The spread of the Internet has fundamentally changed the way people communicate, relate, and access information. While the advantages of the web are undeniable, there are also many downsides. Children are exposed to pornography and violence, and the serenity of couples is undermined by many opportunities of infidelity, which is sometimes associated with liking one’s selfies on Instagram. The information shared through social media is complex and suggests the development of a new concept of privacy. Family counseling needs to take into consideration the effects of social media on relationships in order to develop new methods of resolving family conflicts.
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In their research, House, McGinty, and Heim (2017) investigate the influence of social networking services (SNSs) on the level of satisfaction in long-distance relationships. It has been found that social media has an overall positive impact on couples whose face-to-face interaction is limited. In this case, SNS act as an effective tool for communication, which improves intimacy, satisfaction, and partner-responsiveness in relationships (House et al., 2017).
This is because online communication allows for upholding the quality and stability of relationships. Even though social media is not equal to face-to-face communication, it facilitates self-disclosure in relationships.
Fox (2016) is concentrated on the negative implications of social media for couples. In particular, visibility and connectivity of SNS may significantly decrease the level of satisfaction in relationships. Due to visibility, people may view pictures from their partner’s previous relationship, which may appear to be frustrating. The divergence of views on the use of SNS has the potential to create conflicts for couples. Some people may feel uncomfortable with their partners sharing intimate details of their relationships via SNS (Fox, 2016). Also, the use of social media may result in a lack of privacy because of a partner’s increased monitoring.
Reflecting on the study conducted by House et al. (2017), one may note that the authors did not take into account all the outcomes of social media in long-distance relationships. Therefore, the main argument of the research seems rather one-sided and biased than objective and multi-dimensional. It has not been mentioned that social media may have negative effects on some aspects of long-term relationships, in particular, a decrease in trust and an increase in jealousy.
Fox (2016) gives a detailed analysis of the harm which SNS may represent to couples. However, when discussing the dark sides of Internet-mediated communication, the author does not consider that potential relationship threats often arise from psychological problems of partners rather than Instagram posts or Facebook pages. Therefore, social networking sites should not be regarded as the primary factor of distress in relationships. Instead, it is one’s psychological predilections that may make people inspect the pages of their partners searching for information that may exacerbate current problems.
In summary, social media and the substantial lack of privacy impact the dynamics among couples. However, one may state that there is no unambiguous view on the influence of social media on relationships, which is explained by differences in human nature. That is why a focus should be shifted from studying the effects of SNS on families to a deeper understanding of psychological patterns which may make a person susceptible to risks associated with the use of SNS.
This claim is consistent with the purpose of family counseling – to have clarity and confidence in family life by gaining insights into dynamics within the family (Doherty & Harris, 2017). Online communication through SNS may facilitate the use of methods of family counseling, especially those involving forgiveness and relational spirituality (Worthington & Sandage, 2016). Therefore, despite the possible harm of social media, family counseling may adapt and utilize the opportunities of Internet-mediated communication in order to effectively and serenely face family conflicts.
Doherty, W. J. Jr., & Harris, S. M. (2017). When one partner has an affair. In W. J. Doherty & S. M. Harris, Helping couples on the brink of divorce: Discernment counseling for troubled relationships (pp. 135-147). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Web.
Fox, J. (2016). The dark side of social networking sites in romantic relationships. In G. Riva, B. K. Wiederhold, & P. Cipresso (Eds.), The psychology of social networking: Personal experience in online communities (Vol. 1, pp. 78-86). Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Open.
House, B., McGinty, M., & Heim L. (2017). Can you handle the distance? A look into social media & the effects on long-distance relationships. Web.
Worthington, E. L. Jr., & Sandage, S. J. (2016). Forgiveness in couples and family therapy. In E. L. Worthington, Jr. & S. J. Sandage. Forgiveness and spirituality in psychotherapy: A relational approach (pp. 223-245). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_531-1