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Recently, I’ve seen more and more people in my therapy practice with shattered relationships due to their involvement on social networking sites, such as Facebook. Social networking sites can be positive, but wisdom and maturity is needed for a healthy experience.
The following questions are loosely based on some of these issues.
Q: My husband is “friends” on Facebook with an ex-girlfriend, and has been trading emails with her. This really bothers me, but when I confront him, he dismisses my concerns. Am I wrong for feeling so threatened?
BOB: This is THE MOST problematic scenario I have seen with social networking sites and marriages. I would be concerned if he has personal contact with her or “follows” her updates. More often than not, contact with an “ex” reignites old feelings that aren’t healthy or based on reality. Encouraging feelings for anyone who is not your spouse is never a good idea and detracts from marital intimacy and security. If he won’t listen to you, you will likely need an “expert,” like a marriage therapist, to help you set healthy boundaries and help him take responsibility for his part.
Q: An old friend “defriended” me on Facebook. Should I take it personally?
BOB: Share your concern in a way that is relevant to her. For instance, if she is currently looking for a job, show her an article about employers checking potential employees’ Facebook pages. This is not only practical, but your friend is less likely to feel judged.
Q: My teenage daughter spends a lot of time on Facebook “connecting” with her friends. How do I make her see that these Facebook relationships are not “real?”
BOB: Many of her Facebook friends are probably real people she socializes with at school. Rather than criticize, look for ways to be more involved in her life, but don’t force yourself. If you are still concerned about the amount of time spent online, limit her “screen time,” rather than singling out her favorite social networking site.
Q: Would dating a girl I met on Facebook be a good idea, or should I steer clear?
BOB: The negative stigma of online dating is quickly becoming a distant memory. A site’s reputation should be considered first, as some are geared towards brief encounters, while others are more relationally geared. Online communities are anonymous in nature, thus it is easy to exaggerate the truth, or pretend to be someone else. This perpetuates the danger of a fantasy relationship, rather than a real one. Be smart about screening potential partners prior to taking the relationship offline.
Bob Parkins is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. He can be reached at 916-337-5406 or bobparkinslmft.com.