Sample Paper on Black Couples Filtering Their Love Stories Using Social Media

Abstract

 

Black couples’ use of social media for expressing their emotions needs to be explored for helping them develop their narratives without external pressure. Narrative therapy is used to understand the difficulties of holding on to unique personal narratives and preferred futures in the context of a hostile dominant discourse. The Black community has a long history of oppression, which makes their stories significant. Thus, the social media posts of successful Black couples can be helpful in developing a new theory explaining personal narratives of Black couples in an online environment. These narratives provide information regarding the most common problems faced by Black people in developing romantic relationships and the culture-specific factors influencing how Black men and women perceive each other. This qualitative grounded theory focuses on understanding Black couples’ use of social media in developing their couple narratives.

 

CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

 

Humans are called social animals whose survival depends on relationships.

 

People engage in hundreds of thousands of social interactions simply as part of daily life. Every person uses specific socializing skills to make short-long term relations with different people. The advent of the Internet has revolutionized this process by providing a virtual environment to expand these relationships. The social media networks have gradually become competitive to real-life socialization in developed countries (Abbas, Aman, Nurunnabi, & Bano, 2019). In this context, researchers need to explore various behaviors of social mechanisms to understand the new trends of establishing romantic and intimate relationships with the help of social media. Finchamand Beach (2010) have already analyzed the role of social media in strengthening and expanding their close and trustful relationships through innovative methods of conveying online messages. People use social media not only for gaining knowledge and resources but also as a tool of fulfilling their emotional needs through finding friends and appropriate partner.

Social media has emerged as an important platform for couples to share their love stories. According to Finchman and Beach (2010), social media is actively used in communication between couples, thus enhancing their physical and psychological health. Research by Papp, Danielewicz and Cayemberg (2012) reveals young adults in romantic relationships use social networking sites to interact with their partners, thus enhancing relationship satisfaction. Couples frequently share stories of their love relationships through activities such as posting partner updates. Such couples are reported to have relationships of a higher quality (Steers et al., 2015). However, some studies have also

 

reported negative effects of social media usage in relationships. For instance, McDaniel and Coyne (2016) have reported higher conflicts levels due to technology use during couple interactions. While social media usage in relationships has been previously examined, little focus has been directed toward Black couples. Thus, the focus of this study is to develop an understanding of how African Americans filter love stories through social media

Relationships

 

Historically, people have been in quest for intimacy to satisfy their emotional requirements. Gottman and Silver (2012) note that couples with high levels of intimacy and empathy develop attunement ability. The specific romantic interactions and rituals guide people to find their sexual partner. Moreover, the process of establishing romantic relationships has various stages, which can be helpful in making these associations more durable and stronger. Additionally, researchers have also found that the element of empathy plays a vital role in strengthening the mutual bond between couples aspiring to create a family through marriage (Gottman& Silver, 2012). Other features of a strong romantic relationship are relatively less explored due to the diversity of relationships and ethnic communities. Furthermore, these characteristics vary from culture to culture making it difficult for scholars to evaluate their exact implications. Black couples can be cited as the prime example of this aspect as available information on their intimate relationships and the impact of social media on their interactions is limited.

Literature on romantic relationships and family is quite rich in theories and models, explaining the phenomena of love and intimacy (Gottman & Gottman, 2018). Scholars have developed various approaches that can be used to help couples having

 

problems with intimacy. The researcher seeks to provide new stories of Black couples through the use of social media for establishing close intimate relationships.

Impact of Racial Discrimination on Black Couples’ Relationships

 

Although there is no standard definition of the term “Black love”, it is usually employed to a relationship between two individuals who are African Americans. Due to prevailing racial discrimination in U.S. society, Black couple relationships are often termed as Black love on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (Billingsley, 2016). Media and pop culture associate African Americans with social issues such as violence, crime, drugs, and sex, which compels general public to consider love among Black couples in a negative manner (Billingsley, 2016). Billingsley (2016) also stresses that love and romantic relationship studies have often focused on White American couples, which confirms the “muted group theory” that the needs of marginalized communities are overlooked by the dominant groups of the society.

Therefore, Black couples struggle to establish their identity, which have a negative impact on their relationships. Although racial discrimination is the main source of stress for the African Americans in the U.S. society, little research has been conducted to evaluate its impact on couple functioning. Lavner, Barton, Bryant and Beach (2018) have conducted such a study to explore relationship between racial discrimination and couple functioning among African-Americans. The findings of the study confirm that racial discrimination was a common factor in defining the nature of their relationships (Lavner et al., 2018). While men reported higher levels of psychological aggression, women complained of similar aggression in their relationship if they faced increased racial

 

discrimination (Lavner et al., 2018). Hence, it is suggested that the therapists should devise strategies to address the issue of racial discrimination among their clients.

Various initiatives and programs have been introduced in American society to engage Black couples using different culturally relevant components for educating them to protect their relationships through increased intimacy. Mikle and Gilbert (2019) study the efficacy of these programs through a systematic review. Although the study employs various themes, the main component is storytelling and oral tradition (Mikle& Gilbert, 2019). The findings of this research suggest that Black couples benefit from such culturally significant programs, which help them establish healthier relationships through improved relationship skills (Mikle& Gilbert, 2019). Hence, Black couples need more attention to increase intimacy for protecting their relationships to enjoy a durable marriage.

Significance of Storytelling Tradition in Relationship Therapies for Black Couples

 

Storytelling is an African oral tradition, which can be an effective research methodology for encouraging Black couples to share their experiences. Africans have traditionally been keen on storytelling as this is part of their tradition and history (Tuwe, 2016). The technique of storytelling is used by Africans to share their feelings, attitudes, and responses. Moreover, this medium is also employed for transferring knowledge and traditions from one generation to another (Tuwe, 2016). These stories are unique as they present the worldview of African community. Narrative therapists can use storytelling to learn about the life experiences of Black couples. The therapists can also encourage the couples to focus on their own voices to better perceive their preferred future by rejecting the dominant discourses.

