What if Romeo had Snapchat? The soft crooning outside Juliet’s window would cease. Instead of relaying his deepest feelings, “With love’s light wings did I o’erperch these walls/For stony limits cannot hold love out,” he sends a “u up?” text at 2 a.m. 

It seems that there is something destructive lurking underneath relationships and social media. Whether it’s location sharing or instant messaging—every thought, mood, or state of being is perceived. Social media does not revolutionize communication for partners. In many ways, it destroys (healthy) communication.

While many social media apps allow people in long–distance relationships to stay connected, virtual communication still results in other serious consequences to communication. For example, in the absence of body language cues, there is a rise of miscommunication. When you rely on heavily mediated and predominantly verbal communication, it becomes harder and harder to discern what a partner actually wants to communicate. 

 Even when partners are physically together, they are more distracted than ever on devices. Whether adrift in an endless sea of TikToks or Instagram posts, couples are in the same room but worlds apart. We’ve all seen that dinner date, the pair eyeing their phones more intently than each other (even the phone “eats first”). Studies show that roughly half of those in relationships feel that their partner is distracted “sometimes or often” on their phone while in conversation with them. Distraction leads to the missing of “bids” for connection. A bid is a vie for attention that can be as small as wanting an answer to a question, a nod to show acknowledgment, or more involved like advice or sex. Whatever the bid, missing them is a problem: some estimate that in a healthy relationship, bids are responded to positively 86% of the time. However, scrolling on social media can severely detract from the possibility of even receiving the bid in the first place, let alone responding positively to it (i.e., acknowledging it or acting upon it). And it seems like this problem is not theoretical anymore: 40% of adults in relationships are bothered (sometimes or often) by the amount of time their partner spends on their phone. There is even a term for this phenomenon: “phubbing” (phone snubbing).

It is also true that couples love sending each other content and bonding through relatable or funny experiences reflected on social media. Humorous content can be as simple as sending videos of oversized cats on Instagram Reels, and can help maintain connection through comedy. 

Alternatively, a post can remind someone of their significant other, and this will cause them to share it. This can include hopes or plans for the future, whether that be Pinterest boards of weddings or videos of ideal proposals. Lately, there has been a proliferation of videos of cats or dogs put into feigned relationship situations, with comical captions explaining what is going on. For example, one has a caption that reads “her: communication is important,” and then shows the inquisitive and supportive “boyfriend” cat meowing at a stubborn–looking and (importantly) not talkative “girlfriend” cat with the caption: “also her.” Content like this pokes fun at one’s partner while helping to reflect on the qualities and attributes that are present in a relationship. 

Thus, it is clear that some forms of communication through social media, especially for those in long–distance relationships, are important. However, there is also insidious content on social media that proves harmful. Some cite a rise in jealousy caused by a number of factors. Around half of social media users have “checked–up” on exes or past relationships on social media, which can give rise to “retroactive jealousy” among partners. Seeing past pictures can even spark jealousy, which is not even to speak of current behaviors. If a partner likes someone else's picture, this can lead to tension. 34% of 18 to 29–year–olds feel “jealous or unsure” in their relationship as a result of a partner's behavior on social media. 

Jealousy and uncertainty can lead to questionable behavior: 34% of adults in relationships have snooped on their partner's phone without consent, and that number rises to 52% in ages 18 to 29. These feelings seem a far cry from healthy communication in a relationship. 

For all the problems that social media creates, relationships on social media appear to be perfect. Expectations on social media are set unrealistically high, so much so that it can impact how couples thrive. 81% of users report that they “at least sometimes” see posts from others concerning their relationships. This inundation with others’ (possibly feigned or misrepresented) posts can harm relationships by forcing constant comparisons. Couples are confronted with unrealistic relationships posted online that can easily make them feel like their own relationships are inadequate. In bad cases, “negative comparisons” can lead to betrayal or an end to the relationship. This inundation with others’ (possibly feigned or misrepresented) posts can harm relationships. 

In any case, what is important in relationships, especially long–distance ones, is “open and intentional” communication. Social media runs communication through a gamut of funhouse mirrors, fraught with distortion and refraction. It proves the saying “more does not mean better” true.  Being inundated with communication is not the same as being more connected.