Couples, online interactions and boundaries

What does it mean if a couple decides that online interactions must be mutual—specifically, by rejecting individual email or Twitter/Facebook accounts in favor of a joint account?

“It’s not a matter of distrust,” said Ronda Hodge, 53, of Amesbury, Mass., an ice-cream maker who shares an e-mail address with her husband Tom, 60, a landscaper. “We really don’t have anything to hide from one another. We were friends first before we even dated so we’ve got that level of openness there.”

The article cites two very different scenarios in which a couple might decide to share an account:

  • The couple uses their online presence mainly for mutual projects, and having the same account makes this easier.
  • The couple has concerns about trust or fidelity, and fears that private online identities could lead to secrets or betrayal.

In any case, this speaks to a larger couples issue. In any relationship, there are parts of your life that move into the shared, common space of the partnership, and other parts that you reserve for your individual, private self. Some of these couples are deciding that online interactions should be in the couple’s space, not in the individual’s. I’m not saying that this choice is good or bad per se, but it’s important to have a larger conversation about couple space vs. private space when this type of issue comes up.

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Early social networking anxiety

I remember how it started. Emails began showing up: “Alfred E. Neuman would like to invite you to join Facebook! Just click here to begin.” A couple, then a handful, then dozens. Clearly, there was a wave rolling in; did I want to catch it? Initially, the answer was, “Not really.” That is, until I was informed of a Facebook group forming around therapists who’d worked at the same clinic. It seemed like a good professional connection, so I signed up.

That was on what I came to call Facebook Day. It deserves its own title, because I was unprepared for the (over-)stimulating experience of learning my way around a vast online social network—and for some of the anxiety that can come from the phenomenon known as “friending.”

(more…)

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