It is often said that love can be found in the most unlikely of places, but with today’s popularity and use of social media, that place is not so unlikely, but rather, the largest social networking site to date: Facebook.
Cathy Rodríguez, 46 and Ysidro Aguirre, 48 first met during a friend’s pop-up dinner in Sacramento two years ago. Every month, their mutual friend Dianne would locate a home among her contacts; invite a chef to cook a delectable meal, and invite guests to bring a bottle of wine to share with everyone. At one of those fateful gatherings, Rodríguez met Aguirre.
At the end of the delicious meal that night, everyone decided the best way to connect and keep in touch for future dinner outings was by becoming Facebook friends. And like that, with a click of a mouse later that evening at her home, Rodríguez and Aguirre sent one another, friend requests on Facebook.
The rest is history.
What ensued shortly after was a month- long courtship between Rodríguez and Aguirre that included telephone conversations that would “last for hours” where they both got to know more about one another more intimately. It didn’t take long before they decided to take their romantic interest to the next level.
“Our first date happened after more than a month and a half of long talks. Sid asked me to meet for dinner. He planned it all. He made reservations at Aioli’s in Sacramento, he had asked for a table on the patio, and had gone out of his way to find a white wine that I would like…but the nicest gesture, he had brought me a half-dozen macaroon cookies from Bouchon’s Bakery in Yountville, my absolute favorite bakery,” remembers Rodríguez.
That night was enchanting for the both of them.
“We knew very early on that we had something special. What we remember the most from our first date is how we talked all night. It was so easy,” recalls Rodríguez. It was also that night that Aguirre made his first love declaration: “You look stunning,” he told her.
We knew very early on that we had something special. Cathy Rodríguez, CEO Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
For a year, their courtship also blossomed on Facebook. It was through the social networking site that they began to connect, share experiences and comment on one another’s postings – everything from Rodríguez praising Aguirre’s paella cooking skills to Aguirre inquiring on which were the best restaurants to dine at in the Napa Valley.
After six months of constant Facebook interactions, sweet comments exchanged, an occasional compliment or simple flirtation, Rodríguez and Aguirre finally swapped cell phone numbers – via Facebook private messenger.
“Sid wrote a few poems for me on Facebook, and I posted funny sayings on his…that is something we still do. He changed his Facebook status first (when we became a couple), and he was so nervous when he told me. I changed it then, too,” recalls Rodríguez.
That was the moment when they became “Facebook official” thereby letting their family and friends know that they were an item.
Their love story quickly gained traction and after a year and a half after first meeting, they were engaged to be married. They tied the knot in a beautiful ceremony last June in St. Helena, Rodríguez’s hometown. Their love story – which they credit Facebook for playing a large role – is not uncommon amongst modern-day couples.
“The positive element that has risen from social media is the way people feel more comfortable reaching out, connecting with and getting to know someone a bit more based on what they post, or their activity way before they muster enough courage for the inevitable face-to-face contact,” said Erin Ambrose, a psychology professor at William Jessup University. “What social networks do is break down barriers that would otherwise stand in the way if two people are nervous about interacting in person right away.”
As a licensed marriage and family therapist who sees individual clients, couples and families on a wide range of issues, including social media, Ambrose said social networks are one of the main, if not the top reason why modern-day couples make an appointment to see her.
When they do, Ambrose stresses the importance of making couples understand that when they connect on social media sites, their public lives on the networks are not representative 100 percent of who they truly are. In other words, social media only offers a small glimpse into the true life of a person.
“Couples have to understand that what they put on social media or our ‘online presence’ isn’t really, fully who they are. Couples can choose to be more vulnerable on social media, but they must also be aware that what they put out there can have consequences, and it can be good or bad or just be,” said Ambrose.
Couples can choose to be more vulnerable on social media. Erin Ambrose, psychology professor at William Jessup University
Unlike Rodríguez and Aguirre’s love story, most couples who book appointments to see Ambrose experience emotional challenges once they have connected on Facebook or other social media sites because the activity that takes place while they are dating or when they are married can often cause strife in their relationship.
“Unfortunately, most of the cases I handle have to do with couples who have had a negative experience on social media. Usually, they are upset, unhappy or bothered by the activity that is taking place,” said Ambrose.
The number one problem couples face when connected on Facebook is jealousy. Whether a significant other is still “friends” with an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend; when people begin to connect with people from work or their childhood and begin to exchange messages; or when one or the other begins to comment and/or “like” pictures of members from the opposite sex, conflict ensues.
