Social media can pose problems for dating

William Channell and William Channell

With students constantly connected to social media through computers, tablets and smart phones, their behavior on these sites is bound to affect other aspects of their lives as well.

One area that may be impacted is how people start, maintain and end romantic relationships.

Radhika Gajjala, a professor in the department of communications, said the presence of social media means less direct interaction.

“There’s a tendency to use Facebook [to avoid face-to-face conversations],” Gajjala said. “People think they can use [Facebook] to make initial connections.”

The accessibility of social media makes modern romantic relationships different rather than better or worse, Gajjala said.

“To bring all of those [facets] together … requires a different kind of skill to negotiate,” Gajjala said. “The boundaries are so unclear.”

Freshman Drew Williams said Facebook is a good way to keep track of your partner.

“It’s just a good way to find out if your significant other is doing anything they shouldn’t,” Williams said.

This dynamic of your online life being completely public could be a double-edged sword if you aren’t careful, Gajjala said.

“If you’re constantly in a state where you might make a mistake, you will,” Gajjala said.

Some people, like sophomore Adam Spinelli, see social media as detrimental rather than helpful to relationships.

“Things like following people on Twitter, favoriting and retweeting things causes a lot of unnecessary drama,” Spinelli said.

As for his profile being seen by strangers, Spinelli takes a more guarded approach.

“I’m not friends with anyone on Facebook that I don’t know personally,” Spinelli said. “If you’re not friends with them in real life, why would you want them to see your pictures and know what’s going on with you?”

Gajjala said what makes forming relationships on Facebook dangerous is that what we share and like on the website is an approximation of who we are, rather than who we actually are in real life.

“We’re liking stuff and sharing stuff that might not be representative of our whole being,” Gajjala said. “[It is] a caricature of your life.”

Williams said problems with representation on Facebook can be avoided if you are familiar with a given person.

“If you’ve never met them before [it can be a problem],” Williams said. “But if you’ve seen them out and you know them, it’s not a problem.

Much of an online relationship is centered around being “Facebook official,” or listing your relationship with your significant other on your Facebook profile or other social media websites.

“It’s a ritual,” Gajjala said. “When you think about the rituals of anything: the rituals of marriage, rituals of engagement, the rituals of anything. They are symbols.”