Last week Jennie Runevitch, a reporter and anchor from our local NBC affiliate brought a camera man into our home to discuss the hot topic of social media and marriage. There are staggering statistics about the number of marriages being torn apart, and social media is involved in a huge percentage of them. My husband and I were honored that Jennie, who has known us via Twitter for a year or two now, chose us for this segment because (according to her) we seem to successfully balance social media with our commitment to a healthy marriage. Humbling. And we aren’t perfect at it. But we’ve learned what works for us.
Learning she was bringing a camera man into our home prompted a flurry of activity involving rearranging and sprucing up the living room… and, sadly, buying a fresh bottle of hair color to hide a few grays that were trying to peek through. But as we prepared for the interview, we had so many great discussions about why social media has created such havoc in the lives of countless people we love and respect, and why it is important to us not to become another sad statistic.
The interview came off okay, I think, but you know how it is. The minute Jennie and Steve (the camera operator) left the house, we thought of things we wish we had said. Thank goodness, I blog. Below is our strategy (including the points we did share and others we wish we had remembered to share) for making social media work as a positive in our marriage. But the first step is… decide in your heart of hearts that you don’t want to destroy your marriage. If you REALLY don’t want to ruin your marriage, this strategy can help you set boundaries to keep that from happening.
1. An open-door policy on all online activities means no one in our household – adults or kids – go behind closed doors to spend time on social media websites (or any other websites). Period.
2. Set time boundaries on social media. Every couple needs time when we are intentionally not connected to social media. Family meals, date nights, movie nights, or social gatherings may include a quick tweet or photo expressing our excitement about the activity, then we put the phones away and focus on being fully present with each other.
3. Work out relationship issues off-line. Disagreements we need to work through are only complicated when brought into public forums. Once an issue is settled privately and resolution is reached, you might choose to share what you learned but only after both spouses agree to do so (tastefully) for the purpose of helping others.
4. Keep spouse and family interactions positive. Just as good hosts do not invite company into our homes to complain about our spouses, negative comments about our spouses in public online forums creates an awkward atmosphere, adds to marital tension and nothing good can come of it. Online jabs are a cowardly way to express negative feelings, particularly to those closest to you.
5. Understand that social media will not fix anything that is broken inside you. I think of the young friend who posts 5 gazillion photos of herself because she is DYING to be told she is beautiful. And after 5 gazillion photos and 100 gazillion comments from friends about how beautiful she is, she doesn’t believe it any more than she ever did. She IS beautiful. But social media will never fix what is hurting in her heart. Feeding our needs with social media is like feeding a hungry monster. Hungry monsters stick around as long as they’re being fed, even if what they are being fed isn’t healthy.
6. Measuring our spouses against models, movie stars, sex symbols or anyone else (high school sweethearts included) has no place in a healthy marriage. Comparisons like these destroy respect, eat away at trust, create insecurity and birth dissatisfaction. Don’t do it. Focusing on what we love about our spouses and giving them fresh new reasons to choose us every day will be a far better use of our time than drooling over airbrushed pictures of people we will never (or should never) meet.
7. Be wary of private chat and messaging. Chatting privately can be a time-suck, at best. If you have time to chat for hours on end, you have time to nurture your marriage or better yourself. Our rule of thumb is not to say anything in a private message we wouldn’t want our spouse to know about. If a conversation is going down a path that compromises your marriage, stop and walk away. If posts are getting inappropriate, don’t keep them going.
8. Hitting “unfriend” or “unfollow” is a small price to pay for your marriage. If you have a problematic Facebook or Twitter relationship, leave it. Marriages get into trouble one small choice at a time, so stop before those choices get larger and more damaging.
9. Go with your spouse’s gut. If your spouse feels that a certain friend, follower or comment is not okay, respect that and proceed accordingly. Defending yourself or the other person isn’t worth losing trust with your spouse.
10. If your mind wanders, your actions will likely follow. So keep remembering what you love about your spouse and why you chose them. If you can’t remember, take a social media diet and work on personal and marital issues first.