How social media helps, hurts couples
Facebook recently made headlines twice - first, when the company went public and again, when founder Mark Zuckerberg tied the knot. Although Facebook's IPO was disappointing to those who had high expectations, we can hope at least that Zuckerberg's marriage will soar, even if his stock did not.
One way the Zuckerbergs - and all couples - can help maintain a healthy connection with each other is to be cautious about the way they use Facebook and all social media, for that matter. As I've written before in this column, social networking tools can bring people together, but they can also pull couples apart. Think about it: You and your partner might be sitting next to each other on the couch or in bed, tapping away on your individual laptops, smart phones, or iPads, lost in a virtual world where flirting with a stranger, friend, or old flame is just a click away. In other words, you're turning on social media—and maybe turning on to someone else, too—even as you tune each other out. From laptops, to smart phones, to tablets, today's gadgets allow us to remain connected 24/7—yet that doesn't necessarily mean that we are connected to our partner
There's no doubt that Facebook and other types of social media can be a real threat to even the strongest relationships. I sometimes advise couples to avoid “friending” each other on social media because it saps a sense of mystery from the relationship. By dinner, you already know that your partner had a lousy day at work, ate a ham sandwich for lunch, and can't wait for the season finale of Dancing With the Stars. What's left to talk about? Plus, post some sweet nothings on your partner's “wall” and you're apt to get mocked by your friends - or at least make them uncomfortable with your public displays of virtual attention.
Luckily, a number of new digital services are aimed not at tearing couples apart, but at keeping them glued firmly together. Think of them as a Facebook built just for two, where you can lay on all the effusive displays of digital affection that you want, without judgment. Better yet, there's no dealing with pesky exes, nosy family members, getting tagged in embarrassing photos, or a steady barrage of “friend” requests that get in the way of your most special friendship.
Consider Between, a digital service that describes itself as “an intimate space for two”. Created in South Korea (but available in the U.S. and other Western countries), Between stems from the idea that many people - and Asians in particular - are reluctant to share private memories with others, even their friends. Instead, the app allows couples to create photo albums, message boards for sweet (or saucy) notes, and instant messages, all of which are shared only with one's partner. Users can build a one-to-one archive of materials including chat history and photo albums, and they can also share a “virtual memory box.” Since launching about six months ago in Korea, nearly 1 million people worldwide in relationships have signed on for the service (or about 500, 000 couples, since each user can only have one partner.) Although available in the United States as an app, the company plans to launch more officially in the US later this year.
Other programs like TwoSome and TwoCup offer similar functions, including a score of your relationship's overall health, “coins” that you can cash in for real date nights, and shared calendars to help couples coordinate their schedules. And still other apps are geared to specific audiences: Kindu is aimed at helping couples explore their sexual fantasies, as is Sex Life. LoveDare is meant for Christian couples, and the amusingly named Girlfriend Keeper helps partners (okay, men) remember anniversaries and other important relationship dates.
While such apps might elicit some eye rolling, particularly from single people, I think they can be a positive addition to a couple's relationship. Technology has changed the way we work, the way we communicate, and, yes, the way we interact with (or ignore) our romantic partners. Couples apps not only help us from becoming disconnected from each other, but they also offer us the chance to playfully reconnect - and that's a benefit worth “liking.”