 

Narrative therapists should also focus on the fact that the tradition of storytelling owes its origin to the African slaves. They sought to preserve their culture as well as seek inspiration for rebellion through storytelling (Rasson, 2017). In the modern world, this technique can be implemented to encourage Black couples to develop alternative stories, which focus on their strength and abilities to help them resolve their relationship issues.

As most Black couples live in extended family networks, their relationship issues are more complicated (St. Vil, McDonald, &Cross-Barnet, 2018).Although more than one scholar have studied the intimacy of Black couples, it was mainly focused on interracial couples without specific attention to their online interactions (Killian, 2013). Narrative therapists have long been interested in exploring the problems of couples belonging to this ethnic minority to assure them that the Blacks have personal ability to shape their relationships (Killian, 2013). Narrative therapy has a strong record of considering issues of race, class, culture, and gender (Killian, 2013). Although researchers have studied Black couples and employed narrative therapy to understand their problems, this study aims at building on their work by integrating social media as a device to explore intimate relations among Black couples (Wilkins et al., 2013).

Awosan and Opara (2016) introduced valuable mechanism for studying Black couples’ intimacy through culture-based therapeutic approaches. Their research can be a good foundation for exploring stories of Black couples posted on social media as these stories will have privileged as well as submerged voices. This conflict in the stories makes relationships difficult and challenging for Black couples due to cultural differences and discrimination. Although these practices and others suggested useful interventions to address the issue of Black couple intimacy, the proposed study aims at

 

making these studies as foundation to develop a new personalized theory to help repair relationship issues in this marginalized community. David Epston and Michael White’s (1996) Narrative Therapy can be used as an efficient tool to understand the conception of relationship among Black couples. This non-pathologizing approach can encourage Black couples to understand that they have skills and expertise to bring positive change in their relationships.

Efficacy of Social Media Platform in Sharing Experience of Black Couples

 

The social media platform is evolving as a new place for couples to share their intimate feelings. Discouraged by the indifferent behavior of the US society, African Americans have started using social media for sharing their views about love and romantic relationships (Billingsley, 2016). Hence, it can be an effective strategy to include this medium in exploring the personal narratives of Black couples. They use this platform to share their life experiences with others and discover the purpose of their life through stories. Although Black couples share success stories online, the content can be analyzed to explore the sense of insecurity regarding durability of the relationship (Purnell, 2020). Thus, the social media posts of successful Black couples can be helpful in developing a new theory explaining personal narratives of Black couples occurring in an online environment. These narratives will also provide information regarding the most common problems faced by Black people in developing romantic relationships, and culture-specific factors influencing how Black men and women perceive each other.

Social media can also help them express their feelings to their partner through various communication tools. Sending romantic messages through social media can also be useful for reducing marital conflict, which will improve their psychological and physical

 

health (Fincham& Beach, 2010). Thus, it is interesting to research Black couples’ intimacy in the context of social media.

Social media usage is encouraging researchers to explore Black couples to understand their stories in social and cultural perspectives. Majority of American couples claim that they use digital technology for maintaining emotional intimacy among their relationships (Lenhart& Duggan, 2014). However, overdependence on social media is directly influencing the interpersonal communication ability of the users (Boyle, Church, & Wakefield, 2018). For this purpose, therapists should understand the specific traits of family discords prevalent in Black couples. Mikle (2016) contends that couple approaches employed by therapists have not specifically targeted Black couples due to their unique relationship issues. There are only a few studies that have systematically analyzed the efficacy of intervention programs designed particularly for Black couples by integrating cultural components (Mikle, 2016). The study effectively concludes that cultural-based interventions significantly increase efficacy of programs introduced for Black couples (Mikle, 2016). Hence, therapists should focus on African-centric approaches for designing interventions for Black couples to strengthen their relationships through sustained marriage.

The research on dimensions of relationship among Black couples is also significant, because their social and cultural issues are quite specific. Again, the relationships among Black couples are influenced by factors like racism, which encourages African American women to get involved in non-traditional co-parenting and marital relationships (Fincham& Beach, 2010). Cybersex and online infidelity also have a negative impact on their relationship. Fincham and Beach (2010) also consider that

 

researchers have started exploring topics related to online relationships but there are a number of gaps in scholarly literature. This study addresses the problems of intimacy among Black couples through social media. This study uses the underpinnings of Narrative Therapy as an effective theoretical base to decode the voices of Black couples.

Arguably, scholarly literature contains a number of useful interventions required to integrate online environment into marriage and family therapies. However, the process of therapy can be made more beneficial by the integration of modern technologies to encourage Black couples to share their life experiences anonymously. Black couples can gain confidence through social media to understand their relationship issues by recalling their own stories.

Social Media

 

Social media has become one of the most widely used means of communication in the world. On average, people spend from 30 minutes to 2 hours on social media daily (Jelenchick et al., 2013). People establish friendships and romantic relationships on social media, even without seeing each other for days or ever, thus communication in social media is similar to real-life communication. The new generations use social media and computer technologies more than previous ones, and that is why scientists pay so much attention to Facebook and other social networks. Some social media services, such as Badoo, were specifically designed for helping people establishing intimate and romantic relations (Miguel, 2016). Furthermore, social networks are the primary source of potential romantic partners of many who may have fewer possibilities to find them in real life.

 

It is interesting that social media websites and applications allow using various types of information, including audio and video, to help people better understand each other’s emotions and make social interactions quite similar to interactions that occur offline. It should be noted that in the modern world there are many people who communicate with each other online more than offline, and therefore social media becomes the main instrument for developing and maintaining intimate connections. In fact, the concept of intimacy-on-distance has appeared which refers to various intimate practices used by people to establish or maintain intimate relationships (Miguel, 2016).Another unique feature of social media services is that they transform people’s understanding of privacy and intimacy (Miguel, 2016). People use their social media profiles to share various intimate experiences, related to their families, romantic relationships, and other aspects of their lives.

