My post is at twenty-seven likes… forty-two likes… sixty-seven likes… a hundred likes!!!! If we are honest, we know there is something appealing about receiving recognition for our photos, ideas, and achievements. Social media can connect us with those we love, provide opportunities to rekindle friendships, and help us find others who share our interests. It can also suck us in, make us discontent with what we have, and draw us away from our loved ones.
Not too long ago, I was sitting with my Mom and one of her friends at a fast-food restaurant. I was finishing up a conversation on Messenger when my Mom’s friend asked, “Oh, is she a phone person?” (That was code for, “Is she one of those people who ignores those around her to spend time with her phone?”) Sure, I was a little embarrassed by the obvious message she was sending me, but I probably also needed the reminder. Face-to-face time is precious, and we so often pull an invisible wall down between us and the people merely feet away from us – all to worship a screen.
Have you been feeling the weight of your phone? Of the constant checking, liking, commenting, and rechecking? Have you lost sleep because of Instagram stories? Does it seem like social media has an unhealthy hold on your life? Do you want a more balanced relationship with your media platforms?
- Have some media-free time set aside for each other every week. Do you ever watch couples at restaurants spend the entire meal on their phones, barely interacting? I do. In fact, we have been that couple on more than one occasion. It was a slow progression from talking at dinner, to occasionally checking the phone, to constantly checking the phone, to sitting there shamelessly scrolling. Couples often mistake being in the same (physical) space for being together or reading Facebook posts to each other for meaningful connection. If it is difficult to look into your partner’s eyes and have a conversation, there is an underlying problem which needs addressing. Our phones and other peoples’ lives give us a convenient distraction from dealing with our own situations. Even if it is awkward at first, set aside at least an hour a week to completely ignore the phone and focus on each other.
- Consider a social media fast. We fast from food for the purposes of drawing closer to Christ or purifying our bodies. Perhaps we could benefit from a social media fast? Our minds get so cluttered with pictures, comparisons, and arguments. Spend your time instead reading classic books, getting in touch (on the phone or in person) with friends, looking into your loved one’s eyes, and in fellowship with the Lord. If you do decide to fast social media for a bit, there is no need to make a public announcement. When people declare a departure from a social media platform, it usually makes the readers roll their eyes.
- Discuss which content should be public and which content should be private. Once you are in a relationship, you should start thinking about two people (i.e., you and your significant other) rather than just one (i.e., yourself). Then, once you have children, you have multiple people to consider before posting. Talk to your significant other about content he or she considers public versus private. While you remain in a relationship with him or her, it will be important to take his or her comfort level regarding privacy into consideration when posting. And if you two disagree on the level of privacy a topic should have, it is best to go with whichever level of privacy is more conservative so you both can feel good about it – instead of only one of you feeling good about it.
- Use your time on social media to lift others up. “There is too much negativity in the world. Do your best to make sure you aren’t contributing to it.” (Germany Kent) Some of you are already pros at this. You find your friends’ posts and you use your powers of social media to encourage. Some of the most meaningful messages I have ever received came in the form of Facebook comments. If you switch your thought process from, “I get to receive love from my social media” to “I get to give love through my social media,” you can break an unhealthy cycle of seeking approval through unfulfilling means. If one hundred loves on your Instagram photo is more meaningful to you than a hug and heartfelt affirmation from a close friend, it is important to ask yourself why that is true. (I am preaching to myself too, friends.) There is something intoxicating about getting those likes and comments, but they can never take the place of personal, specific affirmation.
- Repeat this to yourself daily until you believe it: “I do not need social media’s approval of my relationship.” It is completely natural to share milestones and cute pictures (occasionally) on social media platforms but check your motivation. Are you seeking to share your joy with the world, update family and friends, or enjoy the memories in years to come? Or are you seeking thumbs up from others on your relationship? You guys look great together. You are going to have gorgeous babies! Y’all are such a good match. If you have doubts, thundering applause from cyberspace is not going to offer you lasting reassurance. Take those concerns to the Lord first, and then to trusted family and friends who know you and who can help you process them. If few people offer you congratulations online, but the people who matter are genuinely happy for you, you are far better off than those who have tons of faux, online support and little authentic, personal support.
- Refuse to allow social media negativity to draw you in to fights, raise your blood pressure, or ruin friendships. This piece of advice may practically look like unfollowing, unfriending, or even blocking people. If someone is – or, some people are – upsetting your life from behind the safety of a screen, cut their ability to reach you. Social media allows otherwise shy people an avenue to say whatever they want with no regard for how it may affect others or themselves. You do not have to ingest it. If it is stealing your calm, affecting your friendships, or disrupting your relationship with God, it can go. Also, if your presence on social media is stressing your significant other or spouse, consider scaling back your comments. You may have no problem debating politics on Facebook, but your partner may feel sickened from all the conflict. Consider the long-term ramifications of your posts to your relationship.
- “Comparison is a road which always leads to disappointment.” It is difficult to look at the most noteworthy parts of others’ lives and not feel discouraged. “But, her business is taking off and mine is floundering. Look, they are on another vacation. They must be killing it financially.” “Wow, their children won more awards. What are we doing wrong with our kids?” Put the phone down. Turn off the computer. Go out into the world and gain your confidence by doing something worthwhile. Help a neighbor. Connect with a co-worker. Join a ministry. Complete a class or a marathon. You will never find the fulfillment you long for in the likes and loves of strangers masquerading as friends on social media platforms. That fulfillment only comes from real connection and relationships.
Have you ever felt panic set in when the power went out? Have you ever left your phone somewhere and felt like a loved one was missing? We have become so addicted to our phones and our quick access to “connection,” that the world seems to shrink when we cannot be on them. When our power goes out, something phenomenal happens. We talk. We discuss. We might even read a book together. The distractions we fall prey to are no longer options. Sometimes a power outage is a balm for marriages. Sometimes a phone put away can be a blessing for couples. Perhaps you can create your own personal social media power outage from time to time.
Moving forward, what do you believe is the best move for your relationship? Would less time online benefit your emotional connection? Are you both satisfied with how much time you each spend on social media? Have you been honest with yourself and with your partner about how you feel?
Social media is designed to be addictive. We want affirmation. Some of us would jump off mountains or swim with sharks if it would get us thousands of comments. Take a little time and evaluate your relationship with Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, and the scores of other social media platforms. Are they taking over your life in an unhealthy way? Are they negatively impacting your relationship? If so, start working towards a plan to decrease usage, even if you start with a complete detox. Shake off the phone fog and enjoy the space around you with the one you love.
Keep breaking free!
Is your connection to social media negatively affecting your connection to your significant other?