Relationships on social media.

We’ve all seen them. We’ve all been drawn into the popcorn-worthy theatrics and drama across social media. It’s our entertainment in a current-day pandemic reality. It’s why we are a reality-TV obsessed culture that lives digitally and doesn’t know how to interact in real life.

Relationships in the Age of Social Media are toxic, addictive, toxic and we just can’t get enough of someone else’s problems, because they often mirror our own.

Jeff Rocker with NBA Champion, Dwyane Wade

We itch to see the newest comment, meme and re-tweet. We check our phones every second for a new notification, cryptic status update or shade/shaming that gets posted. We crave to see who get’s called out and put on blast.

Admit it. Because all of us have.

Now just imagine your basic, normal life and multiply that times a thousand, when you’re a public figure. Imagine your relationship being constantly magnifying and scrutinized with every tweet, image, comment and DM slide.

Imagine a picture of yourself being disseminated at lightning-speed across social media and being picked apart by jealous trolls, critics and haters for a variety of reasons. Living in the limelight has it’s perks in terms of glamour, money and fame, but it also has it’s drawbacks in dealing with questionable figures, long hours and the toll it takes on someone mentally, emotionally and psychologically.

Photo: Jeff Rocker with NBA champion, Scottie Pippen

That is where people like celebrity therapist, Miami-born Dr. Jeff J. Rocker Ph.D come in.

Featured on NBC, ESPN, HBO, Starz, Black Enterprise and BET, Rocker has offered a caring ear to those who have to deal with the pressures of a high-stress job in being in the public eye for all to see.

CEO of the non-profit mental heath organization, How We See It, dedicated to breaking the stigma of therapy in minority communities, the Pembroke Pines-based Rocker has an extensive record and background in helping a wide and diverse range of athletes and entertainers across sports and entertainment.

Photo: Jeff Rocker with rapper Coolio

Below is my Q and A with Jeff as we discuss the toxicity of social media in relationships, how to handle it, keeping things “in house” and when and where one should air their “dirty laundry”

As someone who works with celebrities and especially in the age of social media, how has your clientele managed to keep things private and other things social?

Some celebrities find it difficult to keep their social lives out of the limelight. However, the decision to keep their social life out of social media always lies with them. As a result, some have managed to lead a private life despite being celebrities, while others do not keep their issues private.

Keeping their lives private from social media is dependent on the management strategy they choose. Most of the celebrities who have managed to keep their personal lives private have a strong management team that runs all their social media channels. These teams comprise professional social media managers who understand work ethics and how to manage big brands. They offer professional guidance to the celebrities on what to post on social media and what to keep private.

However, regardless of the existence of these teams, some celebrities still choose to post issues concerning their personal lives on social media. On the other hand, there are some who lack professional social media managers and still keep their lives private. As a result, the decision to expose or keep social lives out of social media is always made by celebrities.

Photo: Jeff Rocker with NFL WR Antonio Brown

Personally, I’m a firm believer in “not airing my dirty laundry” in public and on social, what are your thoughts on this?

I am a firm believer in “not airing my dirty laundry” because the internet never forgets. One can decide to “air their dirty laundry” on social media based on their current circumstances. However, the pictures, videos, or posts written by these users will never be forgotten. The “dirty laundry aired” by a social media user might haunt him/her for the whole of his/her life in case they regret posting such issues.

On a personal account, “airing your dirty laundry” in public and on social media platforms is not a good idea. By “airing your dirty laundry” on social media or in public, you attract criticism and all sorts of trolls. Some people will sympathize and empathize with you, while others will crudely judge you.

You might have decided to “air your dirty laundry” in public and on social media as a way of encouraging other people and caution others, but this message will end up being misunderstood. Social media users will create memes and funny videos out of your situation. People will call you very bad names and they will forget their challenges and focus on “your dirty laundry.”

All these trolls and hashtags eventually cause mental challenges on social media users. In most cases, they become depressed and always regretting why they decided to “air their dirty laundry” on social media or in public.

In my line of work, I meet men and women who are haunted by videos, photos, and posts they made when they were teenagers due to peer pressure. Despite deleting such posts, other users continue posting them at any time. They feel embarrassed about seeing them and there is nothing they can do. In this regard, it is not always wise to “air your dirty laundry” in public and on social media.  

Do you think it is easier to have a relationship in The Age of Social Media? Why or why not? 

Based on the social interactions caused by different social media platforms, it is easier to have a relationship in the age of social media. Social networks present a unique opportunity for people to recognize the importance of having relationships. It is easier to make friends on social media as compared to real-life situations. As a result, entering into a relationship becomes so easy in the age of social media as compared to the old days.

I have seen couples that are happily married and raising children after meeting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and social media sites. My clients confide in me that they have relationships with people from different countries on social media. After talking for some time, they actualize their relationships by meeting in person.

The age of social media has made it easy for people to create relationships. The social media platforms have channels that encourage private communications. Social media users use these channels to start relationships with their friends within their social networks. 

What’s the biggest challenge some of your clientele face in balancing their public and private lives?

Most of my clientele experience the challenge of the lack of privacy in balancing their private and public lives. Celebrities find it difficult to walk in public places with their families without attracting the attention of other people. People are always flocking around these celebrities to have selfies or chat with them. These habits invade the private spaces of these celebrities, thus making it hard for them to live a normal life, just like people.

Due to the lack of privacy, most of these celebrities cannot even take their families in public places without exposing them to the dangers of social media. Most of my clientele are forced to drive tinted cars, wear hoodies, hide their faces, or walk around with a convoy of heavy and tight security just to balance their private and public lives.

Additionally, most of the clients complain about the challenges of controversies and always being judged in the course of balancing their private and public lives. Celebrities have complained that they fear boarding public service vehicles, or eating in a restaurant they used to eat before becoming famous because they will be judged and painted poor.

The society or followers of these celebrities tend to set standards for them, thus making it hard to live a normal life. Some end up faking lifestyles just to put up with the public perception of them. The challenges of controversies and always being judged make it hard for celebrities to balance between private and public lives.

What’s the biggest problem for them—as well as us regular people in having relationships today?

Unfaithfulness in relationships is the biggest problem being experienced by both celebrities and normal people in the age of social media. Despite being effective in creating relationships, people are using social media to have multiple partners.

The cases of unfaithfulness have increased in the age of social media due to easy communication provided by these channels. Celebrities and other people have multiple relationships that make it hard for them to remain faithful to their partners. Most families of both celebrities and normal people have been broken due to cheating accusations. Most of the cases of unfaithfulness in relationships originated from social media.

Despite having stable relationships, celebrities and other normal people are always tempted to message friends they meet online. Their private conservations eventually manifest to cheating, thus prompting their partners to file for divorce or separation. As a result, unfaithfulness is a significant challenge facing relationships in the current social media age. 

Do you feel it’s best to be single and happy or to have a relationship due to all of the misinformation, drama, fake news that’s so easily spread online?

It is best to be single than have a relationship that is based on misinformation, drama, and fake news that characterize the contemporary social media space. On a personal account, lying to yourself is the greatest mistake that you can ever make. It is better to live a real-life than fake relationships on social media.

Having a fake relationship that is based on misinformation and social media drama causes various psychological challenges. Such couples are always depressed and stressed about what they should post to “please” their followers.

However, being single and happy is essential because it enables an individual to live a real life that they can afford. Such people are not amused by trends and hashtags. They are true to themselves and they cannot be swayed by the social media drama, fake news, and misinformation. I feel it is better to be single and happy than to be in a fake relationship in the current age of social media.  

Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook? What is the most toxic social media platform when it comes to having relationships?

If I had to pick one, I would rank Facebook as the most difficult platform to sustain a healthy relationship. As a platform with many users as compared to Instagram and Twitter, Facebook turns out to be the most harmful social media platform on relationships. Fake news, misinformation, and other controversial viral videos on relationships of celebrities and other people are in most cases found on Facebook. Harassment and other forms of toxicity are, in most cases, advanced on Facebook. People create hashtags and ensure that these stories become trending topics to taint the relationships of others.

Users take advantage of the global outreach of this social media platform to advance their messages about the relationships of others. Also, most couples break up as a result of posts, images, or videos posted on Facebook. Despite the censorship efforts being made to monitor the posts by the users, Facebook still has a ways to go on providing an environment condusive to healthy relationships for couples.  

Any final thoughts on having a relationship—or at least trying to—in today’s day and age?

It is good to have a relationship in the digital age. However, before entering into any new relationship, it is pivotal to carry out due diligence on your partner. Social media has motivated  people to fake their lifestyles to attract many followers or likes. As a result, it is vital to carry out a thorough background check of an individual before deciding to have a relationship with them. Social media users should not fall for the glamor and flashy lifestyles of people on various channels.

After carrying out a background check and determining the real-life person you meet on social media, it is important to check on personality characteristics, other individual differences, and preferences. The attitudes of the people you meet in the digital age should also be verified to determine their primary intentions.

In the course of dating, it is important to keep your private lives out of the limelight. Do not pour your personal life on social media because people will judge or harass you, leading to the collapse of your relationship. It is important to separate your personal life from your social life. Finally, there is a need to have a real relationship that is not characterized by social media drama. 

Follow Jeff on IG at @askjeff

Special thanks to Jeff Rocker and Brittany Scott of Garis Media & Talent Group for their help and assistance during the interview process

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