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Twenty years ago, people had to actually had to meet to talk with each other to start a relationship. Today, with the help of social media, we have the convenience and luxury of being able to communicate over long distances. Text messages are sent within a matter of seconds across the country and the world. Having pages like Facebook or apps like Tinder or Snapchat opens a world of opportunity for dating, but does it also take away the art of building a relationship? Since we now have the option of not having to communicate face-to-face, social media creates a space where people can be more comfortable with themselves and get to know the other person before actually meeting them. But is the person you “get to know” on social media a real person or a manipulated perception?
Couples (and potentially others) can see their relationship develop online. Privacy is not guaranteed. Couples may not share the same opinions or agree about what, how, and when information about them is shared. With the increasing growth of technology, people can post their relationship online for everyone they know (and maybe people they don’t know) to see and comment on.
Many websites promote themselves as helping people meet new people. Some apps are designed specifically for the goal of dating, while others are just to connect with people. Facebook, one of the most popular social media platforms, has over 1 billion users. Created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg while studying at Harvard University, 1 Facebook is a truly virtual community, including millions of profiles that are thought to be fake. Sites like Facebook can be used to reconnect with old friends or relatives, and also to seek out potential romantic interests. Users are able to upload pictures, share stories, and discover those who have similar likes and dislikes. The popularity of Facebook is at least in part because it gives people the ability to make new connections. If a social media connection grows into a relationship, there are theories used to examine how that relationship is helped or hurt by being online.
The Relational dialectics theory (RDT) is used when discussing social networking sites and romantic relationships because it analyzes how certain forces work to bring couples together and push them apart. Relational dialectics theory states that couples in relationships must trying to balance these forces. The forces acting on the relationship are called dialectics, and they occur both between the couple themselves and then between the couple and their social networks. Three dialectics are integration-separation, expression-privacy, and stability-change. Integration-separation focuses on how a couple acts on social media together (inclusion) and separately (exclusion). This is the difference between “we” and “I” on social networking sites. Do they share pictures of both involved in activities or of each doing “their own thing”? Is there a single Facebook or Instagram page or does each have their own. Are “followers” shared? Do both partners agree to live their lives publicly or would one prefer to keep their life private?
Expression-privacy addresses social networking sites and the issue of privacy. Just how much of a relationship is shared on social media? How much is kept offline? Sharing too much can take away from the intimacy of the relationship between two people, and there is not enough “just between us”. On the other hand, if most or all of a relationship is not shared on social media, family or friends wonder if the relationship is really legitimate. A successful couple with an effective relationship is truly able to balance sharing too much and not sharing enough. Stability-change is the dialectic that is the balance between things staying constant in a relationship and things changing. Small changes in a healthy relationship are positive and normal. As people grow and develop, it makes sense their relationship develops as well. How much things change is the real issue. New friends, a move to a new city, or adding pets or children can all impact a relationship. With social media, does the couple now use a single Facebook page and cancel old online accounts? What if each partner likes or endorses a different political candidate? Both partners must agree on balance of stability and change or the uncertainty could lead to jealousy, anger or resentment in their relationship.
In relationships, it is common for people to show interest in their partners’ lives. A healthy relationship sees people sharing their experiences, including emotions. In a healthy physical relationship, one partner can simply ask the other partner directly. This interaction allows people to see facial expressions, hear words choices and tone, and observe facial expressions or body language. Social media relationships may allow people to use more secretive ways to check on their partner . Using social networking sites for surveillance is a method that a partner can use to become more aware of what their significant other is doing both online and offline. One partner may take notice of their partner “liking” or commenting on someone else’s pictures, which could lead to jealousy and create tension in the relationship. Neither of these scenarios are good for building a healthy relationship. The lack of privacy on social networking sites make it easy for others to access information about a significant other. In their research on jealousy and social media found that the more time a person spent on Facebook, the more jealous they become
Gender plays a role in the types of jealousy in a relationship. Women tend to be more jealous of emotional infidelity than men while men tend to be more jealous of physical infidelity. Social media offers temptations and pitfalls for both. A partner may feel emotional connections with those who reach out and interact with them online, providing praise or attention they may not otherwise receive. The ability to be anonymous opens the door for lewd behavior, pornographic texts or pictures, or even cyber-stalking.
There are many dangers with dating apps. I read an article stating that over the past four years, 17 people in the Greater Manchester area have reported being raped after using one of two apps- Grindr and Tinder. A whopping total of 58 people were victims of online dating-related crimes, some of them sexual. That is more than one 3 assault a month.
As online dating becomes more and more popular, related sexual assault cases are rising as well. The Pew Research Center found that between 2008 and 2013 the proportion of adults using dating services tripled . In Britain, attacks related to online dating increased six times roughly the same period. In 2016 Stephen Port was convicted in the UK of killing four young men he met on the gay dating app Grindr. In 2011 Match.com began screening US members against a database of known sex offenders after a woman who claimed she had been raped brought a class-action lawsuit against the site. Match was also implicated in the case of serial rapist Jason Lawrence, who was convicted in 2016 of raping seven women he met on the website .A 2016 study of over 600 students in Hong Kong found that about half used dating apps. Those who used dating apps were shown to be roughly twice as likely as non-users to suffer “sexual abuse” of some kind .
Social media can help start a new relationship, but it can also help end it. Partners may choose to cut off a relationship by phone call, text message, or with a social networking sites, rather than in person. In the past, the phone call was seen as impersonal and rude, as it showed the partner chose not to deal with breaking up with face-to-face. Social media offers even more ways to exit a relationship without facing a partner, and even allows a person to make a change without bothering to inform their partner at all (for example- changing a Facebook relationship status to “single”).
After understanding social networking sites effect on romantic relationship’s development, conflicts, and dissolution it appears that social media can have both positive and negative effects on relationships. Social networking sites can have a positive effect on a romantic relationship in that if both partners agree to publish the relationship that it can help partners feel more secure.
Social media moves fast. While fast information can be useful when it comes to business, it may not be positive (and can often be harmful) for couples in relationships. Most human beings need a sense of social support in our lives- a sense that one is loved, cared for, and listened to. This support benefits mental and physical health. However, people can become too obsessed over meaningless information or constantly trying to project an unrealistic perception of perfection. Caring what others think can easily become an unhealthy obsession that leads to constantly trying to be the “perfect” couple, and that perfection is a goal that can never be achieved.
Overall, social media apps have opened many doors for couples and are a great tool for reaching people networking. The key to success is people understanding that a commitment online is the same as a commitment in a relationship that begins in person. Regardless of how you start the relationship, the important part to focus on is how to make the beginning of that connection, and whatever follows, real!
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