We are discovering more and more that the increase in technology and social media use- recently coined “technoference” – has had an impact on relationship satisfaction. There is mounting empirical data to support theories that social media has influenced betrayal, as it opens up another spectrum of temptation and disconnection. In my private practice most of my clients that present with relationship issues, some form of technoference has occurred. It has either been the cause of disconnection, or played a role in discovery of infidelity. Some reports suggest that up to 70% of face-to-face conversations are stopped when a text, email or call comes through, and we are now discovering how much new technology is continuing to encourage infidelity.
A phrase known as media dependency theory, which involves high use of social mediums like Facebook, can serve as a potential channel for self-disclosure and emotional as well as physical infidelity. Those same sights people will only post positive experiences and photographs. Often making lives of others seem so much better than our own. They show the hedonic states of lives- where travel, love, romance and happiness are a focus. Others lives can seem perfect and so much better than our own, increased social media use has a direct correlation to relationship satisfaction. The more you view someone else’s life with admiration, the less satisfied you are with your own, and in turn your own relationship.
Social media provides one route for behaviours that can be harmful to romantic relationships. The amount of time spent looking at phones, reading social media and in some aspects being voyeurs, takes us away from real conversation and quality time with partners. The most successful relationships are the ones where communication with each other is a priority, even if it is only for 20 minutes a day. By establishing face to face discussions we not only show our partners that we care about them, but their conversation is more important than that of others in the cyber world. . A ménage a trios happens with the iPad, iPhone, or smart phone- and not only at the dining table but also in the bedroom. So even before any disloyalty has occurred the sheer amount of time spent “not communicating” with a partner can cause a wedge.
In modern society mobile phones and social media has enabled another option to stray- but also a way to be caught. When once affairs were strictly limited to land lines, or work dalliances the spectrum and the possibilities are even greater than ever before. Often in couples therapy the partner who cheats complains of not being heard, understood or validated and quite often some form of social media and technology has allowed them to find someone who seems more engaged and interested. Recent studies have shown even the presence of a mobile phone or device on the dining table when at the dinner, degrades conversation and inhibits people from really opening up. Interestingly further studies into the presence of a device- in and out of the bedroom- caused a subversion of the conditions required for intimacy. They believe that we decide subconsciously if we will be intimate. Making the mere presence of a device far more influential than ever considered. I make it a rule with couples in therapy that all devices are switched off during meals, and if possible most of the evening. Never is the device allowed into the bedroom…that can kill the mood well and truly before it begins, and not the kind of ménage a Trios that works. Being aware that taking time out to listen to your partner and be fully present can not only help with relationship satisfaction, but can help form intimacy and deeper connection. The small step of keeping a phone in a pocket or bag when out or switching off at home can help relationships more than most people imagine.