It's not all secret Snaps and hate stalking. Here's how to use social media as a positive influence on your relationship.

By Rachael Schultz
February 05, 2019
Photo: nortonrsx / Getty Images

Social media gets a lot of heat for complicating the business of romantic relationships-and for bringing out the most insecure, jealous tendencies in us all. Some of it's totally fair. Yes, having hot guys slide into your DM or your ex add you on Snapchat can up the temptation. And there's no worse feeling than being blindsided by the guy you just broke up with popping up in another girl's Instastory. (And for single folks, dating apps can bring on a whole host of mental health issues. See: Dating Apps Aren't Great for Your Self-Esteem)

"There is no denying that social media has changed the way we meet, have sex, fall in love, and fall out of love, but my take on it is that social media has become the scapegoat for our human problems," says Atlanta-based relationship therapist Brian Jory, Ph.D., author of Cupid on Trial. "Relationships fail for a lot of reasons, and we shouldn't blame social media for problems we have created for ourselves." Touché.

Every time there's a new technological innovation-cars, e-mail, vibrators-we have to learn how to adapt to the way they change dating, relationships, and intimacy, he highlights. Jory points to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll that found most people-72 percent-don't feel like social media or the internet have any real effect on their relationship. And of those who do, most say it is a positive impact.

So yes, social media can certainly make it harder to have a healthy relationship in 2019. But there are also a ton of upsides that can make your bond even stronger. Here are five-plus some helpful dos and don'ts, according to relationship pros.

1. It can help you feel more secure-especially early on.

The DTR convo definitely helps you feel like you're on the same page as your new S.O., but extra reassurance can still go a long way. "In the beginning of a relationship, sharing a picture of you together can make a statement that you're serious about this one," points out New York–based relationship coach Donna Barnes.

"Making a commitment to being a couple isn't something that happens secretly between two people-it is a social event as well that puts a boundary around their intimacy and lets others know that there is a connection between them that is more than casual," Jory says, adding it's an essential leg of the triangle of passion, intimacy, and commitment.

FYI, both experts agree this is something you should talk about first-posting a pic of someone or changing your relationship status on Facebook without talking about it first can just create conflict between you.

2. It makes it easy to show appreciation for your S.O.

Social media makes it easy for you to share things you're proud of your partner for-completing projects, earning a promotion, anything they've worked hard for, says Barnes. "Acknowledging your partner positively is a great way to keep your loving connection, and social platforms make it easy to show them how much you appreciate them," she says. (Related: Apparently, Just Thinking About Someone You Love Can Help You Deal with Stressful Situations)

Again, just be sure you're on the same page about what you're each comfortable with the world knowing. Posting publicly can benefit the relationship, but you need to set rules about what you're going to share online-and that rule should probably be to keep the roller coaster of emotions to real life. "Make an agreement that your feelings for one another belong to you-not the whole world-and those feelings will be stronger when they are private," Jory says.

If it's too early in a relationship to have that conversation, stick to the rule of not oversharing: Posting intimate or negative things decreases the social attractiveness of the person revealing, says a study in Computers in Human Behavior.

3. Celebrating milestones publicly can help build intimacy.

"Creating a scrapbook of your relationship online and celebrating milestones-your first trip together, your one-year anniversary-is good for building intimacy, especially in a new relationship," Barnes says. And while you can definitely share too much, documenting big firsts can also help your friends and family get to know your new S.O. and provide reassurance that they're a good fit for you, she adds.

"Deciding which pictures or videos to post, which story to tell, what's funny and what's not is a game for many couples," Jory says. Playing around with how you share information and milestones as a couple can add to that shared experience.

4. It helps you stay connected with busy schedules.

If you've ever sent your S.O. an Instagram DM of a funny meme that totally reminded you of them, or a Snapchat of the cute dog you saw on the sidewalk, then you know that social media can be a fun way to stay connected with each other's lives, even if you can't be together physically.

The Pew study backed that up: Long-term couples said texting keeps them in touch when they're separated-at work or off on a business trip-and others report that seeing their partners out with friends in photos brought them closer. "Some couples also [use texting and social media] to build sexual passion with innuendos or explicit sexual talk-it can be fun and inspirational," says Jory. (You can also try these 10 different sex positions to spice it up tonight.)

5. It can offer you a shared experience.

"Shared experiences are the foundation to creating a relationship that's good for the long haul," Jory says. These are the things that keep you from "growing apart" or losing interest in one another. One part of an intimate relationship is what you share between the two of you-face-to-face conversations, sexual exploration-but the larger part of intimacy is "hand-in-hand" interaction-the common interests you share together where the focus isn't on one another but instead on a shared interest, goal, or outside person.

Case in point: "When you post a photo of your baby, it's a shared parenting experience," Jory says. Sure, maybe it's for Grandma, too, but it can also bring you and your partner closer. (Same goes for a pet!)

One important catch? Just be sure to designate screen-free times with your S.O. A study in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture reports that looking at your phone all the time when you're with your sweetie fosters jealousy. "To be mentally and physically healthy, we also need face-to-face interactions-touching real skin, looking in real eyes that blink or cry," Jory points out. Social media can support the foundation you create offline, but real relationships take actual conversation, like a voice coming out of your mouth with complete sentences. "It's about caring and commitment in the full-body sense."

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February 7, 2019
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