Also, social media often acts as a personal online diary, where people often disclose their deeper emotions and feelings. Certain information that was labeled as private in the past is perceived as public in the modern world. Social media stimulates people to share various intimate experiences because it provides a feeling of protection. People are able to express their deepest emotions and establish intimate relationships. It is even possible that romantic love between people appears even before they meet each other in reality. Even for people in marriages or long-term relationships, social media can be used to show each other sincere and deep emotions (sending intimate text and voice messages, or publishing photos or videos of the two together).

Depending on people’s relations and culture, the use of social media, and the way in which people express their intimacy may significantly vary. For instance, people

 

belonging to collectivistic cultures and living in relatively isolated societies may prefer to avoid sharing their intimate feeling and emotions on social media. Some may believe that intimate information must be kept within a family and that social opinion plays a significant role in people’s self-esteem. On the contrary, people belonging to individualistic cultures may share more private information and personal feelings. The

U.S. is a country dominated by individualism and individualistic values. Hence, using social media for establishing and maintaining intimate relations with others is a common thing for modern-day Americans. Still, American society is highly diverse and depending on ethnicity and culture, people perceive intimacy through the use of social media varies significantly. Therefore, Black couples can be encouraged to use this innovative technology to share their stories to help therapists explore the issues in their relationship.

Significance of Stories in Developing Romantic Relationships

 

Every person has a life story in which they present themselves as a hero.

 

Interestingly, this story changes with the passage of time by including new details in it. The mood of telling a specific story depends on the nature and timing of the story (Ackerman, 2019). Listening to the stories of various Black couples can be helpful in validating the issues of individuals by understanding their personal context. Therapists and counselors use stories to discover the opportunities for improving a relationship by encouraging an individual about their ability to handle a crisis. Stories are narrated in a personalized manner to convey their point of view about their world. People share their shared experiences with others to explore the meaning behind their feelings and emotions. Hence, the stories have a specific purpose in improving intimate relationships.

 

Usually, people have more than one story in their life, which encourages therapists to find the social context of these stories to determine their significance. People understand their life through the lens of the culture, which establishes the negative or positive impact of their stories (Morgan, 2019). However, people feel anxiety when their stories do not correspond to their life experiences (White &Epston, 1990). Although American society advocates the principles of freedom and equality, ethnic minorities face problems in raising their voices to be noticed on a national level. Their point of view is submerged in the dominant discourse, which makes them feel isolated. Narrative therapy can be helpful in encouraging Black couples to reject the dominant voice in their stories and present themselves through their own perspective. This feature of personal narratives can be used to explore the nature of intimate relationships of Black couples. Due to the anonymous nature of social media, Black couples can confidently discuss their life stories without disclosing their identity. It provides therapists with an opportunity to acquire firsthand information about Black couples’ intimacy. Thus, through the respectful and non-blaming approach of Narrative Therapy, individuals view their problems in an objective manner. Therapists use the notion that people have the necessary skills and competencies to overcome their issues.

Importance of the Study

 

Love and intimacy are important to the emotional and social wellbeing of human beings. Healthy relationships help individuals meet a psychological need of feeling close to others. Mutually supportive intimate relationships could help in promoting health and resilience (Knudson -Martin & Huenergradt, 2010). With the proliferation of social media in almost every aspect of human life today, there is a greater role of online platforms and practices on expression of love and intimacy

 

However, this is not yet clearly understood, especially in African American communities. Thus, this study seeks to explore the filtering of love stories among Black couples through social media. This understanding is important because it gives counselors and therapists a knowledge base of love relationships issues among African Americans in the era of social media. The stories of Black couples and their love relationships in the context of social media could give important insights in representation of Black Americans family and relationship issues. These voices and narratives could help in understanding the problems of Black couples in romantic relationships. The knowledge could also benefit therapists in exploring the opportunities for improving relationships among Black couples.

This study is also important because of its contribution to the body of knowledge on Black couples’ relationships. There has been significant scholarly interest on relationship issues for African Americans. However, there is little attention on the dynamics of social media as a tool for telling love stories for African Americans. Understanding the role of social media in Black couples’ relationships could help in expanding the capacity for further explorations on marriage and family therapy practices for African American communities.

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

 

In Chapter I, the researcher describes basic information related to the study. The researcher provides the background of the study, which has general information regarding the phenomenon of interest and explains basic concepts related to the study. Then, some previous findings and provides various definitions of the main concepts. The purpose of the study is also described and explained, based on previously discussed arguments and the findings from this study. In addition, it is essential to identify terms, which is done in

 

the “Definition of Terms” section. This is especially important in this study because the concept of “intimacy” has many definitions.

In Chapter II, the researcher reviewed previous theories related to pattern of social media usage among Black couples and sharing their feelings in the online environment.

Further, the researcher justifies the need for conducting the study, by stating arguments and facts proving that there is a gap in the scientific literature, and lack of knowledge related to the researched phenomenon. As a result of the literature review, the researcher summarizes previous theories related to the intimacy and synthesized findings of previous authors. Research questions will be used to better understand how social media has impacted Black couple narratives.

 

CHAPTER II: LITERATURE REVIEW

 

Theoretical Orientation for the Study

 

Narrative couple therapy model formed the theoretical framework for this study. Narrative therapy model is a postmodern approach of dealing with issues related to Black couples (White & Epston, 1990). According to the theory, marital conflicts emanate from negative narratives that distort the cognitive processes and coping strategies, thus shaping Black couples’ identities (Freedman & Combs, 1996). The aim of narrative therapy is to expand the experiences of Black couples and helping them to reconstruct and retell new stories about their relationships. Thus, Black couples will observe their relationships through a new perspective to explore strengths. Narrative therapy is helpful in facilitating collaborative rewriting of the couple’s problematic narratives to shape their relationships. The main emphasis of the approach is to create new positive meanings for Black couples (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2015). In the present study, the narrative model is used to explore Black couples’ stories as told through social media. It will also evaluate significance of social media in safeguarding Black couple relationships.

