The nature of abusive relationships hasn’t changed much with the advent of digital technology. In an unhealthy relationship, someone will still be trying to control you, convince you you’re worthless, or keep you from your friends, family, or job. What has changed is how much your abuser might be able to learn about where you are and what you’re doing.
But social media also give us more opportunities to reflect on our relationships. Because we leave written or visual traces of our behavior online, we all have a chance to go over records of what has happened in our relationships, and think about whether they are positive and nurturing, or negative and toxic.
Sometimes behaviors we may think are totally normal are actually manipulative. Have a look at this resource on manipulative behavior written by survivors, put together by Chayn.
Here’s a list of characteristics of abusive relationships, adapted from the resources at Model Mugging and DayOne. Some of them may be true for abusive family members as well as intimate partners. Do you see any of the following in messages or social media from your loved one? (For that matter… are you the one doing these things to someone else? It’s up to all of us to stop unhealthy relationship patterns.)
Is insulting or mean in messages, updates, tagging you on social media, or their other online activity
Messages you constantly, makes you worried what will happen if you don’t respond
Pushes the boundaries of your comfort; ignores what you say about it. This might include sending you explicit pictures, or pressuring you to send intimate pictures or videos (which you can do more safely; here’s how)
Gets access to your accounts by asking for or stealing your passwords
Tracks where you are and what you’re doing through social media or GPS (here’s how to protect yourself)
They are charming at the beginning of the relationship, and if there are abusive moments, they are attentive to how you feel right afterwards
There are moments where they idolize you, but then they flip to degrading you
Pushes for you to commit very early on
Reacts badly to “no”; can’t accept you or others rejecting them
Needs to have their ego stroked
Abuses their position of authority or others’ trust
Criticizes or degrades you or others; compares your body to other people’s bodies
Tells you how to think or feel
Tells you nobody else would want you
Is threatened by your income or achievements
Starts fights to have control, or to feel more comfortable
Accuses you of trying to control them
Convinces others in your life that you are crazy
Has extreme reactions to stress or has mood swings
Had a prior pattern of cheating
Fears of abandonment are triggers for their anger; they may threaten suicide over a breakup
Intimidation of you or others; says when threatening violence “this could be you”
Pressures you for sex, says you are leading them on; says they’ll sleep with someone else if you don’t
For more guidelines on staying safe online, including protecting your accounts, check out the rest of this site’s advice on privacy, security, and safe relationship tips, or pick up a copy of Keep Calm and Log On.