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The influence of media on relationships

Last updated on 25.07.2020


“But why did he like so many of her photos, is he cheating on me?” “I’m her best friend, why does she never tag me in one of those ‘best friend goals’ memes?” “I wish my family could go on such luxurious holidays.” “She took your picture off of her Instagram, you must have broken up.” According to a survey taken by Pew Research Centre, 45% of internet users, ages 18-29, in serious relationships say the internet has had a negative impact on their relationship. Relationships are the way in which two or more people or things are connected, or the state of being connected, according to the Oxford Dictionary. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a motivational theory in psychology made up of five levels of human needs, often shown as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.) shows that ‘Belongingness and love needs’ are a basic need for humans.

The needs are: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization. Needs lower down in the hierarchy must be met before individuals can move on to needs higher up. When a lower-level need has been ‘more or less’ satisfied it will go away, and our activities directed towards meeting the next set of needs that we have yet to satisfy. When one of these needs (for example ‘love and belonging’) have not been met due to an outside resistance (for example media) it is very hard to move up the hierarchy and achieve self-actualization. A contrasting thought is that with solid, core beliefs and values it is considerably easier to move up the levels.

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True beliefs

Beliefs to bring into any relationship include realising that the other person wants connection as much as you do, no matter what it may look like from your perspective every human craves connection and this craving can be interrupted by anger, hurt or many other factors, but it will never be rendered completely obsolete. The unkind things people do stem from fear, this closely links to the quote ‘Hurt people, hurt people’ which means that those who have been hurt tend to hurt others, not because they are monsters, but because it is all that they know, patience is key with these people. People want to be generous because it is essential for human fulfilment. Everyone is just afraid that if they give their love freely, it will eventually become depleted, generosity would be so much easier if we just assumed everyone wanted to be generous. Our vulnerability makes us more attractive to others – this describes a sort of paradox ‘The more vulnerable you are, the braver you appear’, people admire genuineness.

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People want a partner who challenges them. (Engman, 2015) Beliefs and values go hand in hand and some values to bring into a relationship include honesty, loyalty, commitment, respect and understanding. All of these are sort of ingredients for the best relationship recipe. (Scacchi, 2017) Sometimes bringing these values and beliefs into a relationship can be difficult because exterior influences may alter or completely destroy them. The main exterior influence that affects our relationships is media. Media includes television (adverts, movies, television series, documentaries), books (particularly fictional books), magazines (printed adverts, celebrity news), video games and the most influential: social media (Facebook, Instagram”, Twitter), music. (Oawalt, n.d.)

Lie through the lens of the TV

Television, particularly movies and television series, show us perfect relationships with perfect people and we subconsciously try to match up our realities with these fictional realities. This is a plan to fail. Adverts show us perfect families, perfect friends and we willingly swallow this poison and wonder why we’re dying emotionally.

The University of Michigan surveyed 172 candidates and 41% admitted that television ideals were the cause of most of the endings of their relationships. An example of a movie that has put false ideas in our minds is ‘The Notebook’. Books and television do their damage in the same ways, they tell us that there is a happily ever after, that life is a fairytale when it is not. Books also portray women as fragile and defenceless and dependant on men, which isn’t the case. For example Cinderella (which teaches young girls that they need a man to have a supposed happily ever after.).

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Magazines are similar to books except they mostly affect our relationships with ourselves, we see models and celebrities with bodies we can never have, advertising clothes and other things that we can never afford and we see it as a shortcoming on our part instead of a completely unrealistic lifestyle that many have not and cannot attain. For example a Chanel advertisement with a leggy brunette (that probably doesn’t even look like that in real life because photo-shop has been hectically abused).

Video games

Video games have a negative effect on the way we view gender roles. They portray males as aggressive and dominant whilst females are portrayed as housewives or sexual objects and submissive. These views could be brought into a relationship and initiate an unequal relationship. An example of one of these video games is ‘Grand Theft Auto’ where the main character is a man that commits all the crimes possible to man and then has his pick of any prostitute to commit sexual acts with. What is this teaching young men? Last, but definitely not least, social media.

This is the most influential type of media according to Cosmo Magazine. This is because social media is used daily and most of the world’s population has some form of it. 50% of 73 people from ages 18 – 22 said that social media has negatively impacted their relationships. This type of media also follows the same deceiving technique of the others. For example, you see a post of a couple having a candlelit dinner for Valentine’s day and you’re sitting at McDonald’s with your significant other, the comparison will cause you to believe that your relationship is failing when in actual fact you do not know the problems of the relationship that you are envying. After seeing the unrealistic expectations of relationships on media platforms it is important that we educate ourselves on the actual characteristics that a relationship must have to be balanced and healthy. There must be mutual respect in a relationship.

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Respect means that you can be honest with each other, and feel safe enough to be yourself. This shows that you respect the other persons needs, values and you have each other’s best interest at heart. There must be open communication, you should feel free to say what you want to say when you want to say it and when it is necessary (it mustn’t be out of spite or to intentionally hurt the other person.). There must be individuality, each person must still feel whole with/without the other person, they must not make someone the centre of their universe.

There must be support, everyone needs a little reassurance once in a while to remind them that they are doing well. It is not the responsibility of the person you’re in a relationship with to constantly affirm you, but they should once in a while and support your goals. There must be confidence, both parties should be clear about their feelings and intentions for each other, this will make both people feel secure in the relationship, therefore, making it healthier. Lastly, there must be equality. If there is unequal power relations one partner will be reliant on the other and that will result in one partner’s unhappiness. Like a cake, a relationship has many layers, what’s important is getting all of the layers right and that all starts with the right ingredients.

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