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November 7, 2013

Love in the Time of Facebook

by Tracy Jensen

In the last few years, technology has changed everything. We know it, because if you are reading this blog, chances are you have kids and were around to remember life before social media, texting, selfies, etc. But to kids, they are growing up in the age of Facebook. And how they relate to each other not only is influenced by social media, but takes place on it, too.

When your relationships play out both in the real and the online world, there are things about dating and breakups that adults with no “social media dating” context may be unable to relate to. Literally, when your teen says, “You just don’t understand,” it may actually be true.

I am not a dating expert, but I am a single mom. And single being the operative word here, from time to time I attempt dating. Without getting into too much detail, let me say that recently I went through my first serious breakup where social media became a factor. After the end of the relationship, neither of us ended our Facebook friendship right away. It seemed like the civil, mature approach.

But Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all the other newcomers to the social scene give you a pretty unique opportunity to know exactly what your ex is up to even after you’ve been dumped. He may never call again, but you can still know when he checks in at the movies with your mutual friends, or posts a selfie with someone new. As a grown woman, it was hard to control the temptation to constantly check in on him, pretty much all day and night. I cannot even imagine how hard it must be for a teen to pull away from social media and try to move on, particularly when their ex likely shares dozens of mutual online friends.

Spending as much time as I was skulking around on the Internet took a toll on the time I spent relating to people, taking care of myself by eating right and getting up from my desk, and sleeping. Eventually I made the decision to pull the plug on our online friendships, which almost immediately made me feel less grief-stricken. If your teen has been going through a breakup and seems to be disconnecting from real life, spending way too much time on social sites, perhaps they are having a hard time resisting “watching” the one that got away.

This article, which I found helpful in navigating a breakup in the age of Facebook, is aimed at adults, but I am sure much of the advice on unhooking from social media applies to teens, too. Perhaps with a little modern-era dating advice, maybe you can find a way to understand what they are going through after all.

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