“Every technology,” says Neil Postman, “is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that.” This is certainly true where online social networking is concerned. There are some noteworthy dangers and pitfalls that married couples need to keep in mind, but that’s not the whole story. It would be just as true to say that cell phones, computers, iPads, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, when used with wisdom and discernment, can be effective tools for strengthening marriages, building up other people, and creating a healthy sense of community among couples. Here are a few suggestions as to how this idea might play out in practical terms.
1. Connectivity. Social media serve marriages best when they are used to maintain a healthy connection between spouses during the workday or while one of the partners is traveling.
A husband or wife on a business trip can use his or her Facebook page to share new experiences with the entire family and to give them a sense of participating in the journey. It’s also a good way to hold yourself accountable by keeping family members posted on your activities and whereabouts. That’s not to mention the potential for shooting one another a quick love note or a word of encouragement from time to time. You can also use Facebook to praise your spouse publicly when he or she does something nice or achieves a
goal that deserves attention (provided, of course, that you keep this within appropriate limits).
2. Accountability. This last benefit can have a significance that goes beyond the circle of the marriage itself. Friends can help husbands and wives stay faithful to their marriage vows. That includes Facebook friends.
3. Enhancing relationships. Some research has indicated that social media, when used appropriately, can actually add intensity and immediacy to face-to-face relationships.
When used as a supplement to (rather than as a replacement for) flesh-and-blood contact with another human being, online communication can add new layers of intimacy and understanding to our interactions with those we love — as, for example, when a Facebook message supplies the necessary background for an important conversation and eliminates the need for a lot of preliminary explanation. This feature has obvious advantages for married couples. Social media can also be a useful springboard to new relationships and friendships.
4. Walking in the light. Husbands and wives who connect with old friends via Facebook may sometimes have unprecedented opportunities to enter into the details of one another’s personal histories.
This can be tricky. It might even become a source of tension, suspicion, or jealousy if one of the partners’ old high school flames decides to put in a “friend” request. But such developments can also be healthy and beneficial if they have the effect of eliminating secrets and shining a light on the past. Everything depends on the couple in question and how they choose to handle such revelations.
5. Community. The healthiest marriages are those linked into a healthy support group. Couples need other couples, and social media can be an effective tool for networking, discovering common interests with friends, setting up fellowship groups, organizing events, and coordinating get-togethers.
For more help, visit Focus on the Family’s Help Center (http://family.custhelp.com/app/home), or call the ministry’s Counseling Department for a free consultation at 855-771-HELP (4357).