Social media is an integral part of our lives. People use platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to connect with friends and family members, for news and to create brand awareness.

And South Africans have taken to it like ducks to water. According to a report by World Wide Worx, the number of people joining social media platforms is growing constantly. This despite the fact that high data costs are a hindrance to internet access in the country.

The South Africa Social Media Landscape 2017 report shows that Instagram use in SA grew by 32% to 3,5 million last year. Facebook remains the most popular platform, with at least 14 million South Africans using it. There are 7,7-million South Africans on Twitter and 8,74 million users on YouTube.

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While social media has its advantages, there are also downsides. A study by Cornell University found that excessive reliance on social media can “disrupt the ability to express and experience our authentic selves.”

It can also lead to relationship dysfunction. UK-based law firm Slater and Gordon noted that Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp and other such platforms are playing more of a role in people’s decisions to get divorced. In fact, in 2016 the firm reported that one in seven couples considered getting a divorce due to something they’d found on their significant others’ social media platform.

In a previous interview with DESTINY, divorce lawyer Charles Mandelow said that the number of South Africans getting divorced because of social media is on the rise.

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“The minute marriages become difficult, there seems to be a tendency for a spouse to check their partner’s phone to find out what’s going on. And you’ll see a whole range of things coming out,” he explained.

Partners chatting to exes and liking other men or women’s posts can be a sore point for some. There are ways to prevent falling out with your partner because of social media. Having boundaries about what will work for both of you helps you stay accountable and avoids misunderstandings.

Here are a few ways to minimise the damage social media can do to your relationships:

  • Consider sharing passwords. If you have nothing to hide, giving your partner access to your social media pages creates an environment of openness and trust.
  • Talk to each other about how much time you’ll each spend on your devices. Social media addiction is a real thing, and digital detoxing has become a reality for many who want to cut the amount of time they spend online. Beliefnet says spending time together as a couple is just as important as connecting with virtual friends.
  • Communicate about what you will and won’t tolerate with regard to your partner’s social media usage. If you prefer they didn’t like pictures of scantily clad women or remaining friends with their exes, it’s important to let them know your position.

Additional sources: Beliefnet, Media + Society, Daily Mail UK