When asked about the effects of social media on long-distance relationships, I believe that most people would speak very positively of the many possibilities that these offer to a (temporarily) separated couple. Thanks to apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, and Instagram, it almost feels like your significant other is right by your side, even though he or she might be miles, oceans, continents away from you. What sounds ideal to many young, unhappily separated couples quickly turned into my personal dilemma, changing my thoughts about the benefits of social media entirely. It’s a trap.
Chatting services like WhatsApp or Messenger make it possible to share your thoughts with your partner no matter the distance and at no cost. Pictures and videos get sent around the world, making time difference irrelevant and distance nonexistent. Waking up to a voice message from your significant other can almost trick your sleepy brain into thinking that he or she is right there next to you. However, knowing that your loved one is basically always within reach makes it that much worse when the unthinkable happens: you don’t hear from him/her. Knowing that my boyfriend was always just a FaceTime call away made me a lot more anxious when, despite this provided simplicity, he dared not to pick up.
Technology and social media have provided us with a way to be in touch with people in our lives 24/7, making it a lot more difficult to justify not being in touch — especially to an upset, loving, and very far-away girlfriend.
At the same time, platforms like Instagram and Snapchat offer features like Instagram Stories and Snap Map, allowing you to know exactly what your partner is currently up to — where, what, why, with who. Even though I am lucky to have a boyfriend who has successfully stayed away from social media, I believe that sometimes, that is a lot more information than you really need.
A German saying about this roughly translates to “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” Though I am sure many would disagree with me, I stand by it. In my experience, the nightmare scenarios I painted in my head were always a lot worse when I knew that my boyfriend was on a night out “with the bros” than when I was completely oblivious to what was going on on the other side of the ocean.
At our young age, whatever the reason that you and your partner are currently separated by distance, there is a high chance that it is about you – something you are doing for yourself, like a university exchange, an internship abroad, a summer job in a different province. Social media makes it easy to forget that. But here’s your reminder: as much as wish you could be with your partner right now, don’t forget to take this opportunity and make this time about yourself. Putting your phone away and not knowing about their every move doesn’t just make being separated easier; it also makes it that much more exciting when you are finally reunited, giving you so much to talk about.