Protecting Your Marriage in the Age of Social Media

Facebook and similar online networks can be harmless and fun when utilized appropriately.  But, social network participation can be potentially problematic for marriages. [See related article.] Couples should be proactive about protecting themselves and their marriages from possible social network pitfalls.  Here are some practical tips to consider...

(1)  Watch the clock.  Spending too much time on any activity can be harmful to your family relationships.  But spending an inordinate amount of time engaging is social network activities can be particularly distressing to one's spouse. Overdoing it can send a message that not only are you too busy to spend time with your spouse, but also that connecting with others online is preferable than communicating in person with him/her.

(2)  Don't air your dirty laundry.  Facebook, Twitter, et. al. is not an appropriate venue to post your grievances about or otherwise embarrass your spouse.  Even updates that are intended to be humorous may not be perceived as such by your spouse.  Furthermore, others are not privy to the context to determine if such a post was made in jest or out of spite.

(3)  Share passwords.  Sharing your online passwords establishes trust, openness, commitment, and accountability.  It also demonstrates that your online interactions are appropriate and there is nothing to hide.  Why would one not want to share passwords with their spouse?  The answer to that question may be revealing.

(4)  Establish safeguards together.  You need to be on the same page with your spouse regarding social network options.  The only way to do this is to talk about it.  Is there current or potential online contacts or "friends" with whom either of you are uncomfortable?  Are their certain communication methods that either of you think should be off limits to people of the opposite sex (e.g. email, private message, chat)?  What level of personal and family information should be shared online?

(5)  Choose your "friends" wisely.  Ultimately, it is your decision and responsibility to determine who you will add to your social network contacts.  Once social network connections are made, these people have more access into your life.  Remember, you can always "unfriend" someone whose posts or interactions have become uncomfortable or offensive to you or your spouse.  Any online contact that can strain your relationship with your spouse is not a contact worth keeping.
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