Moreover, this study seeks to use social media as platform for encouraging Black couples narrate their stories without external fears. The study will accomplish this task by answering the research question about Black couple narratives on social media. There are a number of strategies suggested by scholars such as Gottman and Johnson (2018) about emotionally focused couples therapy and intimacy. The current study uses the concept of online manifestation of emotions within relationships through narrative therapy approach. There are many old theories that are still used to explain intimacy, empathetic relationships between people, and how romantic relationships are formed. In general,

 

many theories of romantic relationships divide love into various components and emphasize that love is a heterogeneous phenomenon meaning that it depends on numerous factors that should be considered. Hence, scholars try to identify the most important factors and components related to love (Gottman & Gottman, 2018). In the present study, the narrative therapy model is use to be integrated with the concept of seeking answers about their relationship through social media. In this study, intimacy is defined in line with Gottman’s interpretation as the deeper sense of connectedness, friendship, empathy, creation of shared meaning, and sexual relationship between Black couples. Thus, social media can serve as an effective platform for Black couples to express their inner feelings without any social and cultural barrier.

The Role of Stories in Life

 

People cannot be separated from their stories. The historical and social contexts of stories encourage people to tell and remember the main events of their life but ignore all other unimportant parts (Combs & Freedman, 2012). People employ various shared practices and beliefs for deciding about disclosing the parts of their life stories. These common values called discourses “powerfully shape a person’s choices about what life events can be storied and how they should be storied” (Freedman & Combs, 1996, p. 43). According to narrative therapists such as White and Epston (1996), people use stories to imagine how their romantic relationships will look like. These stories can be influenced by various factors, including relationships of parents, emotions, cognitions, past relationships, interactions with siblings, and parents. People may have stories where intimacy plays a major role, or on the contrary, where passion is the most important component.

 

Additionally, stories of people who are in relationships are often different, that is why partners often have to modify these stories and create new ones, to make sure they align with current relationships. Stories control how relationships develop and how people behave within these relationships. Every story has a beginning, middle, and ending. Moreover, people have various ideals they put into these stories. Thus, it is essential for people to have these ideals in real life. Hence, stories can be different depending on their social and cultural contexts. Thus, stories provide great tools for understanding what particular issue people face and what can be done to solve this issue.

Narrative therapy can help Black couples narrate their stories on social media without any external burden. Narrative therapists can encourage Black couples to share their unique characteristics through social media to convey their specific feelings to their partner. The social media platform will give them confidence by protecting their privacy. This strategy motivates Black couples to promote their subjugated voices and discard the perception of White supremacy. Once they realize the importance of their life stories, they will start viewing their issues from a better perspective. This self-realization is helpful in changing worldview about online intimacy of Black couples. Hence, Black couples benefit from storytelling and promote their positive social media image.

Narrative Therapy

 

This study uses Narrative Therapy as a main theoretical framework (Freedman & Combs, 2012). This is because it provides a perfect explanation of the interplay between various components of human experience in context of privileged vs. submerged voices. As narrative therapists focus on alternate stories and shifting discourses, they are often referred to as social constructionists (Madigan, 2013). Morgan (2000) contends that

 

strategy of encouraging Black couples to develop an alternate story can help them “celebrate significant steps in the journey away from a problem story to a new and preferred version of life” (p. 111). This therapeutic theory focuses on the idea that problems associated with people are influenced by social and cultural discourses, which can be explored by motivating the clients to reconsider an alternate story to reconsider their narrative (Madigan, 2011).

Black couples have been historically subjected to oppressive and racist environment where their point of view is less considered. Narrative therapy provides these couples a way to explain their life experiences in their own perspective through externalization (Freedman & Combs, 2012). Moreover, having specific knowledge about the issues “can further reduce the influence of such problems in the lives of those affected by them and contribute to significant shifts in the lives of [Black couples]” (Morgan, 2000, p. 116). Through the lens of this theory, the researcher will be able to identify the role of intimacy in social networks and understand how social networks contribute to the development of intimate relationships and how people can use them to achieve ideals in their love stories by promoting the submerged voices (Freedman & Combs, 1996). By understanding what people expect in their love stories, it will be possible to analyze the real desires of Black couples regarding their relationship (Freedman & Combs, 1996).

This will help to develop and expand effective treatment strategies, focused on specific interpersonal and intimate problems occurring within Black couples.

Michael White (1996) employed Foucault’s theory of privileged versus submerged voices to construct a therapy, which is based on socially constructed personal narratives (Madigan, 2013). A narrative therapist can encourage clients to focus on

 

privileged as well as subjugated voices within the system and try to focus on their own narrative without external pressure. This technique encourages Black couples to retell their stories with a different personal perspective. This principle is significant in the case of Black couples who have a legacy of parental rights as well as long history of oppression. This historical background discourages Black couples to promote their personal perspective as they focus on the cultural values while narrating their story (Madigan, 2011). Narrative therapists can help Black couples focus on their subjugated voices to realize their identity and power (Morgan, 2000).

Narrative therapists have to perform within the domains of a powerful system of social control. This dominant discourse determines that patients are usually overwhelmed by their problems due to their generalized and taken for granted ideas (Madigan, 2011). Ethnic minorities are treated according to their stereotypes constructed and shaped by the dominant ideas (Madigan, 2013). Black couples have to bear racial discrimination due to their perceived status of slaves by the dominant segments of the US society. Narrative therapists encourage Black couples to consider their problems in their personal context rather than following the dominant ideas prevailing in the society.

The proposed study focuses on narrative theory, which concentrates on stories of Black couples. These stories explore their problems in a personalized perspective to reduce the impact of dominant discourse (Freedman & Combs, 2012). It is considered that intimacy plays a core role in many loving relationships, such as love toward parent, child, friend and lover. On the other hand, passion is not limited to relations where people have sexual contacts. Narrative therapy can be useful for exploring the personal narratives of Black couples to observe their issues in social relationships (Morgan, 2000).

 

It is also helpful in gaining information about their desire for a preferred future. Therapists can apply this knowledge to guide couples to follow their own submerged voices rather than submitting to the social and cultural norms of the society (White & Epston, 1990).

