PhotoSocial media can create a lot of stress in our day-to-day lives, but researchers from Carnegie Mellon University are exploring new ways for consumers to use these platforms to improve their relationships.

According to a recent study, consumers who include their partner in their social media posts are more likely to prevent any related negative consequences in their relationships.

“Prior research has shown that self-disclosure positively affects online relationships,” said Dr. Juwon Lee. “We wanted to explore whether that would remain the case in an online context, where users can share detailed information with large audiences -- a phenomenon that typically wouldn’t be possible in person.”

Importance of sharing

The researchers were curious to see how sharing personal information on social media affects relationships, so they conducted five studies to determine the positive and negative effects.

The researchers’ primary focus was on how intimacy and satisfaction affected relationships, and they were interested to see if the outcomes were different for familial relationships, romantic relationships, and friendships. Moreover, they wanted to see how relationships were either hindered or strengthened when someone posted about their relationship or themselves.

Friendships were affected by posting on social media, though there were some mixed responses from those in romantic relationships.

Researchers found that posting on social media can make partners feel isolated or left out, while also feeling unsatisfied in their relationships. However, the researchers say a simple fix could be including your partner in your next status update.

“When you include a significant other in your post, perhaps as confirming a relationship status online or posting a photo together, we found that it counters the negative effects of online disclosure, increasing the feelings of intimacy and satisfaction,” said researcher Omri Gillath. “This validates the relationship, and a partner likely would see their significant other’s post as caring and inclusive.”

The researchers hope that these findings give consumers a deeper understanding of how their social media posts are affecting their important, intimate relationships, and plan accordingly with any future posts.

“For many of us, sharing our feelings and daily experiences on social media is one of the main ways we stay in contact with friends and family,” said Dr. Lee. “Because of this cultural shift from face-to-face or phone conversations, it’s important that we understand how our usage of these technologies affect our personal relationships.”

Being mindful

While researchers have recently found that readiness for commitment is of the utmost importance when determining relationship success, social media use can also play a role. One team found that sending a friend request to a former romantic partner may cause issues in a current relationship.

"Although they may say, 'I trust you and it's OK,' they are not happy about it," said researcher Joyce Baptist. "They eventually perceive that their significant other is spending too much time connecting with others on social media rather than paying attention to their own partner."

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