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Social Networking: Millions of Heartbreaks Served

 Directly behind my office there is a common hallway for all of the businesses in the building.  In theory, it is an emergency exit for the building.  In reality, it is a place for people to take smoke breaks.  One of those businesses is a sandwich shop.  As with many fast food type companies, this shop employs a lot of younger staff.  Every night around 6 pm, I can hear these young people making noise in the hallway.  Not usually a big deal because I’ve learned to tune it out.  Tonight was different.

I heard some noise in the hallway.  For about 10 minutes I tuned it out and dismissed it.  Suddenly, I realized that a young girl was crying.  When I say crying, I mean crying like someone who has just been told that her best friend died.  After another few minutes, I began to worry about her.  I watch entirely too much Law & Order, so I began to wonder if something had happened to her, such as her being attacked.  I knew that, even though it was unlikely, I wouldn’t forgive myself if that had turned out to be the case so I decided to poke my head out there and ask her if she was okay. 

Right before I opened my door to check on her, I heard her talking on the phone.  Thank goodness.  It was simply a break up.  I only say thank goodness because it could have been something much worse.  I went back to my desk, but she was so upset that I could hear her entire conversation very clearly.  I won’t go into a lot of personal details here, but suffice it to say that she had confronted her girlfriend about a third girl that was on her girlfriend’s Facebook page.  Apparently, the third girl was her girlfriend’s ex, and the interaction was inappropriate.  A text argument ensued that culminated in her girlfriend breaking up with her.  Drama, drama, drama. 

I tell you this story because it got me thinking about social media.  For a short time I ran a blog called “Today’s Social Life.”  It discussed aspects of social media.  (Don’t bother looking for it, I’ve shut it down.)  Some of my blogs on that site discussed how social media has affected relationships.  Here are a couple of excerpts from those blogs:

From Social Media:  Bringing People Together

Not long ago, I read an article that said one-third of all divorce filings contained the word “Facebook.”  Based on my own experience, I can see how that happens.  I have watched my friends on Facebook post details about their emotions and relationship that they would normally never tell most of the people that can see their updates.  I see people posting an update meant to make someone else feel bad or to gain sympathy.  I’ve seen relationships develop and fall apart online.  There are even websites like Failbook, an entertainment website that posts screenshots of funny mistakes made by people on Facebook, that have special categories for people caught cheating on the social media site.  We’ve turned the destruction of people’s relationships into a source of entertainment for others.  With over one million estimated divorces in a year, this means that over 300,000 people have cited Facebook as a contributing factor to the end of their marriage.

From Relationship Rules for Social Media

I’ve already covered ways that social media can bring people together, in good and bad ways, and how it may be possible to abuse social media. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I feel like social media is a bad thing. Quite the opposite. I think it is a brilliant development. I just want to make sure that there is a level of awareness about the dangers involved with sharing our lives with others online. With that in mind, I went searching for tips on how to protect your relationship on social media sites.

I found a lot of articles about the subject. Some were more extensive than others, but they all seemed to share some common ideas:
  1. Communicate with your significant other. This may be the most important rule on the list. This means that you need to talk to your significant other about the amount of time that is acceptable, and what is considered appropriate interaction with others. Whether you agree, or like it, your significant other may have a different idea of how much time you should be spending on social media sites. If he or she feels that you are spending more time on the internet than is okay, this could lead to jealousy and suspicion of inappropriate relationships. Set clear expectations about when and how long it is okay to stay online. Also, if he or she says that there is someone that you shouldn’t be interacting with, you need to listen. The way you are communicating online and the people you are communicating with (i.e. ex-lovers) can make your significant other uncomfortable. It is not an unreasonable request that you do not stay in touch with someone for whom you used to have feelings…or anyone that makes him or her uncomfortable. Do not make your significant other feel that anyone else’s friendship is more important than how he or she feels…it will lead to disaster.
  2. Don’t hide anything from your significant other. Open and honest communication is a necessary component of any relationship, particularly social media relationships. Share your login information for social media sites and email accounts with your significant other and expect the same from him or her. There shouldn’t be anything you say or do online that you cannot share with your spouse. If you need to hide it…it is probably wrong. Emotional affairs are a real and growing problem. They can end a relationship just as easily as a physical affair…and often times lead to physical affairs. Don’t ever delete any messages, chat sessions, or comments that you think would upset your significant other. If they are potentially upsetting, they shouldn’t be happening.
  3. Unfriend or unfollow anyone who crosses boundaries. If anyone begins to make comments or ask questions on social media sites that makes you uncomfortable, or you think would make your significant other uncomfortable, let your significant other know and unfriend that person. There is no reason to allow anyone to remain on your social media list if that person cannot respect the boundaries of your relationship. Doing so is putting your friendship with that person ahead of your relationship.
  4. Advertise your relationship. Make sure that your relationship status is set to “married,” or whatever is true and appropriate. Share pictures of your significant other or the two of you together. Proclaim your love for him or her on your page. Make sure that there is no question about your relationship status and what you are looking for online.
  5. Social media is not relationship counseling forum. It is not a place to air your grievances with your significant other. If something he or she does annoys you or makes you angry…that is a personal matter not meant for the world. Posting passive-aggressive statuses about how “people” or “someone” makes you angry is no better than posting his or her name. The fact that you don’t mention the person’s name does not mean that you have escaped culpability for your post. These kinds of statuses are meant to garner attention, gain support in an argument, or punish someone for their actions while giving the poster deniability if they are confronted about the status. None of this has any place in a healthy relationship.
  6. Work on your relationship outside of the internet. Make sure you spend more energy on your relationship outside of social media than you do online. Advertising your feeling on social media is great…but not at the expense of failing to do so in person. Hug, kiss, and tell your significant other how much you love him or her in person. There is no substitute…that’s why you are together in the first place.
Now I’m not a therapist, but these seem like pretty good rules. It is not by any means a comprehensive list.  I adapted them from lists in the following articles:
These articles have further advice that I didn’t list. It is worth a few minutes of your time to check them out. If you are in a relationship and online, stop and think about what you are doing. There is no social network worth losing someone you love.

I’m not sure what happened with that girl and her girlfriend tonight.  Maybe her girlfriend was cheating.  Maybe not.  Maybe this girl has a habit of making false accusations.  Maybe they have many other issues.  I don’t know.  What I do know is that social networking is a wonderful development – hey, it’s how you all are so blessed to hear my wisdom!  (Sorry…my narcissistic side just reared it’s ugly head.)  Just be careful how you wield such a powerful tool.  Intentional or not, you can hurt someone.  Just ask the poor girl crying alone in the hallway behind my office. 


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