13-19 February 2015 #745

Love in the time of Facebook

This just in: Too much time on social networking sites may end romantic relationships
Anjana Rajbhandary

Partners are cheating more since Facebook came along. They are stalking each other and their exes. Too much time networking on social media strains relationships, and may end them.

Sobering reflections on Valentines Day, 2015. But all is not lost: if a relationship respects loyalty and honesty, being on any social networking should not matter. “My girlfriend said I had not gotten over my ex because we were still Facebook friends,” said 31-year-old computer engineer, Karan. “She said I had to unfriend her for us to work. It’s ridiculous.”

Shreya is a 23-year-old graduate who has been in a relationship for seven months, and has disagreements regarding Facebook posts. “The solution was to be less active on social media,” she said.

It is not rare to hear of people in relationships like Karan and Shreya having disagreements regarding the social media posts and who they are ‘friends’ with. People fighting over their status updates is becoming common.

“Virtual means of communication especially about relationships in public as opposed to private can create problems and impact key values of healthy relationships,” said Krista Rajkarnikar a Kathmandu-based psychologist. “If they use social media openly to talk about their relationships, they will need to be open to criticism.”

Many Facebook users engage in ‘partner surveillance’ which leads to excessive checking of the activity of partners. The more they check, the more jealous they become.

Social Media Specialist Aakar Anil agrees: “If partners meet each other via social networking sites, they become overly possessive.” He says many Nepali parents are now treating Facebook as a matrimonial sites. Which is why, Anil says, maintaining one’s privacy is paramount, and passwords should never be shared.

Stalking can be addictive, and can cause anxiety among partners and their exes. The more people use Facebook, the more likely they are to connect with previous partners or meet new ones, which can lead to emotional and physical cheating.

Vivek, 27, is unemployed and obsesses about his girlfriend being on her smartphone all the time. Facebook-induced jealousy can lead to arguments, and it happens to be more common in newer couples of three years or less.

Ken Hill, professor of psychology at the College of the Atlantic in the US says many people use social media to “shop” for other relationships while in an existing one. “People tend to flirt more online than they ever would in person,” Hill told Nepali Times. “And they rate their relationship based on how many likes they get.”

Some of the do’s and don’ts about safe Facebook use are universal, and it doesn’t seem to matter whether a person is in the US or in Nepal. For example, Puja, 24, said her last relationship ended because of Facebook: “One day, my boyfriend did not log out so I got curious and read all the messages exchanged with his ex-girlfriend. I trusted him but he blamed me for invading his privacy.”

Academics across the world are studying the sociology of social networking and how it is changing our cultures. People do not think anything is real or official, till it is posted on social media. They make important life announcements, display disagreements and hatred, and judge self-worth through words or pictures that scroll up every second.

Indra Dhoj Kshetri, a social media researcher, says social media is just a new tool of communication. “Technology is neutral,” Kshetri told us, “positive and negative effects depend on how we use them.”

‘Facebook creeping’ is another new phenomenon where one goes through someone else’s social media to learn more about them, mostly for possible romantic connection. But what people forget is that a person’s online behaviour does not always resemble their offline persona.

“I like attractive women, who doesn’t? But too many selfies come across as vain with low self-esteem,” said Akash, 29, “she might be a smart girl but her pictures give her away.”

Keeping relationships off Facebook could be the smart way to make sure a romantic relationship stays strong.

Kathmandu-based psychologist Lisa A Gautschi summed it up: “If social media makes you more prone to cheat, what does it say about the quality of your relationship? If one is going against what the couple has decided as a couple, online or offline, and there is still cheating,then it shows lack of integrity and respect.”

People take risks on Facebook because it doesn’t feel real, they forget that you haven’t met until you meet. Some names have been changed.

Read also:

Marriages made in Facebook, Merilin Piipuu