The Times Have Changed: Social Media and Relationships

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You had friends, but now you have Facebook friends and real friends. Couples used to chat during dinner, but now they scroll through Tumblr while waiting for the food to arrive. You used to experience accidents and embarrassing moments once, but now your friends have taken to Instagram with #epicfail for the world to see your least delightful moments. And there was a time when friends roamed around the neighborhood and played games, but now most of us spend our free time visiting websites like Buzzfeed and read articles about how things were in the 1990s. Damn. Things have changed so fast in the past fifteen years, it’s no surprise that those born in the early 1990s feel so old.

Human relationships has been greatly affected by social media, and overall it’s not for the better.

There was a time when your relationship with your partner was known only to family and close friends because those were the people that actually cared and wanted to know who you were dating. Today, your relationship status on Facebook is a necessary component to your social life. It’s common these days to hear “It’s not official unless it’s on Facebook.” And for some odd reason, people actually believe in that. In 2012, a friend of mine asked me, “Is it true that you and Catherine are dating?” I said yes and before I could say anything else, she asked me why my relationship with Catherine wasn’t official on Facebook. I replied to my friend that my relationship with Cat was “official” regardless of a Facebook status. I told my parents, my sister, and my best friend. Who else needed to know and actually cared? Apparently, all of my 900 Facebook friends as well. Why?

Before social media, a ring on one’s ring finger was equivalent to saying “I’m in a committed relationship with someone.” The relationship status on Facebook has become something similar to wearing a wedding ring. It has become a way to stop all the guys and gals from chasing after your partner… as if that actually worked. And it has become a way to keep your partner faithful to you…as if that also actually worked. People will say whatever they want and they will certainly do whatever they want. If wearing a ring didn’t stop some people, a relationship status on Facebook is going to be far less effective. Our dependence on technology has gone beyond the realm of easing our lives, as social media has become this weird false sense of security for relationships. Perhaps relationship status will be the new wedding ring; it’ll certainly be much cheaper.

As social media has changed how relationships are kept, it has also changed how relationships affects others. Public display of affection or PDA used to only take place in public, like in parks, outside of restaurants, or in an elevator at the mall. Everyone had mixed feelings about public display of affection; light kisses were okay and tongue wrestling was not okay. However, social media has changed everything we knew about PDA. PDA can now also take place when you’re sitting on the toilet scrolling through Instagram. Imagine that you’re taking a number two and you see your friend smothering her girlfriend with kisses. With social media, you can see PDA wherever and whenever. And you cannot avoid PDA because if you scroll through your newsfeed long enough, you’ll see the picture that a couple posted last night smooching over the romantic dinner they had or a Facebook status about that forever kind of love that’s been going on for three weeks. Social media has allowed us to glorify our relationships and very few of our social media friends actually care or need to be reminded that they’re single.

But all the single ladies and men should rejoice as social media has expanded the dating scene to five miles or even twenty-five miles from your current location. Finding a date has become very easy, but actually going on a date is a different story. We have become less intimate as we interact over networks instead of face-to-face.  We send messages with smiley faces and acronyms instead of smiling and laughing out loud in person. As our reliance on social media increases and we connect with more and more people, we spread ourselves too thin. The connections that actually matter to us begin to weaken. Our relationships are quick to form and even quicker to dissolve as we can easily replace the old with new. We do not need to invest any time to grow a relationship. Perhaps that’s how things are now. Perhaps the time when relationships were forged with dedication, loyalty, and quality has passed.

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