I am currently working on a project exploring how social media affects family relationships.
How do you communicate with your familial network? Facebook? Twitter? Are you venturing into the world of Google+? Whatever medium you use to talk to the important people in your life, there are several considerations to keep in mind – particularly among couples and families experiencing divorce.
Having our communication lines “always on” can be a great way to communicate important facts and schedule meeting times efficiently while bypassing emotional pitfalls. If every conversation with your partner evolves into a drawn out, angry affair, perhaps you can share information via text or instant message.
An online discussion between two parents might help them focus on the issue at hand without being distracted by other emotionally-charged topics that could easily arise over the phone or in person. Social media also enables both parents to have ongoing interactions with their children whether they are together or not potentially easing feelings of separation and being “cut off” from a parent.
I’m sure you can think of many other ways modern methods of interaction could benefit your family.
Unfortunately, the “always on” nature of social media is, well, always on. Without proper boundaries, technology can seriously interfere with family time, alienate people from one another, and create feelings of chaos and over-extension. Families already managing the stress of a divorce can really begin to feel like “butter spread over too much bread.”[1. A great line from Bilbo Baggins in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring]
In fact, I recently decided to basically dump my life into Google via Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, etc. As I’m still dealing with a variety of sync and storage issues, my attempts at simplifying my technological life have yet to become simple and are starting to consume more free time than I’m willing to spend.
Cyberbullying is a hot topic these days and is often discussed in terms of relational aggression among adolescents. However, when two people are struggling with divorce and the conflict and negative emotions that often go with it, inconsiderate or hostile uses of social media can do serious harm.
The ability to instantly tell someone what is on our mind – often in 140 words or less – puts us all at risk of sending words out into the world that can hurt feelings, damage relationships, and even destroy lives (on both sides of the “send” button). And, as we teach kids when discussing cyberbullying, you can’t undo something posted online.
Sure, you might wise up and delete it later, but how many times has it been posted, forwarded, or retweeted before you came to your senses?
A Few Keys to Social Media Success
Use social media to maintain and strengthen relational ties Maintain healthy boundaries and don’t be afraid to spend family time “unplugged” When you are messaging someone, imagine they are sitting right in front of you looking into your eyes…then imagine everyone else in the world is too. #nothingonlineisprivate