Is social media bad for a relationship?

Adding someone you've started dating as a friend on Facebook is likely to lead to relationship paranoia, says Alison Taylor

A friend put it eloquently – “If you've just started dating someone NEVER add them on Facebook”. Consider the following scenario. You meet somebody you fancy and arrange to have drinks. You have a good time. You get on really well and say you'll see each other again. You're excited. Two days goes by and he/she hasn't been in touch. Why haven't they been in touch? What have they been doing ?

The only logical thing to do in this disastrous situation is to do a “deep dive” (yes, people use this phrase) into the person's social media accounts. In that really long two days where you've heard zilch they've posted two photos to Instagram from two different nights out – one has a woman in the photo. They've been having an impassioned debate with somebody on Twitter about David Cameron and… damn, their Facebook account is private but those profile pics only serve as a crushing reminder that you haven't seen them in real life. Also, you know they've been active on Whatsapp because it tells you they were “last seen” at 12.24am.

Welcome to relationship paranoia 2015. As another Instagram-happy friend put it: “We're all amateur sleuths trying to work it all out. He sent this many messages at this time of night so he must be having an affair!”

The imagination is a wonderful/dangerous thing and that's really what we're working with when we start stalking people on social media. We see a photo and investigate the comments on it and our crazy reptilian brains fill in the gaps. It is definitely a problem at the start of a relationship because there's more gap than actual knowledge, so we build up a flawed impression of who they really are. It's also a problem when things are not going so well. I know couples going through break-ups and having rows based on what each is posting on Instagram. Messy.

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