Social media accounts are password protected. Romantic partners may feel entitled to a sense of privacy and may feel uncomfortable sharing their account passwords. A plethora of online profiles flaunt idealistic lifestyles and glossed images, which may deceive some people into thinking that their online friends are more attractive than their primary partner. Social media also offers tools that allow seamless interactions between online friends, including private messaging and calls, which facilitate the development of extra-dyadic relationships. Flirting with alternatives disguised as ‘online friends’ can threaten the primary relationship. Generally, online communications are prone to quickly become aggressive and emotionally intimate. Additionally, connections with ex-partners can survive past the ‘breakup’ on social media. The flickering ‘old flames of love’ can get reignited with a realization that the partner is acknowledging the ex-partner’s presence even when it is done without much effort such as swiping, liking, reposting, or sending an emoji.
Teenagers in a dating relationship voluntarily share their passwords to build trust and to show love. However, when a partner coerces the other partner for his/her social media passwords, there is an expectation that the social media activities will be monitored and/or controlled. Online surveillance could be a sign of intimate partner violence. In some cases, partners disclose unfavorable information about their primary partner to gain sympathy from online friends. In other cases, some partners may share intimate details to lure online friends into developing an extra-dyadic relationship. In such cases, giving access to one’s social media account to the primary partner could be problematic.
In a recent study involving cohabiting partners, we examined the link between relationship factors (relationship satisfaction, commitment, perceived quality of online romantic alternatives and attitudes towards password sharing) and favorable or unfavorable attitude towards password sharing. We found that only online infidelity was negatively linked with favorable attitudes toward password sharing. Essentially, partners who engaged in infidelity did not favor password sharing. Infidelity was measured using Social Media Infidelity-Related Behaviors scale. An example item from the scale was “sometimes, instead of going to my spouse/partner, I share deep emotional or intimate information with others online”. Partners who agreed to this and similar statements were involved in ‘inappropriate behaviors’, hence they did not favor password sharing. To avoid conflicts, couples should agree to set boundaries and have clear rules around online communications.
For Further Reading
Abbasi, I. S., Buchanan, T., & Dibble, J. L. (2022). Attitudes Towards Passwords Sharing in Cohabiting Partners. The Social Science Journal. (Advance online publication). https://doi.org/10.1080/03623319.2022.2152406