Narrative therapists encourage Black couples to focus on their own interpretation of specific situations according to their personal ideas. This strategy helps them privilege the submerged voices to explore the origin of a particular problem. This method will is also helpful in assisting Black couples to make meaning of the world they are living in. Black couples will also be in a better position to explore their relationships with people living around them in a realistic manner. Thus, Narrative therapy can guide Black couples to analyze their issues without considering the dominant cultural beliefs, which consider them the source of problems through negative stereotyping.

Black couples have been facing societal and historical trauma since the era of enslavement, which has directly influenced their relationships (Hardy, 2013; Wilkins et al., 2013). They feel hesitant to express their feelings in public due to fear of criticism. Black couples are also burdened by negative stereotyping, which subjects them to physical and emotional oppression. They are less inclined to share their feelings with partner due to the lack of self-confidence. Narrative therapy can serve as an effective process to explore Black couples’ personal perspective about their social status. This therapeutic technique can also encourage Black couples to rethink about their position in a prejudiced society for exploring their relationship problems. Moreover, the use of social media can also be helpful in realizing Black couples that their feelings will remain anonymous. This reassurance encourages Black couples to share their subjugated voice

 

regarding their relationship issues. Thus, application of Narrative therapy along with social media platform is helpful in understanding the exact nature of Black couples’ problems.

The social media platform can serve as a tool to alleviate societal trauma and oppression for having an insight into the Black couples’ relationship issues. Black couples effectively shared their emotions in an online environment without social and cultural barrier. These narratives are true representation of their relationship issues as they promote their subjugated voices. Social media platform is helpful in reducing the influence of dominant culture from the respondents and reshape their stories according to their personal perceptions. Thus, the researcher is in a better position to explore Black couples’ relationship issues through their own perspective.

Narrative therapy can be effective in having a complete understanding about the social, cultural, and economic problems of Black couples, which shape their relationships. Issues like racism, discrimination, unemployment, gender inequality, sexism, and oppression can be explored through personal narratives of Black couples (Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, & Bryant, 2014). There is no alternative to this therapy for exploring such problems. Therefore, Narrative therapy technique can be helpful for understanding the issues, which have negative impact on Black couple relationships.

A narrative therapy model of storytelling is based on several assumptions, which guide therapists through various phases. The basic assumption of this model is based on the concept that people try to shape their life stories under the influence of their interpersonal experiences gained through the system of social justice, externalizing, dominant discourse, and privileged vs. submerged voices (Freedman & Combs, 2012).

 

Therapists try to explore certain themes from these stories to manipulate the situation for getting desired results through providing guidance (White &Epston, 1990). Therapists encourage the submerged voices of Black couples and validate their experiences (Freedman & Combs, 1996). Thus, narrative therapists help people view their problems as separate entities by observing them in larger socio-cultural perspective (Morgan, 2000). Narrative therapy also considers that people establish their identity through relationships, which is based on the perceptions about each other and mutual interactions as well as on the larger social and political context.

Another important assumption of a narrative approach lies in the fact that there is more than one story in a person’s life. It is possible that an alternate story can help an individual sort out the conflicts of a relationship more effectively (Freedman & Combs, 1996). Therefore, therapists suggest to their clients to consider another story about their life experience, which can better represent them without an influence of their problems (Morgan, 2000). Alternatively, partners can have separate stories about the same life event. Thus, problems lie with the narratives rather than people as they are unable to distinguish between dominant and submerged voices (Freedman & Combs, 2012). Hence, therapists encourage them to think about their life experiences from different perspectives to decide about their desired future. This fact helps therapists to view problems separately from individuals to seek viable solutions (Morgan, 2000). Most of the people consider their problems in a personalized manner, which makes it challenging for them to address them. However, the concept of externalizing the problem can be more effective.

Narrative therapists use this concept to differentiate problem from a person to free the individual from the tyranny of the dominant discourse (White &Epston, 1990). Hence,

 

Black couples living in problematic relationships can understand their issues more effectively by focusing on their submerged voices rather than following the dominant discourse.

Narrative therapists focus on freeing the clients from the influence of problematic stories dominated by cultural values. However, it is not sufficient for Black couples to re- state their narrative in the form of an alternate story. Narrative therapists are interested in ensuring that the alternate stories are richly described, which “do not support or sustain problems” (Freedman & Combs, 1996). As the stories of Black couples are interwoven with the stories of interpersonal relationship, alternate stories can be co-authored to richly describe the life events. This strategy can be helpful in exploring the dominant discourses and privileged voices in the life of Black couples.

In order to apply Narrative Therapy in its true sense, professionals encourage people to relate their stories without interrupting them in a specific context. Therapists are interested in listening to the stories of their clients in their own context, but they encourage them to focus on the story based on their own rather than dominant voices (Madigan, 2013). Then, by employing the technique of externalization, they encourage people to view their problem as a separate entity. After that, they are also encouraged to employ deconstruction techniques to reduce the problem in such a manner to eliminate its impact. This technique makes narrative therapists social constructionists (Madigan, 2013). In the light of this acquired confidence that problems can be resolved, therapists encourage clients to change their storyline to develop a new narrative by marginalizing the impact of the problem. At the end, individuals are advised about existentialism, which means that one can redefine the purpose of life at any moment to give the world a new

 

meaning. All these techniques can be helpful in assuring the client about his self-identity that he can manage them with his own skills (Morgan, 2000). Thus, narrative therapists do not interfere with the process and try to discover hints about the real nature of issues in the narrated story. By connecting people’s stories with their life experiences, narrative therapists are able to explore the realities shaping a specific narrative. However, this result needs therapists to listen to the stories with “focused attention, patience, and curiosity while building a relationship of mutual respect and trust” (Freedman & Combs, 1996, p. 43). This strategy of enthusiastic listening will help therapists discover the problems of people seeking their insight to improve their relationship.

Although Narrative therapy is used in marriage and family therapy, it has wider implications. This therapy focuses on helping clients to understand various experiences through stories. Therapists help clients to identify problems they have and develop alternative stories that are helpful for solving interpersonal problems. This client-centered therapy emphasizes that each client has enough inner resources to solve any problem.

