Let me preface this by saying that all relationships are different. The advice I’m going to impart here is a general how-to on keeping your partner happy without creating any negative patterns or emotional complexes.

Now that that’s out of the way, it’s no real secret that social media can definitely create conflict in relationships. Not because social media is inherently bad, but because it magnifies every instance of our social interactions. Take how you’d act at a party, and now multiply the size of that party by millions. That’s social media, only everyone is immediately available and approachable without the awkward eye contact or flirting. The simplest way to approach the issue—especially when someone else’s feelings are at stake—is that your social media behavior is like a digital body language of sorts. Every like, follow, friend request, etc., has its own set of nuanced rules. Silly as it sounds, that’s the truth.

Here are the biggest social media etiquette rules when it comes to keeping relationships sane.

1. Treat your partner the way you want to be treated.
At the end of the day, consider your partner’s feelings. Think about what kind of social media behaviors would make you feel upset or insecure, and use that as a guide to dictate how you should act. Chances are, if it’s not something you’d be okay with, it’s probably not something your significant other would be, either.

2. Don’t obsess.
I can’t really stress this one enough. Do not obsess over your significant other’s social media, and don’t waste time and effort trying to forcefully dictate what they are or aren’t doing. If you’re the kind of guy who hits the reload button over and over again every time your girl posts a new selfie, just to see who’s liking her pictures in real-time, you’re going way too far. Don’t be that dude.

3. Sit down and have open dialogue about social media behaviors that bother you.
Social media etiquette is a really complex issue because everybody’s feelings on it are different, and no one is ever really wrong. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not appropriate to sit down with your significant other and have an open and honest conversation about boundaries. Don’t be afraid to have a discussion on what you both deem acceptable and unacceptable. What works for other couples may not work for you, and it’s okay to explore the options, set boundaries and then respect those boundaries.

4. Don’t sacrifice freedom for comfort.
One mistake I see couples make over and over again—especially the insecure ones—is that they give their partners access to their social media accounts. This, to me, is a huge slippery slope that’s built to create bad habits and insecurity issues. The foundation of every relationship is built upon trust. If you can’t trust your partner to not make an asshole out of you on Instagram, how could you possibly trust them to handle real-world situations? Don’t give up your phone, don’t give up your passwords and don’t sacrifice too much of your privacy. And vice versa, don’t be a dick to your partner over it. If you feel like you have to keep someone under your thumb 24/7 and check in on them like a paranoid parent, you should probably start reconsidering.

5. Don’t allow people to disrespect your significant other.
One of the biggest things you can do for your partner in a world of private inboxes and temporary picture messages is give them enough reassurance to know and understand that no matter what anyone says or tries to do, you’re not going to let any bull shit fly. How much they like your selfie or what they have to say in your DMs is irrelevant if it’s something your girl would read and be upset about it. Nip that shit in the bud immediately.

6. Just don’t be a dick.
Don’t be targeting attractive peoples’ selfies just to show them you like looking at them. Don’t slide up in the DMs of others (and don’t allow people to slide into yours) talking slick shit. And keep in mind that you have a significant other, and you should care about their feelings. When you’re single, there might be absolutely nothing wrong with a shredded gym body selfie or a bikini mirror photo, but being in a relationship is about being a team. Think wisely about the stuff you’re posting and how you’re acting, and be pragmatic and mature in your approach to it all.

Social media might just be virtual, but it has some real-world consequences sometimes.

Photo: iStock/Emir Memedovski