Of late, perhaps because of my age, whenever I log into Facebook, I see a flood of pictures and status updates of newly wed couples. Holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes, they form the perfect picture of happiness, and possibly eternal bliss. Selfies and check-ins during their travels follow. And then, after a while, these pictures stop and perhaps these couples go back to maneuvering hard realities.
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And Facebook is just one of the numerous social media avenues where one can spend hours together looking at what other people are doing and posting, not to mention feeling, eating, drinking, reading, and shopping. There is
- Twitter to follow cool celebrities
- Quora to read interesting answers, vote favourite ones up, and post some answers ourselves
- Instagram to touch pictures and show off our photography skills
- Goodreads to post book reviews and know what others are reading
I can go on and on. And I have not yet mentioned WhatsApp, the mother of all social media tools, in terms of time spent in a day.
All these social media tools, in a sense are avenues for self-indulgence. We have the liberty to project ourselves in the best possible light, show off our photography skills, the places we have traveled to, the books we have read, the cool friends we have, the celebrities we follow, the pubs we frequent, and the moods we are in at any given moment. In a superficial world where virtual reality is all there is to reality, this is fine. In the real world of real people with real emotions, this kind of self-indulgence beyond a certain point kills relationships.
You may think, what the harm is when a couple spends time together on social media. The point is that when they do so, they are not spending time with each other. They are trying to show the external world that they are leading happy, blissful lives. In advertising their happiness, they are sowing seeds for unrealistic expectations in the future. In seeking external validation and approval, they are applying subtle pressure on themselves to live up to this “happy couple” view perennially. But relationships are hardly rosy all the time. They have their own set of challenges, ups and downs to navigate.
Men may spend an inordinate amount of time on Twitter or on Flickr or on Quora. Women may spend time on Instagram and Facebook and Goodreads. This, no doubt, serves them well in building their online identities and brands. They may individually think that they are only trying to stay in touch with their friends and colleagues. But, if we pause and ask ourselves, was it always like this? Did people not stay in touch when Facebook and WhatsApp did not exist? Did people not take good photographs before Instagram and Flickr?
Social media has pervaded all aspects of our lives, including our relationships. This over-indulgence and obsession of advertising one’s happiness can create rifts in a relationship by –
1. Eating into time for each other: I have been amused seeing couples in a restaurant, checking their smart phones every two minutes, presumably to like their friend’s status updates or to respond to their cousins on WhatsApp. When the guy starts doing this, the girl sitting opposite him gets irritated, and has every right to think he is not interested in her. Worse, she may think he is texting another girl. Worse still, you might have seen couples taking pictures of the dishes ordered and immediately posting on Instagram or Facebook instead of savoring the meal along with genuine conversation with each other. You may know how to plan a romantic evening, but living the romantic evening is just as important too!
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2. Planting seeds of jealousy and suspicions of infidelity: Human beings are irrational and emotional when it comes to love and relationships. Seeing one’s spouse having a perfectly good time with her friend of the opposite sex is different from seeing a picture of it uploaded on social media. In one case, the couple is together with mutual friends and in another case, she posts a picture at an office party. Our imaginations are powerful enough to construct entire episodes around what we don’t see in spite of the deep trust we may have in our partner. Managing impressions and perceptions on social media is an art and not everyone can do it with elan. Especially when all our relatives and our ex colleagues are on our friends list.
3. Conveying a sense of indifference: This is related to the first point and a consequence of it. The more a guy or a girl spends time on social media, the more they convey a sense of “indifference” to their partner. And indifference, when it creeps into a relationship, is more hurtful than even loud arguments for the sake of proving oneself right. At least arguing shows that the couple is still invested in the relationship, even if it is just a way to get each other’s attention. But indifference does a lot of damage by conveying that it is futile to even argue with each other, thereby giving up on the relationship altogether.
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As it is, we have let social media irretrievably invade our lives, let us not give it the license to spoil our relationships. Let us follow some discipline and dedicate a fixed time to WhatsApp and Facebook every day, perhaps when we are in our office shuttle or perhaps when we are waiting for our partners to arrive. Cultivating a degree of balance is difficult, but with diligent effort, definitely possible.
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