Last week, I was pleased to be invited by Jacqueline Raposo to join her and her co-host Ben Rosenblatt on their NYC-based weekly radio show Love Bites on the Heritage Radio Network to talk about social media and its impact on dating and relationships that I see in my therapy practice (listen here). We spoke about a range of topics including authenticity, overuse of social media and harassment of women in these spaces. Overall, Jacqueline and Ben expressed a sentiment that’s familiar from my work with individuals and couples in therapy–an ambivalence about social media’s value alongside a reluctant concession to its use.
One thing I didn’t say on the show that deserves to be mentioned is that social media can be a great tool for connecting with friends, making plans, meeting and connecting with people you don’t know offline. I don’t think we should skip over the value of it.
However, I suspect much of this love/hate relationship with social media comes from how we haven’t as a culture sorted out just how we want to use these tools. I offered on the episode that these various spaces–Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, etc.–are platforms where a particular sort of play has emerged. We play the dating game, the posturing game and the glamour game while spectators play the envy game or the voyeur game. Part of our frustration comes from a failure–or at least a reluctance to–both recognize that there is a game being played and understand its rules.
We don’t have to simply give ourselves over to these rules, even as we need to be aware that they exist. As with any game, you can try to break the rules or subvert them. You can get creative and see what possible ways there may be to use the rules to create some new way of using these spaces. They are, after all, social, which means that, as with any social context, we are collectively the creators of the environment they embody. This process, through, doesn’t simply look like one person deciding to execute a strategy of authenticity, for example. Just like inventing a new form of tag on the playground, you’ve got to have the idea but you’ve also got to organize others to play long.
It should be said, as well, that these formats are very easy. Building relationships is hard work. It comes with the possibility of both intimacy and conflict. Both can be harder to deal with face to face–primarily because you can’t click twice or swipe left and have the other party vanish. I’m tired of the conversation, though, being about one versus the other. People can have meaningful interactions both online and off. And that’s probably a good balance for most people and relationships.