Social media and relationships
May 28, 2012 •
Written by Ken Knight1
Up to 80% of Australian practitioners have counseled clients who have concerns about the impact of digital communications tools on their relationships.
This is one of the results from a survey conducted by Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) in 2011.
The national survey sought to reveal more about the ways social media and technology are changing people’s relationships with each other. It involved separate surveys of Relationships Australia practitioners and members of the community.
Results from the practitioner survey revealed:
80% of respondents had counselled clients who raised concerns about the impact of Facebook on their relationships;
72% had encountered concerns about email; and
50% had encountered concerns about mobile internet devices, blogs and forums.
The responses indicated that internet pornography, cybersex and online dating and gambling sites continue to cause problems in relationships.
Other commonly cited issues included:
partners resorting to the use of secret SIM cards and email addresses to maintain infidelities;
online stalking, checking and monitoring of partners’ emails and messages;
hacking into ex-partners’ Facebook accounts;
use of the internet and technology to the exclusion of one’s partner; and
intimacy problems arising from a partner accessing internet pornography.
Results from the community survey revealed:
concern over children’s and teenagers’ lack of social skills and neglect of family relationships due to internet use;
a dichotomy between social media generating positive feelings of connection, and increasing feelings of loneliness and illusory, false or shallow connections;
suspicion over partners’ online activities and connections, including fears of online cheating; and
concern over personally damaging or detrimental posts made by young people.
The impact of internet use on intimate partner relationships was also explored in an article published in Family Relationships Quarterly, the newsletter of the former Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse (now part of Child Family Community Australia).
The article focused on internet affairs, and described a 2005 survey of over 1,500 mental health professionals that found that approximately one in five clients in mental health treatment were accessing help due to the damaging influence of internet sexual activities.
The article identified three factors that make internet affairs a growing issue:
online relationships can develop more quickly due to lowered inhibitions, absent physical cues, and the ease of exchanging information;
although infidelity is hardly new, the internet creates an environment where access to potential partners is unlimited and unconstrained by time; and
many people think that internet flirtation and affairs are less deceptive as they do not involve physical contact.
The results of these studies make an important contribution to the planning of services specifically designed to help people navigate our increasingly connected world.
- Ken Knight is the Community Manager of Child Family Community Australia (CFCA).
Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) Survey Results
Internet affairs: Guidelines for practitioners