Saumya Tewari spoke to experts Dr Kushal Jain, Consultant Psychiatrist, and Ms Gopa Khan, Mental Health Therapist, about the impact that social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp have on modern relationships.
Do you think social media such as Facebook or WhatsApp have changed modern couple relationships?
Dr Kushal Jain: Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become closely associated with people’s lives, as they spend considerable time uploading their pictures, writing posts and tagging others. This definitely impacts modern couple relationships in real time. We frequently come across clients who are distressed both emotionally and psychologically when they or their relationships are mentioned on Facebook or WhatsApp.
Gopa Khan: I had one client who was addicted to WhatsApp and was in many chat groups. This impacted his marriage and family life. In another case, a newly married lady would spend her whole day on Facebook instead of focussing on her family priorities and this created an immense conflict in the marriage, leading to divorce.
It would be unfair to blame social media, as it is actually a person’s inability to draw healthy boundaries that is the issue.
To what extent do you think social media adds to jealousy among couples?
Dr Kushal Jain: Social media act as a catalyst in magnifying emotions. Social media, especially Facebook, can exacerbate and then sustain small amounts of jealousy. Jealousy is a normal human emotion and therefore social media cannot be blamed for it.
“Social media posts are captured in electronic memory and stay there for a long time, unlike words, which could easily fade away with time.” – Dr Kushal Jain, Consultant Psychiatrist
Gopa Khan: Jealousy will always exist but the degree intensifies if the partner is insecure. For instance, a spouse may not like his other half getting too many ‘Likes’ on Facebook or have men in her FB friends’ list or WhatsApp groups, or vice versa. In addition, spouses deciding which friends can be in their respective FB accounts becomes a control issue. In such cases, I ask couples to keep out of each other’s Facebook accounts if possible, as it does get messy.
Is social media activity becoming a tool among modern couples to keep tabs on each other?
Dr Kushal Jain: This is a very common issue that I encounter with couples in relationship counselling. They frequently complain about their partners checking their phones or keeping track of their Facebook and WhatsApp activities. We have to accept that nothing can be changed now and we have to live with social media. This phenomenon of checking your partner’s online activities happens, and will happen even more in the future. Social media have just become another reason for individuals to become more suspicious and paranoid. People should be aware that they are tracked and kept tabs on.
“The negative is when couples end up focussing too much on social media based relationships rather than real relationships.” – Gopa Khan, Mental Health Therapist
Do modern couples talk about issues arising out of social media in your counselling sessions?
Dr Kushal Jain: Every now and then we do get clients who discuss how their relationships are negatively affected by the posts their partners put up on social media platforms. This is usually associated with breakups, fights, arguments and, in rare cases, even violence. This is when I remind them that social media are also how people are connected. So social media does act a double-edged sword.
Gopa Khan: It’s very much part and parcel of couple counselling now. My standard advice to couples…please don’t share passwords with spouses and refrain from posting personal aspects of your life, and definitely NO selfies… that’s definitely inviting trouble. On a serious note, sex addiction issues also show up while using social media and are leading to breakdown of marriages. Maintaining healthy boundaries and not putting too much information out there on your personal life is the most sensible thing to do.