Completely connected

How technology has guided and changed relationships

With the evolution of social media, the personal connection offered through face-to-face communication has been replaced with Snapchat ‘adds’ or Instagram follows, allowing impressionable young adults to come to misinformed conclusions about what a real-life relationship looks like. Building a healthy relationship with another person calls for complete trust and mutual respect, which is difficult to establish when the majority of partner interactions are through a keyboard.

According to local therapist Ellen Miller, social media is a way that we let people into our lives, and by staying connected with it, we invite that person in emotionally. Miller expresses how forming a connection through social media imposes expectations and allows people to create a narrative about your relationship.

“There (are) things going on behind the scenes of a social media post, and because of people’s posts in relationships, it creates unrealistic expectations of what relationships are,” Miller said.

Miller continued to explain how teens use social media as a buffer in forming a genuine face-to-face connection and how high school relationships remind her of the phrase “high frequency, low accountability.”

“High frequency means that you can decide you like someone and then talk and talk through your phone 24/7 and barely talk in person, but then it’s like, ‘Okay we like each other and now we’re officially dating,’” Miller said. “Then after that constant communication only through the phone, there’s that low accountability, meaning that I can be talking to you 24/7, and then you can completely ghost me the next day.”

Brady Kennedy ’23 relates to feeling like it’s hard to trust strangers and peers online, as he said it can be difficult to have a genuine conversation or understand the emotions someone could be feeling through a screen.

“Social media can connect people online and bring them together in person when it’s used in a healthy way,” Kennedy said. “But there’s also that scary and manipulative aspect where there’s really no way to be sure if the person you’re talking to is who they say they are or want what they say they want.”

For some, like Evelyn Young ’24 and Luca Haxhiu ’22 who met through sailing, finding a balance between online and face-to-face communication has been key in successfully navigating their relationship through social media.

“Keeping our relationship private has really helped us stay close,” Haxhiu said. “I feel like there is no reason to go out of your way to make your relationship everyone else’s business.”

Miller said her advice to students in high school trying to build relationships is to put your phone down and don’t be scared to speak up about how you feel. Talking too much through the phone can even make in-person communication more difficult and bland. A balance is always needed.

“I feel like social media can really hurt a relationship if you don’t trust each other and let it get between you,” Young said. “But if you aren’t relying on just your phones to talk to each other and actually make time to see each other in real life, social media can just be a convenient way to talk to the person you love. It’s all about balance.”