Therefore, the main task of a therapist utilizing narrative therapy is to attentively listen to the clients to explore stories related to the problems and issues they have. By telling and examining different stories, clients may explore the context and separate themselves from the problems. This externalizing technique is highly effective for changing clients’ attitudes towards the problems they have and explore alternative solutions.

Narrative therapy can prove effective for understanding the stories of the intimate relationships of Black couples shared through social media. As most of the issues with this ethnic community lie in the dominant social and historic discourse, their stories can reflect these aspects such as themes of racism, prejudice, and stereotyping (Hardy, 2013).

 

However, social media can encourage Black couples to narrative their stories in a different perspective to highlight these issues through their own voice. Black couples can consult narrative therapists for sharing their life stories with them to explore dominant discourse in their life and replace it with their own submerged voices (Freedman & Combs, 2012). Applying this model to Black couples provides therapists an opportunity to classify them as people surrounded by different social issues rather than persons belonging to a specific ethnic group responsible for their own problems (Freedman & Combs, 2012). It is helpful in determining dominant discourses in the life of Black couples. The identification of dominant discourse will help individuals replace it with their own unprivileged voice. This strategy is helpful in resolving the intimacy problems in the relationship of Black couples who will be encouraged to share their life stories through social media.

Recent Literature on Black Couples Therapy

 

The current research on Black couples and family therapy mainly revolves around the societal and historical trauma faced by this minority. Davey and Watson (2008) attribute specific behavior of Black couples to their 400 years long history of slavery.

According Davey and Watson (2008), feelings of inferiority and oppression has directly impacted the relationships of black couples. In this context, Wilkins’ therapy consists of treating post-traumatic stress and substance use along with culturally sensitive issues. It is also believed that socio-emotional factors have a negative impact on the romantic relationship of Black couples (Awosan &Opara, 2016). Scholars and therapists consider that roots of disturbed romantic relations among Black couples lie in the long history of slavery, which has a negative influence on the personal character of this ethnic group.

 

Apart from this, negative stereotyping and African American legacy also play a vital role in nondurable Black relationships. Kelly and Floyd (2001) argue that “racial perspectives are important predictors of Black couple outcomes and that complex and conflicting racial attitudes held by Afrocentric Black men may cause deterioration in Black couple relationships” (p. 110). Moreover, unique nature of Black relationships also makes it difficult for the therapists to explore the issues among Black couples (Kelly, Maynigo, Wesley, & Durham, 2013). In order to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Black relationships, researchers should focus on the attitudes specifically related to this ethnic minority (Kelly & Floyd, 2006). Thus, current literature on relationships of Black couples indicate the need to understand the underlying factors responsible for making them different from other groups.

Interestingly, researchers like Boyd-Franklin have applied religion and spirituality to address the issue of emotional stress among Black couples (Boyd-Franklin, 2010).

However, the diversity of religion among African American community is a challenge in using spirituality as a healing factor against racism and adversity (Boyd-Franklin, 2010). Keeping in mind the assertions of these contemporary scholars and therapists, Black couples need the solution of their problems by themselves. Narrative therapy can be the best alternative for exploring their stories through social media to understand their viewpoint about intimacy. Their stories should be used to guide them towards their issues and assure them that they have ability to resolve them effectively. There is evidence of historic trauma among Black couples, and their stories on social media can also be helpful for exploring this phenomenon.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Black Couples’ Relationships

 

There are certain factors responsible for fragile relationships among Black couples, which can be explored through Narrative therapy technique. As African Americans have traditionally been against the social values of the country due to the environment of oppression and discrimination, they prefer cohabitation over marriage (Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, & Bryant, 2014). Social media platform can be used to explore the reason behind this behavior as Black couples can be encouraged easily to share their feelings anonymously. There are other factors such as economic instability, sexism, and gender inequality, which undermine the success of long-term relationships among Black couples (Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, & Bryant, 2014). Furthermore, the Faustian bargain also reduces the strength of Black relationships by designating the Black man as head of the family (Bent-Goodly, 2015). The historical context of enslavement along with Jim Crow statutes promoting segregation provides the mechanism of racism and oppression, which directly influences Black relationships (Bent-Goodly, 2015).

These factors of historic enslavement and racial discrimination discourage them to engage in marital relationships, which result in decreased number of marriages among Black community (Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, & Bryant, 2014). These weaknesses make their relationships vulnerable as the majority of Black women seek divorce.

However, there are certain strengths inherited in the family and married life of Black couples, which needs to be explored through personal narratives of Black couples through social media. It is observed that scholars focus on the weaknesses of African American relationships, but stories about benefits of Black marriage are often ignored in the literature (Bent-Goodly, 2015). Social media can be used as an effective tool for encouraging Black couples to share the stories of their successful relationships. This will

 

enable people to realize the true potential of Africans Americans for strengthening their relationships.

As challenges to black couple’s relationships are often noted, the strengths of these relationships are often less explored in the literature. Creating a discourse that highlights the good and acknowledges the challenges from both historical and contemporary contexts is important to providing a more complete story of relationships in the African American community (Bent-Goodly, 2015).It is important to highlight the strengths of black couples to help shift the negative stereotypes associated with this ethnic group. The strengths of black couples include the use of extended family, the power of mutual aid networks, and the use of spirituality to address everyday problems (Billingsley, 1994; Carlton-LaNey, 2001; Hill, 1997; Martin & Martin, 2003). Black family usually consists of grandparents who take care of children while couples engage in financial activities. Moreover, Black families develop a network of relatives who gather at one place on different religious and cultural events. This activity provides Black community a sense of power due to their unity (Bent-Goodly, 2015). Black couples also gain strength from the fact that they seek guidance from their religion for resolving their routine problems. Spirituality plays a vital role in their life, which provides Black couples strength in modern materialistic world. These strengths make Black relationships unique among other ethnic communities. Narrative therapists should highlight these strengths to encourage Black couples for developing personal narratives based on them. This strategy provides self-assurance to Black couples for addressing the relationship issues.

