Interpersonal communication has changed over the last millennium rather quickly, due to the various advancements in technology and social outlets. Communication and relational dialectics in intimate relationships are quickly changing due to the emergence of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Intimate relationships have been affected by these various social networking sites (SNSs), changing the value of romantic relationships, and have created new behaviors and tensions that have decreased the time span of relationships (Rabby, 2007). The question that many researchers have tried to answer is whether or not social sites and the media do create relational conflict, specifically in relationship dialectics and communication within intimate relationships. Social media and networking sites potentially shorten the span of relationships and can cause relationship discourse and dissolution.
Social media has changed how people interact, convey/construct meaning and communicate (LeFebvre, Blackburn, & Brody, 2014). It is important to define these negative behaviors associated with social media. Understanding how social media affects individuals in intimate relationships will allow us to discover triggers within social media that can cause an increase of aggression and disengagement in partners. Relationships are becoming stronger by having these social networking platforms or if these mediums are creating conflict such as relational anxieties, negative attachment styles and tension in relational dialectics.
“Is Better Than Offline for Meeting Partners?” by communication researcher, Aditi Paul from Michigan State University, analyzed how there are higher rates of long-term relationships through offline interaction than meeting online. Initial online interactions when first meeting, has shown to create more short-term relationships than long-term. This academic article included marital and non-marital relationships in the comparison of initial interaction at the beginning of the relationship. The research done showed the break-up rate between both types of relationships and how the initial encounter influences the durance of the relationship (short-term or long-term). Marital relationships seemed to be stronger by an initial face-to-face interaction in the first encounter. The study consisted of a national survey represented by 4,002 respondents. The data included was administered through waves of surveys. The method of the study assessed couple dissolution rate and if each couple after each wave, after a period of time, were still together (Paul, 2014, p. 665). Results of this study showed that meeting offline shows to have fewer breakup rates compared to those who met online. This study has shown a trend in relationship dissolution and described some of the causes in modern relationships within the media. Online relationships have increased over the millennium, due to social networking sites (SNS) and dating sites such as Tinder, Match.com and eHarmony.com, which have created a new dynamic of relationship mobility and dissolution. (Paul, 2014, p.664)
The scholarly article “Relational Maintenance and the Influence of Commitment in Online and Offline Relationships” (Rabby, 2007) analyzed qualitative data that predicted more short-term relationships through online interactions due to more interchangeability in relationships and the attitude that relationships are less meaningful online. This research shows the changed attitudes and behaviors of individuals when looking for relationships online and maintaining them through social sites and media. The research conducted included participants that reported their use of relational-maintenance behaviors and a scale of commitment within their relationship (Rabby, 2007, p. 316).
The value of romantic relationships has decreased, due to social networking sites such as Tinder a dating app, promoting “speed dating” and shorter term relationships. The change in attitudes towards relationships has caused a change in behaviors in current relationships, which is affecting length and durability of some romantic relationships. “Navigating Romantic Relationships on Facebook” (LeFebvre et al., 2014) explored the complexity of relational behaviors and dissolution in romantic relationships via Facebook and other online environments. These platforms are used for communicating and establishing relationships which seem to be more open to the public. Observing others personal information online, which is known as interpersonal electronic surveillance, has created tensions in couples because of the lack of privacy which is needed in intimate relationships (LeFebvre et al., 2014, p.80). The study conducted used interviews by university students (a qualitative method) describing romantic relationship dissolution behaviors associated with their Facebook accounts and usage. This study described new negative behaviors associated with social networking sites, such as interpersonal electronic surveillance (LeFebvre et al., 2014, p.83). This data depicts why relationships that use social sites are prone to have a shorter durability and proved that social networking sites can affect intimate relationships by influencing dissolution or conflict. The study applied the relationship dissolution model (Rollie & Duck, 2006) to a selected group of couples that were active users of social networking sites during their relationship. A lack of independence and increase of jealousy and obsessiveness traits tracked to online were some of the behaviors that led to discourse (LeFebvre et al., 2014, p.80). The qualitative study provided insights in how relationships and the media create a different relational dialectic and termination methods. How individual’s express their emotions prior to the dissolution can influence intimate relationships to be in conflict. Social networking sites potentially promote dissolution because of the openness of social media, anyone can see what another posts. The accessibility of social media allows individuals to meet a significant other faster and efficiently through a social site such as Facebook.
“Relational Dialectics and Social Networking Sites” (Fox et al., 2014) used Relational Dialectics theory (Baxter, 2011) to show how social media has affected relational dialect. One of the most affected is the expression–privacy dialect. The article states “SNSs like Facebook create a forum in which users can live out large portions of their lives publicly, and boundaries between public and private lives are increasingly blurred” (Fox et al., 2014, p. 529). Individuals tend to lose their sense of privacy with social media being so relevant in people’s lives and interpersonal relationships. Having different privacy practices and expression can cause conflict or tension in couples. The article’s method of research included the use of focus groups that included women and men in romantic relationships that are defined as active Facebook users. The study analyzed the effects of Facebook on romantic relationships and asked two questions:
“RQ1: What is the role of Facebook in internal (within-couple) discursive struggles within romantic relationships?
RQ2: What is the role of Facebook in external (between the couple and the network) discursive struggles within romantic relationships?” (Fox et al., 2014, p. 529).
These questions are prevalent in analyzing how significant Facebook and other social networking sites are in relational dialectics between couples. Social media is now a part of relational conflict or relationship building. Being “Facebook official” has created its own meaning of commitment that everyone can see. Creeping and Facebook drama can cause this dialectic discourse and tension (Fox et al., 2014, p. 530). Facebook and other social sites do provide a potential to influence offline relationships, but show that SNSs can create romantic conflict within the three primary relational dialectics, integration-separation, stability-change, and expression-privacy (Baxter, 2011).
Another article analyzed the correlation between online mate-retention tactics on social network sites and relationship aggression (J. Brem, Spiller, & Vandehey, 2015). The qualitative research conducted, included 65 men, 112 women that completed questionnaires, that contained four subscales for the Facebook Mate-Retention Tactic Inventory (FMRTI): Care and Affection, Jealousy and Surveillance, Possession Signals, and Punishment of Infidelity Threat (J. Brem, et al., 2015, p. 2834). The results concluded that online mate-retention tactics do influence relationship aggression; the jealousy and surveillance subscale within the results of the questionnaire show that Facebook and other social sites can implement intimate partner violence.
Relationship dialect has changed and how social media is affecting the duration of relationships. The meaning of relationships has changed due to the quick ability to communicate with others and the idea of dating through social sites like Tinder and eHarmony.com (Paul, 2014). Social media can create relational conflict and create aggression in real life (Meagan J. Brem, et al., 2015). Termination methods online has created a standard where proclaiming relationship status online plays a part in the grave-dressing stage of a relationship or the upward mobility of a relationship. (Jesse Fox et al., 2014). Social media and social networking sites have created new tensions within romantic relationships and have shorted the durability of relationships.