Learn all about how social media affects romantic relationships and how we can build positive relationships that fulfil us. Discover key advice around relationships, social media and self esteem!
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Well you all know by now that I’m...
About to rush anything that has negative effects on your relationships!
So, here we are today calling out social media (and media in general to be honest) because it’s causing an issue- how social media affects romantic relationships is a problem, babe.
Before I get into it, I firstly have to say that this post was inspired by a talk I listened to by Imran Siddiquee
Imran was a guest speaker/ expert on the Explore More Summit (...if you don't know Explore More is a 10 day online knowledge-fest where experts share on sexuality, love, identity, exploration and all the other good stuff!)
I tuned into Imran’s talk on 'Pop Culture, Romance and Masculinity’ last year and found myself discovering some killer information that really hit home for me and my experiences around the positive effects social media has on our relationships; the negative effects social media has on our relationships and the connection between social media and self esteem.
So I decided I needed to bring this topic to your attention as being aware of this is another tool to help you create and maintain relationships that fill you with happiness!
How Social Media Can Affect Romantic Relationships
I think we can all agree what we consume helps to shape who we are and the lives we lead.
There are lots of external sources guiding us in our daily lives now- not just our parent/ carers and immediate communities, but our online communities and the constant flow of ‘news’ on social media outlets for example.
Tip! It’s useful to remember that an external source means anything that isn’t coming from inside ourselves.
Whether we’re staring at Instagram on our phones or watching a film on the big screen ideas are continuously being transferred from screens into our brains and lives. And this includes our relationships.
To be honest, I don’t think ideas being transferred specifically is an issue, but I think the fact that the SAME ideas are being transferred and at a shocking rate IS a problem.
We literally get fed the same information on different mediums, in slightly different ways, continuously. This builds up a certain perspective within us, one we need to challenge- but I’ll get onto that in a moment.
So our consumption of external sources is continuous, it’s immense and it shapes how we feel/ think/ do.
And apparently love.
(Social) media effects our romantic relationships, our relationships in general and our self-esteem.
Does Social Media Think You Have A Right to Be Loved?
In his talk Imran went so far as to say that the media we are exposed to actually effects who we believe has the right to love and be loved.
THINK ABOUT THAT FOR A SECOND- what we view on a screen- whether a tiny mobile or the big cinema- affects if we think we deserve love.
The lack of diversity on screen - in the type of relationships portrayed, in the characters who gain and lose love, in how sex and sexuality is shown and in the ways in which love is acquired- these all combine to create a norm.
And you know what we do with norms don't you?
We either bust our asses and burn out trying to uphold them OR we decide we don't fit into them and exclude ourselves, we tell ourselves we're not good enough because we're different.
This is a hugely negative effect of social media has on our relationships and it's happening daily.
Social Media, Relationships and Escapism
I happen to agree with Imran- I don’t think it’s stretching to assume that the media we consume is affecting how we navigate relationships and sex.
However, I know there is an argument for media being used as escapism and I agree with that too. But I think regardless of why you use media, the effects are basically the same. Social media effects our relationships, simple as.
It's pretty naive of us to assume any kind of media is purely about escapism.
Everything we view on our screens, whether we admit it or not, informs what we think- a whole sector called ADVERTISING is sustained by this fact.
The reason for this is because everything is created and curated by someone. Media, whether that be this blogpost or a photo you’ve seen on Instagram or an article on the BBC news website- it was created by at the very least a human being.
I say the very least because more likely there are brands, companies, missions and money tied up in what’s being created.
You have to factor all of this in when viewing and engaging with content- what beliefs are behind it? What is it trying to teach? What is it trying to sell?
Social Media and Romance
But it's not just about social media and our relationships, the effects other media has on our romantic desires need to be considered too- because *spoiler alert* you may be lusting after relationships that someone else has packaged for you, with no actual consideration for YOU as a whole, actual, real-life person.
In particular, Imran spoke really eloquently about romance films and the fact that if you look at the top 100 romantic movies of all time they are mainly made by men.
So, even though romances are films targeted at female consumers, they are crafted by men- and a certain kind of man too.
It’s someone’s perspective of romance, dating, relationships and sex that is completely different from yours and mine.
It’s a perspective that sells, that works to get the story from A to B and is being used as a tool to uphold the norm that has been crafted from decades of media making and marketing.
As Imran said, it’s a single perspective being sold over and over again as a universal experience.
This is super informative...yet, isolating and damaging in the long run.
Social Media and Self Esteem: How to Be Empowered
So, now I’ve either got you rolling your eyes or chucking all your magazines in the bin, what can we do?
The answer is to find alternatives.
Imran explained that the responsibility is on us all to critically view and review our influences and explore alternatives.
You don’t need to just date one person because almost every movie has the ‘boy meets girl and they live in monogamous bliss forever’ narrative going on. If you're interested in something different, do the research and actually, use social media and the world wide web.
The positive effects of social media on relationships include opening doors. You can use tech to search for something that fits you, outside of what you're constantly being sold. Just, be critical.
I always tell the story of how listening to other women talking openly about sex helped me realise that sex didn’t have to be static- that there was always room to learn and explore and options were open to me.
Nothing is out of bounds, and there’s plenty of ways to express your sexuality and love that aren’t being shown in every popular magazine, book or film.
And, this isn't to say you can't continue to enjoy your favourite movie or app anymore, but you do need to be aware and critical of them.
Being more intentional and informed will benefit you, your happiness and your perception of relationships and love and sex in the long run because you’ll know YOU’RE the number one influence on your life.
Someone else isn’t moulding your happiness for you. You can decide how social media affects your romantic relationships, if at all.
You don’t need to change your social media habits or stop watching movies; it’s more about being aware, being critical and then you can be intentional.
So maybe it is worth curating your Instagram feed so you don’t feel like crap every time you log on, or maybe you keep it exactly the same and just realise that every image you see has been crafted to look a certain way- it does not reflect reality so you shouldn’t aim for it.
Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy in Your Relationships
One gem Imran shared that I think is really fitting with sex and relationships, was about needing permission.
He said, there’s sometimes a failure to realise there's alternatives available and that there is a need for permission to be given to seek these out.
I don't know if that's you babe, but if so THIS IS YOUR PERMISSION.
You don't have to express your love the same as me, you don't have to have sex the way that person in that Netflix show does or how you hear Billy next door pounding the walls at night.
As always, you do you.
Imran quoted research by Holmes and Johnson (2009) that discovered that we as audiences look to romance on screen for insight into how our own relationships and behaviours should be.
We try to find guidance for what’s normal and what it means to be desired, for example.
I think this will always be the case- the need for reassurance, the looking to authority figures and insecurity around love and sex. BUT with blogs like this opening up the conversation I just hope you’ll look a little less outside and more inside for insight.
One step at a time eh?
What About Blogging and Relationships?
I didn’t just want to write about this topic because I want you to be aware of what’s potentially affecting the way you view sex and relationships.
But also, as a blogger and content creator, it’s super important to me to engage in this dialogue around media because I create media.
Social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and Twitter only have the influence they do because of the influencers on them.
Bloggers prop up these norms and ideals as much as any big corporate company does- which is why I think we all have to be aware of the content we’re putting out there.
Are we adding to an already saturated conversation? Are we bringing anything new to the table? Are we even thinking about diversity and inclusion- AND ALTERNATIVES- when we create?
Just a little ho-hum to leave you with!