The critical resource of extended family serves as a powerful source of mutual aid that supports marriage, either through providing respite care, sharing examples of how to

 

sustain a marriage, or by reinforcing the importance of marriage in the black community (Bent-Goodly, 2015). Moreover, the use of spirituality in maintaining the relationship and persevering during difficult times is also a critical anchor for African American married couples (Bent-Goodly, 2015). Understanding the strengths of black couples allows the implementation of narrative therapy techniques and social media as tools to explore how black couples filter their love stories on social media.

Black couples can use the strength of their family structure to resolve their relationship issues. The presence of social inequality in the United States prevents Black couples from getting well-paid employment positions. Moreover, both partners have to work for economic stability of the family, which usually results in troubled relationship due to lack of time (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). Similarly, poverty presents various other challenges, which are difficult to manage within a family. This situation emphatically points out at racial discrimination in the US society, which can be regarded as a barrier for Black couples to have intimate relations. However, African family structure allows elder parents to look after the children of Black couples. This arrangement provides an opportunity for Black couples to spend with each other. Hence, traditional joint family system can be helpful in addressing economic problems of Black couples.

 

Black Relationships Representation on Social Media

 

There is a lack of studies on intimacy in social networks particularly about romantic relationships among Black couples. The current study avail this opportunity to employ social media platform to encourage Black couples to discuss their relationship

 

issues without social constraints. These studies are usually not related to romantic and sexual relationships, but rather to social interactions occurring between friends of people who barely know each other (Sutcliffe et al., 2018). Still, these findings can be quite useful for understanding the mechanisms underlying the perception of intimacy through social media. This study explores such themes through analyzing the responses of Black couples to help them understand their relationship issues.

The study by Sutcliffe et al (2018) is one of such studies focused on the association between intimacy in social relationships and activity in social media. The authors of this study emphasize that the findings of other authors prove the existence of an association between social media use and the degree of intimacy in relationships. In fact, previous studies have found that the intensity of social media use is related to the emotional closeness between people. At the same time, Sutcliffe et al. (2018) suggests that there are other studies proving that there is no association between offline intimacy and social media use. The study has found that social satisfaction is correlated with the size of the total network an individual has. The more a person communicates via a social network, the higher social satisfaction is (Sutcliffe et al., 2018). These findings show that online communication can improve the psychological well-being of individuals, and it is as important as offline communication.

Miguel (2013) suggests that social networking services (SNS) are even more effective for intimate communication than offline communication. Furthermore, SNS provide possibilities for new intimate interactions of people. Young people can use social media to flirt with each other, date, and even break up, without being noticed by their parents or peers. This encourages people to have more intimate relationships, without

 

being afraid that someone will judge them. Furthermore, Black couples who already have relationships may use social networks to send intimate messages privately to each other or share them with their closest friends. Hence, certain information that was considered as private and too intimate for the public in the past, is now becoming socially acceptable. Social networks create an environment changing people’s perception of intimacy and encouraging people to share private information. Black couples may even share erotic images of each other with friends on the social network, and if these images are appropriate and aesthetically beautiful, then social media friends may enjoy such intimate information. Miguel (2013) suggests that more and more people exhibit their intimacy via social networks because they believe that such openness is beneficial for their relationships. Some authors, including Miguel (2013) believe that it is needed to distinguish between offline and online intimacy because they are different. In an online environment, people feel distanced and alienated from others. That is why it is easier for people to share their intimate information online than offline. The online environment makes people alienated from each other to a certain extent, that is why some intimate things shared online, will never be shared offline. Miguel (2013) concludes that in the era of SNSs, the concept of intimacy has changed, and more and more people find SNSs more convenient for sharing intimate thoughts, emotions, images, and other information than by sharing everything offline.

Another study conducted by Miguel (2016) researched how adults perceive intimacy and social media, and how they use images to establish an intimate connection with others. Previous studies such as Miguel (2013) have found that users often do not like the excessive expression of intimacy on social networks, such as sex-related posts.

 

Miguel interviewed participants who shared their ideas of what images can be considered intimate on social networks. The study has found that the most intimate topics for the participants are sexual orientation, relationship status, and sexy pictures (Miguel, 2016). However, it was also found that context plays an important role, and in some social networks, such as Badoo, sexy selfies and other sexy photos are considered appropriate and acceptable. Furthermore, the participants noted that they allow their partners to share various intimate pictures, such as photos of kissing, however only when such photos can be seen by people located within the so-called intimate circle. Hence, there can be several levels of intimacy identified within social networks. Black couples may also share highly intimate messages and photos only with each other, less intimate with intimate circles of friends, and the least intimate with all users on a social network.

The study by Hand et al (2013) is also directly related to the topic of intimacy and romantic relationships. The authors examined how the time spent on social networks affects a couple’s intimacy. They found that there is no connection between the use of social media and the intimacy existing between partners. Social networks do not increase or decrease intimacy, but rather they act as a means of communication where people can maintain romantic relationships and existing intimacy. The authors note that there was a negative association found between perceived partner’s usage of SNS and intimacy. It is possible that if the partner uses social networks for relatively long periods, another partner will become anxious and irritated by this behavior. Still, the study shows that there were no negative effects in using social networks for Black couples and their intimate relations did not suffer.

 

The findings of the study by Papp et al (2012) are also quite interesting and provide insights into intimate relationships between people and manifestations of these relationships on Facebook. The authors of this study note that romantic partners usually demonstrate similar characteristics, including leisure activities and health behaviors. This is because people look for partners with whom they are able to establish satisfying relationships (Papp et al., 2012). Individuals are interested in reducing stress as much as possible and finding a partner with similar traits and habits is a great way to prevent stressful situations. They hypothesized that partners may also show similar behaviors on social networks. The findings of the study confirm that Facebook and social networks, in general, play an important role in dating partner’s intimate relationships (Papp et al., 2012). For instance, dating partners often place photos together with their partners on social media. This behavior is common for both males and females. Furthermore, such behaviors increase relationship satisfaction. Additionally, Facebook disagreements occurring between partners may cause harm to their relationship. The authors conclude that Facebook is related to intimacy between partners and can be used both to increase and to decrease intimacy. Still, it should be noted that participants of their study are dating partners, who were never married. Therefore, these results cannot be generalized with people having long-term relationships or living in a marriage.

