Social media today isn’t what it was, say, 10 years ago. In the past, there was still a large group of adults who didn’t participate in social media platforms. Today, put simply, they do. According to recent Pew Data, as many as 88 percent of American adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are on social media. Jargon intended: That’s, like, a lot of people. Social media has become an unavoidable part of our social lives. It has become an integral vehicle for communication between people and a platform for self-presentation, and it is probably never going away.
In terms of how social media impacts dating relationships, I can report anecdotally from my clinical work that it often causes stress and anxiety. Specifically, some men and women report that they sometimes feel worse or more anxious after seeing something on their date’s or ex-dates postings. I once appeared on a television show to discuss what I called “Facebook Stalking,” and this was at a time when Facebook was used more actively by young adults. “Facebook Stalking” or, come to think of it, “eHarmony Checking” are obviously not clinical terms but you understand the larger issue: sometimes your checking behavior is a bit of a problem. The good news is that problems can often be solved.
Take a look at a few signs that your behavior – checking your date’s social media platforms – has gotten too extreme.
You often feel anxious, bothered or upset by something you’ve seen on social media.
If you are constantly checking your date’s social media, you probably feel stressed sometimes as a result of something you’ve seen or read. If you check a lot, you may feel stressed out frequently, even a few times per day. There is nothing wrong with social media. It’s like anything; moderation is usually the best approach. You shouldn’t routinely do things in your life that create frequent or intense anxiety, so the goal is to give yourself some limits when it comes to checking up on your date. Perhaps tell yourself to check no more than once or twice each day; maybe take a break for a couple days if you’re checking all the time.
You spend a lot of time during a given period talking to your friends about what he or she was doing or saying on social media.
If what he or she was doing on social media is an intense or frequent subject, your checking his or her social media has probably gotten too extreme. Your friends aren’t paid therapists, so don’t make them work too hard. When any of us start indulging too many of our issues and draining our friends as a result, we need to take a step back and reduce social media checking for a minute.
The real problem is actually about trust and self-esteem.
If you have decent self-esteem and don’t have major trust issues, you are probably not going to need to compulsively check your date’s or ex-date’s social media platforms. You check compulsively because you feel anxious or afraid about the status of that person’s feelings for you. In such times, you wonder any of the following possibilities: Am I being cheated on? Is he interested in someone else? Is she still “into” me? Who is she spending time with now? Does he look happier than me? Of course, the list is endless. The key is to remember that social media isn’t the problem; it’s the combination of trust issues and low self-esteem that cause dysfunctional social media checking. Answer these questions now: Do you trust that you are lovable enough that this person will probably want to continue to be with you in the future? Do you trust that this person will be faithful to you?
The solution to some problems starts with the simple art of reflection.
The mere act of thinking about your behavior sets you on a positive spiral toward change. Think about it in a critical way – not mean-critical but constructive-critical – so that you can fix the problem. Protect your feelings and your mood. Don’t do things that make you feel worse. Finally, use this motto I share with my clients: I don’t put myself in a dependent position where my self-esteem depends entirely on any one person’s feelings about me.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.