“Flirtation and infidelity has always existed, but the amount of exposure and the level of networking people can make on social media is at a whole different level. People are not digging through their old yearbooks to find someone from their past. Instead, with a simple click, people are finding one another on social media,” said Ambrose.
The problem among couples usually begins when the activity on social media goes from platonic to flirtatious.
The number one problem couples face when connected on Facebook is jealousy. Erin Ambrose, psychology professor at William Jessup University
“It goes from casually finding someone from middle school, then adding them on Facebook and thinking ‘oh wow, look how much they have changed; they are so pretty or handsome’ then sending them a message and finding time to catch up with them, then arranging to meet for coffee and then things can go in a completely different direction than what they originally intended it to be,” said Ambrose.
Another pressing problem among couples on social media are the comparisons couples make with other couples based on their gestures of love or day-to-day activity on Facebook, which is heightened around special holidays like Valentine’s Day.
Back in the old days long before social media, for example, a husband might give his wife a Valentine’s Day card with a box of chocolates and that would be thoughtful to the wife. But today, if that same wife logs on to Facebook or another social media site and begins to see and compare her husband’s gift to those of her women friends or coworkers who are dating or married and begins to believe that the jewelry, balloons, the dozen red roses or a romantic trip, is better compared to her gift, that may cause resentment in the relationship.
“This whole idea of comparisons is really exacerbated on social media. And because couples tend to post only the happy and best moments of their relationship, things appear more grandiose than what they really are. As a result, those who are in relationships begin to question their significant other like, ‘oh, look what so-and-so did for their significant other and why couldn’t you do that for me?’ or ‘oh, look what so-and-so got as a gift from her husband/wife, etc.’ and the issues arise from there,” said Ambrose.
Because couples tend to post only the happy and best moments of their relationship, things appear more grandiose than what they really are on social media. Erin Ambrose, psychology professor at William Jessup University
The last most pressing problem among couples is the amount of time they spend on social media. In today’s day and age, people in general are addicted to technology and glued to their cell-phones and i-pads. As a result, there is less intimacy in today’s relationships.
“I spoke at my church not too long ago about the lack of intimacy in relationships. Not only are devices keeping couples from connecting and interacting, but there is this element of shallowness that is omnipresent. Couples are losing their ability to stay in the present and enjoy their present and are instead, being sucked out of reality,” said Ambrose.
Couples like Rodríguez and Aguirre who have continued to remain active on Facebook post-marriage, are one of the few couples who have shared positive experiences before-and-after meeting.
They both agree that is because of Facebook that their relationship was able to grow.
“Sid always says that because we were friends first on Facebook, we got to see how we each interacted with family and friends on there. He learned what kind of person I was by what I posted and what people chose to post on my wall. He already knew I had a diverse set of friends, and I knew the same about him,” said Rodríguez.
To date, they have never had any relationship challenges because of Facebook.
“I tend to be cautious of what I post (on Facebook) and once I took on a public role in my career, even more so,” said Rodríguez.
Rodríguez, who is the current president and CEO of the Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce says a relationship is ultimately built on mutual trust, respect and understanding– and believes that in order for a couple to be successful, they must come to an agreement on what they expect out of social media.
Ambrose recommends that couples discuss very openly what they feel is acceptable for both of them on social media so that both are happy in their relationship.
“Couples have survived generations without social media and not all of people’s experiences are negative. But what I can tell you is that couples who refrain from using social media or put limits on what they are going to share or control their activity, they are less likely to have problems,” said Ambrose.
As for Rodríguez and Aguirre, their love story couldn’t have fallen into place more perfectly.
Facebook gave us glimpses into what we each enjoyed in life, what was important to us, and who was in our lives before we even had our first date. Cathy Rodríguez, CEO Sacramento Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
“Sid and I feel like we have been together far longer than we have been in a very good way. Facebook gave us glimpses into what we each enjoyed in life, what was important to us, and who was in our lives before we even had our first date,” said Rodríguez. “It (Facebook) was different than a dating profile which is often your best photo and a very formal essay. Facebook for us, was a snapshot of how we were living…and we liked what we saw in each other…enough that we are now married.”
If she could do it all over again, Rodríguez wouldn’t think twice.
“My husband and I would definitely give Facebook a big ‘LIKE’,” she added.