’t ready for. It’s important to allow a relationship to progress naturally, to trust that our partner will share everything they need to share with us. This way we can keep from jumping to unnecessary conclusions. Let’s save that energy and just wait for the bombs to drop, because they usually aren’t as detrimental as we think they’ll be.
However, there’s always a chance that we will find out information about our partners from a third party. Be it overhearing a conversation, glancing at a text message or, as hard as we try to avoid it, stalking their Facebook page. But it doesn’t have to lead to distrust. In fact, it can offer a way to start the relationship on a solid foundation of open communication and honesty.
If we find out something about our partner that we don’t like or understand, we should ask them about it. Talk to them. It may be uncomfortable admitting to snooping, even if it was unintentional. But it’s more uncomfortable and far more detrimental to any relationship to overanalyze something to the point where the horrible version created in our head stands no chance against the truth.
Blast from the past
Part of a relationship is sharing where we’ve come from, who our friends are and what our lives have been like. One way to do this is by looking back through each other’s photo albums. And, that’s exactly what we did. Skimming through the events of the past few years, we shared with each other where we’ve been, who we were and why we decided on that particular haircut. Except, rather than a physical photo album, we shared digital photo albums saved forever on our Facebook pages. We showed our Facebook pages to each other.
It’s undeniable that Facebook is our modern day time capsule. It allows us to document the seemingly best parts of our lives and save them forever, to look back on with cringe and nostalgia at all the different times we posed with strangers and wore ill-fitting clothing.
But, rather than sitting hunched over a laptop scrolling through Facebook pictures blindly taking guesses at who each person is and what their relationship was, why not hear it from the source? We all have our share of compromising photos we’ve forgotten about. This gives us a chance to provide context to those photos that may warrant some explanation. Not only will it eliminate the confusion, but it will also serve as an opportunity to become closer and get to know each other better.
Pics or it didn’t happen
It’s hard to fight the urge to post our pictures online because we’re being made to believe if we don’t post a picture of us enjoying a moment, it never actually existed.
We have this compulsive need to share everything we’re doing so it’s clear what a great time we’re all having. And I am not immune to that compulsive need. I wanted to share my relationship, because it was new and exciting, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t making it all up! But I knew I wanted to keep it off the Internet. So instead, I would text pictures to my few close friends, the ones who would actually care about my happy boyfriend selfies and vacation pictures, and shared my relationship with them that way.
You see, sharing is important, especially when we all live so far away from each other. Eventually friends move across the country, sometimes across the world, and we’ve become accustomed to using social media to keep in touch. Which is perfectly fine. But there is an alternative to sharing those special and intimate moments with our close friends that doesn’t involve posting on a social media site. Starting a group text with close friends is a great way to stay in touch and update each other about what’s going on.
There’s also SnapChat, which allows us to share fleeting moments with select friends just for the sake of sharing. And if you’re like me, and have friends who were lucky enough to move to another country, there are apps like WhatsApp and Viber that allow us to stay in touch on a personal level without sharing posts to their news feeds.
Relationships don’t work by magic; they take effort. Healthy relationships must start with a strong foundation, open communication, understanding, and lots of love. In my experience, eliminating social media from that equation definitely has a part in keeping that foundation solid.
We don’t need to post a filtered picture and get likes on Instagram to make a moment real. We don’t need to impulsively adjust our Facebook statuses to feel like our relationships are “official.” It’s been made abundantly clear that social media has changed up the dating game. It’s about time we make our own rules for how we play it.