We’ll give you the bad news first: Sharing details about your life on social media isn’t good for your relationship. But here’s the good news: If you include your partner, it can actually help. That’s what research from a series of five studies from Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Kansas found.
Those who post about their romantic relationships online typically do more harm than good, according to the new paper, which was published in the journal PLOS ONE. However, the researchers also found that a way to balance out that consequence is including your significant other in your posts. This study is the first to look into how a variety of situations can determine whether a partner sees their SO’s online sharing to be positive or negative.
“Prior research has shown that self-disclosure positively affects offline relationships,” Dr. Juwon Lee, a post-doctoral researcher in Carnegie Mellon’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said in a statement. “We wanted to explore whether that would remain the case in an online context, where users can share detailed information with large audiences — a phenomenon that typically wouldn’t be possible in person.”
The research found that when one person in the relationship often spills details with large groups on social media, it has a negative effect on their partner’s happiness and feelings of intimacy in the relationship. Ultimately, they could feel excluded or less special. “On the other hand, when you include a significant other in your post, perhaps as confirming a relationship status online or posting a photo together, we found that it counters the negative effects of online disclosure, increasing the feelings of intimacy and satisfaction,” Omri Gillath, a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas who co-authored the study, said in a statement. “This validates the relationship, and a partner likely would see their significant other’s post as caring and inclusive.”
Unlike romantic relationships, friendships aren’t negatively affected by sharing personal details with large groups online. “For many of us, sharing our feelings and daily experiences on social media is one of the main ways we stay in contact with friends and family,” Lee said in a statement. “Because of this cultural shift from face-to-face or phone conversations, it’s important that we understand how our usage of these technologies affect our personal relationships. Additionally, other research has found that people benefit from sharing information about themselves, which might be why people engage in it so much. But it’s important to know the full picture, and understand that sometimes sharing can be bad for you.”