Thursday, March 17, 2016

TBT and the lie of social media...

     Today has become known as TBT, or Throw-
back-Thursday, on Facebook.  People typically post photos anywhere from a few years to a few decades ago—
reminiscing on events or relationships from the past.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with remembering good times from your history, so long as they are relegated to their proper place.  But too often, they are not.  And that can be very, very destructive to a marriage.

     Research has shown that social media is playing an ever increasing part in marital conflict and failure.  The scenarios are all too familiar.  A husband and wife have a fight.  It might be their first really big fight, or it might be yet another in a long string.  Things are said in anger that are hurtful. Or, after years of marriage, feelings have grown stale as one spouse feels unheard yet again.  Or, over time, rather than looking for the good in each other and in the marriage, spouses are focusing on what’s wrong with the other person.  It doesn’t matter what triggers it, the response is the same.
     Whether it is the same night or days later, a still disgruntled mate scrolls through the Facebook feed, only to find a friend request from an old flame.  “What’s the harm?  We’ve haven’t seen each other for years.  We live 150 miles apart.  Besides it would be nice to catch up.”  And then it begins.  Posting on each other’s wall becomes private instant messaging.  IM turns into emotional sharing.  Boundaries begin to be crossed as things are said, pictures are shared, and fantasies are created that further and further alienate one’s spouse.  And even if it never leads to a physical affair, the emotional affair is in full swing before you realize it.
     One of the biggest dangers of social media is that it allows people to create a façade.  Everything from what they say to what they look like can be carefully crafted.  Only the best pictures are shown, or the most thoughtful comments are posted, or the most exciting activities are reported.
     And once the fantasy world begins to form in one’s mind, we begin to rewrite history.  You see, one of the greatest dangers that we present to ourselves is that our memory is very selective, emphasizing one thing or deemphasizing something else to help us cope with (or escape from) the reality of the world we are in.  So, we see someone from our past on social media, and suddenly, the stench of too much perfume she wore in middle school becomes the sweetest smell he ever remembered.  She rewrites his reckless behaviors that endangered himself and others as thrilling adventures.  The raging teenage hormones that would have made you feel drawn to anyone who might reciprocate, suddenly becomes “she was my only true love.”  The selfish physical relationship that lacked any concern for the other person is now recalled as “he was the most passionate anyone has ever been toward me.”
    Once we begin to engage and entertain the fantasy, we forget to ask questions like, “Why is he suddenly so eager to reconnect?” or “Why has she been involved in a string of short-term relationships over the past 10 years, but seems certain that she can have something lasting with me?”  We begin to feed the lie that God is somehow involved, leading us away from a covenant marriage to a predestined “soulmate” from our past.
     Here are a few ideas to help control social media and keep it from becoming a problem:
  • Share passwords.  There should be no secret accounts or restricted access.  Secrets kill relationships.
  • Don’t accept someone’s friend request or connect with someone that your spouse feels uneasy about.  Whether it is ex-girlfriends/boyfriends, co-workers of the opposite sex, people you find yourself physically attracted to—listen to your mate's instincts.  And even if your spouse trusts you and is okay with the people you add, have the discernment within yourself to not plant the seeds of possible temptation.
  • Cut off social media from time to time.  Turn off the electronics and build a real social connection with your spouse.  Take a walk together, play a game, watch something funny together.  The stronger your social intimacy with your mate, the less likely you will be to run to others on social media as an escape when conflict occurs.
     Social media allows us to stay connected, but don’t connect to an illusion that can damage the reality of your covenant marriage relationship.  When TBT comes, laugh at the big hair and mullets, ooo-and-awww over the baby pictures, and even use it to fondly remember good times in your own marriage.  But let the past stay in the past so that you can put your efforts into building a great future with your mate.

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