Social Media Use Impacts Families and Relationships
23 February 2012 at 11:40 am
Issues related to social media and technology use are cropping up more often in family and relationship counselling sessions, says a Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) survey.
And although social media is largely seen as a positive development (as indicated by 63 per cent of community survey respondents), it also is causing relationship problems largely around privacy, time demands and communication.
A two-part national survey was conducted in 2011 to determine the impact – both positive and negative – of social media and technology on relationships. It involved separate surveys of Relationships Australia practitioners and members of the community.
RAV’s Manager Social Inclusion Services Sue Yorston said RAV had been in the relationship support business for more than 60 years and knew a lot about what makes or breaks positive relationships in the real world.
“We want to help people manage their relationships in the online world as well, and this survey has helped us to find out more about how social media and technology are changing the way people relate to each other,” Yorston said.
A total of 120 people took part in the practitioner survey which focused on whether the use of social media and technology was being raised by clients in counselling sessions.
Results showed that 80 per cent of respondents had counselled clients who raised concerns about the impact of Facebook on their relationships, with 72 per cent encountering concerns about email and almost 50 per cent hearing concerns about mobile internet devices and blogs and forums.
Practitioners reported that of those whose relationships were adversely affected by social media, 53 per cent were impacted to a great extent and more than 40 per cent were somewhat impacted.
“Our practitioners say that separating and divorced families often use Facebook, email and mobile phones unconstructively. Abuse and bullying of previous partners through these methods is a common issue, where guidance may be required to ensure that such contact is less emotional, more business-like and productive,” Yorston said.
Adolescent/parent relationships are also being impacted with the need for safety versus privacy.
According to the survey responses, internet pornography, cybersex and online dating and gambling sites continue to cause problems in relationships.
More than 330 people responded to the online community survey.
Yorston said the results showed that despite the benefits of maintaining relationships with friends and families and reconnecting with people from the past, social media and technology were also increasingly causing problems in relationships.
“While 52 per cent of community respondents say that social media improves how and how often they communicate, 40 per cent reported that it was causing problems in their relationships; with major concerns being privacy, time demands and changed and impersonal communication styles.”
Yorston said common themes which emerged from community respondents included:
- concern over children’s and teenagers’ lack of social skills and neglect of family relationships due to internet use
- the dichotomy between social media generating positive feelings of connection versus accentuating feelings of loneliness and creating illusory
- false or shallow connection suspicion over partners online activities and connections, including fears of online cheating
- concern over personally damaging or detrimental posts made by young people without considering the ramifications.
Yorston said the results of both surveys would be an important input to plans for services specifically designed around helping people cope with an increasingly “connected” world.