©iStockphoto.com/Yuri Arcurs Image by: ©iStockphoto.com/Yuri Arcurs
For insight and tips on how couples can emphasize social media's positive impacts and minimize the negative ones, we spoke with Monica Hamburg, a social media consultant, humorist and podcaster based in Vancouver, and Melanie Baker, an online community manager in Waterloo, Ontario.
1. Communicate openly about your online activity
With more than half of all Canadians connected via Facebook, it's important for people to share what they do on social media platforms with their partners.
"I'm a huge proponent of communication, transparency and honesty – both online and off. I can't think of anyone you should be more upfront with than someone with whom you're intimately involved," says Hamburg.
If you aren't comfortable sharing what's on your Facebook page with your partner, you might need to rethink what you post and how you interact with others online.
2. Be sensitive to your partner's approach
"Be considerate," advises Baker. "How private is your partner? How avidly do they themselves participate in social media? If something hilarious happens that could be embarrassing to your partner, you are not automatically entitled to post it unless your partner is OK with it," she warns.
If he or she declines, the joke stays between you, and the same consideration is a must for posting photos and video of your partner. "One way couples grow is by building shared experiences and memories," says Hamburg, "but it's not an intimate couple experience if the entire Internet is brought into it."
3. Reconnect with your partner by going offline
One of the biggest challenges, especially in long-term relationships, is making sure time spent together is quality time. This means time where you really connect and listen to each other, not merely sit in the same room while staring at different screens.
"Sometimes it's best to remove temptation and physically disconnect altogether," says Hamburg. "There are times where I insist that we take a walk without our iPhones, and while I'm on vacation I have been known to implement a personal social media ban."
Aim for at least 15 to 20 minutes of tech-free time every night to help you reconnect as a couple.
4. Try not to keep tabs on him through Facebook or other social media
It's so easy to track our friends and spouses online with features such as geo-tagging, Instagram locator and Facebook "places" location tagging. Some partners may find it reassuring to know that their mate has safely arrived at Point B from Point A.
However, "balance is key," confirms Hamburg. "My partner was just on a very long solo driving trip, and after a while I became a bit concerned when I hadn't received a text," she says. "I checked his Facebook status where he had just posted about the meal he was having at his destination. I was instantly relieved. So checking occasionally is fine, but if you're refreshing your browser every five minutes, maybe step away from the computer for a while."
5. Don't treat your spouse like just another online friend
Is a text goodnight equal to a tweet? Is a message posted to your Facebook wall as meaningful as an email? To each his own, say the experts.
"Social media is great for sharing interesting things that you've been up to, if you took a trip to another country or ate somewhere cool for dinner," says Baker. "But your partner should not be expected to keep up or follow the same way your online friends do."
Hamburg agrees: "Technology has its drawbacks, and one is the tendency to default to quick-form communication when sometimes a more personal touch is warranted," she says. "Will your spouse see a difference between a text or a tweet? Some people don't like talking on the phone, but if they know it makes their partner happy to occasionally get a call rather than an email, they'll make the effort," she notes. "It's about communicating your needs and recognizing theirs."
6. Don't flirt with others online
When one partner receives online correspondence from an ex or takes part in virtual flirting, it can lead to feelings of jealousy, mistrust and a temptation to "snoop" on the part of his or her spouse.
"Don't do anything with exes or anyone else online that you wouldn't do while your partner was standing beside you," advises Baker. "If you wouldn't say or do something in person, saying or doing it online probably isn't a good idea, either. Remember you can't uncross those boundaries with your partner once you've breached them."
"It's understandable that you might get a jolt from online flirting," says Hamburg, "but just be clear on the difference between fantasy and reality."
By sharing and including your spouse in your online activities, being considerate, resisting the urge to stalk or snoop and taking the occasional technology time-out, you will boost both your social-media savvy and your relationship.