Idyllic presentations of relationships on social media

Interactive technology has been associated with creating relational boundary issues because there is continuous access to ex-partners/new potential romantic interests, chat boxes, cybersex, and pornography. Partners who are overly invested in social media websites may induce feelings of jealousy, envy, suspicion, surveillance, and infidelity in the other partner.

These platforms give the impression that there are many suitable alternatives, thereby facilitating romantic comparison processes. That is, the perception of an ideal partner or an ideal relationship portrayed on social media may lead partners to internalize unrealistic norms, thereby negatively evaluating their own partner or relationship and decreasing their relationship commitment.

More frequent exposure to alternative partners may lead to more pursuing of alternative partners, starting with apparent innocuous messages between potential alternatives that can easily develop into flirtation, leading to emotional infidelity, and even cybersex or engaging in (sexual) affairs. Note that the idyllic presentations of relationships on social media - often including perfect couples with perfect bodies - may induce body image concerns and relational or sexual insecurities, eventually leading to sexual problems.

To avoid these negative impacts is complicated, however, one simple advice could be to openly discuss the issue within couples and, for example, to regularly unplug from nonessential media and technology practices as a way to feel how relationship commitment changes.

Marieke Dewitte
Assistant Professor
Section Experimental Health Psychology, Clinical Psychological Science, Departments, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience

HFTHQ 20-21

Suggested readings

  • Eli J. Finkel, EJ, Eastwick, PW, Karney, BR, Reis, HT, Sprecher, S. Online Dating: A Critical Analysis From the Perspective of Psychological Science. Psychological Science in the Public Interest 13, 3-66 (2012).
  • Hald, G.M. et al. Does viewing explain doing? Assessing the association between sexually explicit materials use and sexual behaviors in a large sample of Dutch adolescents and young adults. J. Sex. Med. 10, 2986-2995 (2013).
  • Vaterlaus, JM, Tulane, S. The Perceived Influence of Interactive Technology on Marital Relationships. Contemporary Family Therapy (2019) 41:247–257.
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