How Social Media Can Damage Relationships (+ How To Stop It Harming Yours)

Have you ever stopped to consider just how widespread social media is in our lives?

It’s everywhere.

Businesses have social media managers, advertise through their pages, and handle customer feedback through the various social platforms.

Employers may look at our social media to ensure that we are not doing anything that might negatively affect their ability to conduct business.

Potential dates may look at your social media ahead of time to get an idea of what kind of person you are.

We always have our phones at our fingertips and lose so much of our time and life to scrolling aimlessly through feeds, looking for likes and comments, showing our lives to anyone that might take an interest.

Social media worms its way into our lives in so many ways…

…and it has a drastic effect on the way we interact with one another and the world.

That influence is felt in our platonic, romantic, and familial relationships.

It can keep us closer to our loved ones when distance separates us, but it can also cause a lot of damage to our relationships.

How exactly does social media harm our relationships?

Social Media Damages Our Ability To Communicate In Person

Social media facilitates quick and efficient communication.

That’s good in that quick and efficient communication help you get more things done…

…but it’s not good in that we come to expect the same in our personal, face-to-face communication.

That’s just not how people work.

It takes time to develop a rapport with a person, learn the deepest parts of them, and share the deepest parts of yourself.

This is an essential part of forming deep, meaningful relationships and it is getting lost as more people come to expect the superficial communication style used on social media.

Face-to-face communication is an important facet of building deep relationships.

The way humans communicate is much broader than a few words of text.

Facial expressions, gesturing, presence, and tone of voice all play a role in fostering a deeper connection with a person.

It’s really easy to misconstrue what a person is trying to say through text, because we often impose our own emotional state onto their words instead of being able to hear what the other person intended.

We can’t hear their intention because it’s not something that is generally present in a sentence or two of text.

Real-life couples tend to communicate less in person when their phone is always at their fingertips.

Does your partner need to know how your day was when you’ve been talking to them all day and they told you everything as it was happening?

Not to mention that constantly being in your partner’s space can breed too much familiarity.

It’s good to have space, to be able to miss the people we care about from time to time.

That is not to say that you cannot have a deep friendship with someone you know online.

You certainly can.

It’s just harder to forge those relationships and keep them going over the long term.

And by focusing so much on this different set of skills that is required for social media socialization, one’s interpersonal skills can lag behind and suffer greatly.

Social Media Is Harmful To Self-Esteem And Mental Health

It’s no secret that social media is having a dramatic effect on the mental and emotional health of people of all ages.

Why is that?

Social media creates an unrealistic perspective of what real life is.

A person that doesn’t feel too great about themselves may land on an influencer’s page who is being less than honest about their life, who, and what they are.

Filters and photo editing create unrealistic standards of beauty and skew what people consider to be attractive.

And very few people are posting about the terrible time they are going through or when their plans blew up in their face.

A person’s social media is often finely curated to only demonstrate the best parts of their life…

Happy, smiling faces that broadcast to the world that, “I am a happy person living my best life!”

But a lot of times that’s simply not true.

And even if it is, good times don’t last forever.

Life has ups and downs, and social media gives people the ability to censor out the lows to create the illusion that things are better than they are.

The result is that 60% of those polled who use social media report that it has negatively impacted their self-esteem.

And 50% report that it has negatively affected their relationships.

But, there is a less obvious reason for that as well.

A person who spends their time curating their life to make it appear better than it is, more perfect and refined than it actually is, disillusions and pushes themselves into depression through a Fear Of Missing Out and not being true to themselves.

They become disconnected from who they are versus who they are portraying themselves to be.

The lack of honest representation damages their ability to be happy and grateful for what they have.

And the Fear Of Missing Out is played on in advertising and self-improvement spaces quite often.

“Are you living your best life?”

“Don’t let negativity into your space!”

“That person is toxic!”

But those advertisers and influencers don’t know you or your life.

All they’re doing is using the audience’s fears and insecurities against them to sell products or increase their audience.

These kinds of things damage meaningful relationships and friendships because they are essentially lying to everyone, including themselves.

That’s not who they are, that’s not their life, and the people that know them are going to have seeds of doubt planted about their honesty and trustworthiness.

People may find themselves not feeling good enough, questioning their partner’s motives, friendships, and social media interactions.

Something as simple as clicking a like button can perpetuate feelings of jealousy if a person doesn’t feel comfortable with themselves and it feels like their partner may just be giving this other person a bit too much of their attention.

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How To Keep Social Media From Damaging Relationships

If you believe that social media is having a negative impact on the state of your relationship, what can you do about it?

Spend less time on social media.

The simplest way to curb the damage social media can do to a relationship is to reduce the time, effort, and attention we give to social media.

People spend an average of 135 minutes per day on social media.

That is a lot of time to be scrolling, liking, and having one’s feelings and perceptions influenced by what could be an untrue presentation of reality.

Reduce the amount of time that you spend on social media networks.

Reduce communication through texting and social media.

Though it is often more convenient and efficient, one should not rely on text as their primary mode of communication with their friends, family, or romantic partner.

It is far too easy to mistake the tone and the context of a message.

Set aside time to catch up face to face, through a phone call, or even through a video call if distance is a factor.

Don’t have any important or emotionally charged conversations through text if you can avoid it.

Save those things for speaking in person.

Keep your relationship off of social media.

Advertising your relationship on social media is just asking for trouble.

You make it easy for anyone and everyone – people who may not know you or what transpired within the confines of the relationship – to comment on the things that they see going on in your relationships.

That could end up in drama spilling over into your social media feed, people commenting on a relationship starting or ending, or meddling that disrupts your life.

Attend more social gatherings. Put your phone away during them.

Try to attend more social gatherings and be sure to put your phone away during them.

You can even suggest no electronics as a jointly agreed upon activity within the group.

No one uses their phones for the duration of your social event, that way the people involved are not distracted from one another.

Discuss and define what constitutes inappropriate behavior ahead of time.

Many hurt feelings and arguments could be prevented if couples were to define what constitutes inappropriate behavior on social media ahead of time.

A person may not have a problem with their partner having an ex on their social media, but does have a problem with any secret conversations that might be happening.

A person may not want their partner following sexualized profiles, liking inappropriate content, or exchanging flirtatious messages.

And of course, there are limits to how far this should go.

Some demands, like access to passwords or regularly checking their accounts, are a breach of trust and unreasonable.

Privacy is an important part of a healthy relationship and needs to be respected so long as trust is intact.

But, there’s also a good reason that the word “Facebook” appears in about 30% of divorce cases.

Quit social media altogether.

Quitting social media altogether may be the right choice as well.

Not only will you eliminate many of the problems that social media brings into your relationships, but you also get to reclaim 135 minutes of your day!


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About The Author

Jack Nollan is a person who has lived with Bipolar Disorder and Bipolar-depression for almost 30 years now. Jack is a mental health writer of 10 years who pairs lived experience with evidence-based information to provide perspective from the side of the mental health consumer. With hands-on experience as the facilitator of a mental health support group, Jack has a firm grasp of the wide range of struggles people face when their mind is not in the healthiest of places. Jack is an activist who is passionate about helping disadvantaged people find a better path.