A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

9 Social Media Mistakes that Can Damage Your Relationships

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn...The ways to connect with others on social media are limitless, but don't let your online life negatively impact your real life. Here's what not to do.

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Don’t post pictures of people without their permission

People are extremely particular when it comes to sharing pictures on social media. You wouldn’t want a friend or family member to post a picture of you without your permission, so why do that to them? Rachel Sussman, a New York City therapist and relationship expert, explains that while you may not think posting the picture is a big deal, the other person may disagree. “Just ask before you post,” she says, and especially before you add tags. “It will help you avoid upsetting your loved ones.” Here are some pictures to never ever post (mainly for safety reasons).

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Don’t use social media when you’re mad

Social media should never be used to bully others, and posting snarky or mean comments is a major no-no—not just because it’s hurtful but because it drags your dirty laundry out into the open. Do you really want the world to know that your partner cheated on you? Sussman recommends that you use social media as a tool to spread positivity. “I really enjoy seeing birthday posts or when people most meaningful articles,” says she says. If you’re upset and you have the urge to post something that may come off as mean, put down your phone, computer, or tablet and blow off steam in another way. Stay safe with these etiquette rules for complaining on social media.

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Don’t post impulsively

Sure, you’re pumped about your party, but posting a joyous selfie with your guests might not be the best idea because it can hurt the feelings of friends who weren’t invited. And while your old sorority sisters might think the picture of you shotgunning a beer is hilarious, your future employers might not have quite the same reaction. “Always, always, always be mindful of what you’re posting,” says Sussman. “In the old days, people would write letters and it would take weeks or months to get to its destination, so you’d be sure that what you wrote was really thoughtful and something that you re-read before sending,” adds Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT, clinician, researcher, author, and developer of the program “A Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy” (PACT). “Now people drunk-text and post.” Once you go live with a message, it’s out there forever. Before pressing “post,” consider whether your message could have a negative impact on your life or on others’ lives.

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Don’t mistake social media contact for real human contact

Talking to someone through social media is not the same as talking to face-to-face or even on the phone. “Our eyes are wired to be looking at someone else’s eyes,” says Keith Miller, couples therapist and author of Love Under Repair: How to Save Your Marriage and Survive Couples Therapy. “The first thing that a baby’s brain is designed to do is to find someone’s eyes and make contact.” According to Miller, connecting with someone in-person is a lot more beneficial than only through, say, Instagram or Twitter. And yes, you can start a relationship via social media, but there will come a point where you’ll want, and even need, physical human contact. After all, you can’t hold hands or hug someone through the computer. “We have a very difficult time noticing the effect social media is having on us,” says Miller. “It’s a virtual connection that’s not real.” In many ways, social media has made our world a better place, but we still need that human touch.

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Pay attention to how social media is affecting you

Do you know how social media is affecting your mood? Or why you’re even using it? These are important questions to ask yourself, especially when it’s so easy to waste time on social media sites: 30 minutes quickly becomes an hour, and the next thing you know, you’ve been scrolling through Instagram way past your bedtime. “By and large most people don’t ask themselves, ‘Am I doing this too much?'” says Miller. He suggests doing regular self check-ins to see if social media is helping or hurting your life.

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Don’t view social media as only bad

Spending too much time on social media can lead to an unhealthy addiction, but swearing off social media, being afraid of it, and seeing it as unequivocally evil is also equally unhealthy. “I think an important issue in relationships is when one person is phobic of social media and acts as sort of the social media police,” says Miller. “That’s a real problem. It’s something just as damaging to be that extreme about social media.” Like everything in life, all things should be consumed in moderation, and that includes social media.

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iStock/Martin Dimitrov

Don’t overshare information

Social media is public. It’s not a secret space or a diary, so you shouldn’t be sharing private information with the world. All of our experts agree that you and your romantic partner, friends, and family should seriously consider what constitutes TMI (too much information). Dr. Tatkin warns specifically that it’s possible to accidentally hurt loved ones by oversharing. Some examples he gives are “tweeting and Facebooking things that are private between the couple that nobody else should know, Facebooking with a parent about a spouse that a spouse can see, any kind of text or Facebook message that sounds seductive, and contacting exes.” Every relationship is different, so talk to your loved ones before sharing anything you suspect may be borderline too much. Oversharing is one of several habits that destroy trust in relationships.

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Don’t lie

Lying is problematic in general, but when you fib on social media, you’re likely to get busted. For example, don’t tell someone you’re in one place, and then show clearly through your posts that you’re in another. You will get caught. Here’s a big problem with lying that you probably never imagined.

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Don’t break important news prematurely

Just got a new job? Bought a new car? You’re pregnant? Getting remarried? Or maybe you decided you’re moving? Before picking up your phone to tweet or post your news to the world, share it with your loved ones first. “There’s an aspect of betrayal here that can go on if people don’t have the right attitude,” Dr. Tatkin says. “A love relationship absolutely fundamentally depends on safety and security,” and being privy to inside information is an important part of that. You should want to go to your loved ones first when something important happens in your life. Plus, if you immediately turn to social media, then what makes your relationship with family, romantic partners, and close pals any different? These signs confirm that your relationship is rock solid.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest