Social Media Accounts and Passwords: Best Practices for Married Couples

Although it's common practice for couples to maintain separate social media accounts (that's how Facebook is set up to work), we strongly recommend that they share their passwords with one another, both as a gesture of mutual respect and as a way of ensuring accountability. Their respective Facebook profiles should make it clear that they are married to one another. Icons, photos, and other visual images should be designed to remind visitors that they are married. As far as possible, posted pictures should frequently show husband and wife together. Everything should be expressed to reflect the couple's identity as a unit. If desired, couples can prevent unwanted searches by making full use of their privacy settings. They can also set up the same access groups on both pages, ensuring that each spouse is sharing only with the same group of people. In cases where a greater degree of accountability is required or recommended, spouses may decide to set up a new shared "family" account instead. This type of joint account does have its limitations for the practical use of social media, but in situations where it is necessary to preserve the integrity of the marriage relationship, we would not advise against these safeguards.

It's important to explain that this isn't about lack of trust. We aren't recommending that husbands and wives "baby-sit" each other to make sure that no one gets out of line. At the most basic level, this is simply a question of remaining above reproach. It's a way of staying accountable to one another and to the rest of the world. The apostle Paul urges Christians to steer clear not only of evil itself but even of the mere appearance of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22). This is something believers need to take seriously, both in their marriages and in their interactions with others.

We'd suggest that the "open door policy" we're recommending can actually foster a healthy sense of freedom in a marriage when it's utilized in the right way. If it doesn't-but instead turns into a kind of "monitoring," a la "Big Brother"-that probably indicates that a couple has already had trust issues before they got involved with social media. Where this is the case, the problem could benefit from the help of a trained counselor. Remember, if your communication as a couple is suffering, Facebook isn't likely to help. As a matter of fact, it will probably only make matters worse.

We should add that sharing passwords or, if appropriate, maintaining a shared account can also be a way of building a hedge around your marriage. It's a strategy for protecting your relationship against outside threats. Whether you've been married for thirty days or thirty years, you're never really immune to the threat of an extra-marital affair. A recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that Facebook has been a major factor in one out of five U. S. divorces. So it's wise to take precautions. Facebook profiles and postings filled with references to the strength and health of your marriage will put "old flames" and potential predators on alert. They will let them know in no uncertain terms that neither of you are in the market for any extra-curricular romance. This is important, since even a seemingly innocent "virtual" affair can wreak havoc on a marriage.

If you need help sorting all this out, or if you'd like to talk with someone about the larger issue of communication in marriage, don't hesitate to seek professional counseling. Our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in this area. You can contact our Counseling Department for a free consultation Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able. Our team will be happy to come alongside you in any way they can.

Resources
Making Marriage Work in a Social Media World (broadcast)

Friendship or Flirtation? Danger Signs for Couples (broadcast)

Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life (book)InMarriage

Unfriend Yourself (book)

Referrals
Covenant Eyes - Provider of Internet accountability and filtering services.

Net Nanny - Internet control software that protects your family from pornography, online predators, and cyberbullies.

Articles
Marriage And Social Media: Risks, Benefits, and Best Practices

Facebook and Your Marriage

Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?

Does Facebook Cause Divorce?

Copyright © 2012, Focus on the Family. Used by permission.