Ok, social media is here to stay. One of my concerns is that we are on the front end of the curve of understanding the impact of social media on our lives. I have seen an alarming increase of marriage problems that center around the misuse or over-use of social media. I hear example after example of how an old girlfriend "just shows up" on Facebook, leading to a series of inappropriate messages, picture and even the affair that results from this little reunion. Let's not forget the examples of couples that spend an entire evening sitting two feet from each other on the same couch in the living room but worlds apart as they stare at their smart phones or laptops. It is not uncommon for couples to spend hours beside each other yet never speak. The worst part about this is, because of the interaction available through social media, there is a sense of engagement and fulfillment that leaves us somewhat content not engaging with the real live human beings sitting next to us.
So, how should a married couple deal with social media? Here are some "rules" or boundaries I suggest you consider to keep social media from threatening your marriage.
Rule #1. Put the phone down and walk away. Sit down with your spouse and decide when you as a couple need to put down the phones or computers. Remember, your spouse is the most important human relationship you have. This means you must be radical in how you address any threat to your marriage. Your spouse needs your full attention sometimes, so go ahead and put the phone over there where you can't just reach out and grab it every time it makes that custom tone or vibration when you get a notification of some kind. We need physical separation from the devices that foster connection with others so that we can devote real connection with our spouse.
Rule #2. Welcome your spouse into your social media world. I know, this scares some of you. If the idea of your spouse having access to your social media accounts scares you, then you are up to no good. "What about privacy," you say? You gave up privacy the day you got married. The Bible clearly tells us God's plan for marriage is to "become one." Don't be passive here. Actually invite your spouse in. Give them login and password information. Encourage them to feel free to browse about. The more we intentionally create openness, the more we reduce tension, fear and unhealthy curiosity. You might even consider combining accounts to address concerns and promote the connection that defines you on the social media landscape as married.
Rule #3. Unfriend some people. You knew this was coming. Who is in your social media world that does not belong? There may be someone who represents a secret agenda to flirt, look at photos, reminisce or share personal information with. This is a violation of you marriage vows, plain and simple. Would your spouse approve of every person on your friend list? You may need you spouse's help to unfriend a few people. Some of you will protest this step on grounds that your spouse is "just jealous." My advice is, do it anyway. Jealousy (if it is truly the case) is not solved when you resist boundaries, you only exacerbate the problem. The more you apply these steps, the more trust is built, and trust is the only way to deal with jealousy.
Rule #4. Be overtly married. This is a practice I have employed for years. I make sure I include Amanda, my wife, in a variety of ways in my social media activity. I want to be sure there is no question that I am happily married. I accomplish this by posting picture of me and my wife together (see my current profile pic on Facebook). Think about when you walk into a social scene in person. If your spouse is with you, it is expected that you make introductions to people you meet. In fact, it is very rude and even hurtful when we forget to introduce our spouse. We should do the same on social media. This goes far beyond listing yourself as "married" in your profile. Your marriage should permeate every area of your life.
Rule #5. Honor your spouse with exclusive rights to your attention. This is by far the most radical step you can take. If you truly believe our marriage is the most important human relationship we have, then honor your spouse with exclusive rights to your attention. Try this, make the commitment to give more attention to your spouse than social media. Literally track this in minutes. if you typically spend two hours milling around on social media, give your spouse at least two hours and one minute. Make your spouse the definitive winner in the category of your attention. Obviously, this is not aimed at social media involvement that is related to work or when your spouse is not around. The big issue is the few possible minutes we do have to spend with each other is often robbed by our addiction to social media. If you only applied rule #5 your marriage would improve by leaps and bounds, don't believe me...try it for 1 week.
Do you follow any social media rules? I'd love to learn from you. Please share your comments here.