Campbell and Murray (2015) also confirm the importance of Facebook in intimate relationships. The authors acknowledge that technology use can have both a positive and negative effect on a couple’s relationship. Couples at a distance may find SNS quite useful for maintaining warn relationships and talking to each other. In addition, couples may use SNS conjointly and watch some videos on SNS, which

 

contributes to the creation of intimate moments, such as crying, laughing, and physical touch (Campbell & Murray, 2015). Furthermore, using messengers provides couples with more privacy, compared to phone calls. Couples may write deeply intimate things to each other, which they are unable to share by phone. In fact, a study by Coyne et al (2011) has found that 75% of messages sent by couples are used to communicate affection to one another. Hence, the main purpose why couples use social media is the maintenance of romantic relationships and empathetic connection, with the help of compliments and other positive intimate messages. Campbell and Murray (2015) emphasize that some previous studies indicate that couples using interactive technologies to communicate with each other show a better emotional connection. Moreover, people suffering from social anxiety may find social networks more comfortable in establishing intimate relationships with others. As for negative implications, Campbell and Murray (2015) agree that when partners use social networks for individual fulfillment, instead of spending time with their partner, their relationships may suffer. Additionally, time partners spend on social networks decreases the time they spend on offline relationships. The lack of nonverbal communication may result in misunderstandings and other problems, which will undermine intimacy. Still, Campbell and Murray (2015) emphasize the importance of characteristics of each couple, because they are directly related to social network usage patterns. Couples in long-term relationships, or married, use social networks less, compared to couples in short-term relationships. Moreover, married people and couples in long-term relationships are more likely to communicate affections while using SNS (Campbell & Murray, 2015). Age is another factor related to the time people spend on

 

using SNS. Younger couples tend to spend more time online, while older couples use SNS less frequently.

Campbell and Murray (2015) describe the framework developed to understand how technologies are used by couples and in family life. This framework was initially developed by Hertlein and Blumer (2014). The Couple and Family Technology Framework (CFT Framework) consists of three main domains, which are family ecology, structural-functional, and interaction-constructionist. According to the CFT framework, structural-functional changes within couples occur because of the environment.

Technologies significantly change and modify the environment, which leads to a change of boundaries, rules, and interactions within relationships (Campbell & Murray).

Furthermore, technologies change the perception of intimacy. CFT framework emphasizes that it is possible to maintain intimacy and make it even better through technology use. At the same time, the CFT framework acknowledges that intimacy can be harmed if SNSs and technologies, in general, are used inappropriately.

As can be seen, findings of the vast majority of studies discussed above are quite similar and prove that social networks play a huge role in establishing an intimate connection between partners. It is interesting that online intimacy can be divided into several circles. The first circle is related to deeply intimate messages, photos, and videos shared by a couple with each other privately. For instance, such messages can be sexual and even pornographic. The second circle of intimacy refers to intimate messages and photos that can be shared with the closest friends. People not included in the couple’s intimate circle can consider such manifestations of intimacy inappropriate. For instance, a couple may disclose intimate information related to their relationships or publish erotic

 

pictures. Finally, the couple may express intimacy by sharing certain intimate pictures with everyone on the social network. Partners may publish a photo of hugging or kissing each other or may publicly tell about their romantic relationships. This proves that intimacy significantly varies depending on messages conveyed by couples, and on the access, others have towards these messages. The more people have access to a certain message, the less intimate it is. However, there are exceptions, when highly intimate messages are shared publicly, which can be considered by others inappropriate and result in a negative attitude towards the person who published such an intimate message.

Characteristics of Black Couples

 

Contemporary researchers such as Wilkins et al. (2013) argue that traumatic effects of slavery are still present in the contemporary generation of African Americans. However, Black couples are generally less inclined to utilize therapeutic services for addressing their trauma. This fact is supported by statistical evidence suggesting that African American people are less likely to receive mental health care than their White counterparts (Wilkins et al, 2013). Thus, the roots of issues in romantic relations among Black couples lie in the long history of slavery, which has a negative influence on the personal character of this ethnic group. This information can guide narrative therapists to encourage Black couples to share their stories in the historical context to explore the impact of racism on their relationship. Focusing on history of enslavement and oppression will help Black couples analyze relationship issues in a completely different perspective. This strategy can be used to explore the reasons behind their family problems.

 

According to Hardy (2013), Black youths suffer from race-related trauma wounds, which need to be treated in order to restore their self-respect. Hardy (2019) tries to explore the problems of African American couples through narrative therapy.

Moreover, extensive studies on impact of slavery have diminished the social status of Black people, which has encouraged people to disregard their problems in romantic relationships (Wilkins et al., 2013; McGoldrick& Hardy, 2019). The contemporary trend of racism and segregation has also contributed to discouraging scholars to study this marginalized group regarding intimacy (Wilkins et al., 2013). These studies suggest that historic and social trauma influence Black couple relationships for making them unique. Hence, using social networks for helping Black couples develop strong intimate relationships, which may prevent divorce and result in a stronger empathetic connection. Black couples may require more complex support and treatment by a psychotherapist to address their social and historical context of slavery. That is why it is essential to develop new treatment strategies and approaches aligned with the needs of this ethnic group.

Additionally, analysis of family structure within different communities living in the US can also be helpful for revealing the difference between Black population and other ethnicities. While majority of white children live at least with one of their biological parents, only one-third of black children live with their family (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). Moreover, study suggests that black women marriage rates are relatively lower than white women, whereas divorce rates are higher within this community (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). Although racial and ethnic differences were the main reason behind unstable marriages for black women in the past, the recent trend does not follow the historic pattern. Raley, Sweeney, and Wondra (2015) contend

 

that economic disparities are the main reason for non-durable family structure among Black couples. Narrative therapists should employ this knowledge to help Black couples resolve their relationship issues. Moreover, Black couples can be encouraged to share their relationship stories on social media to safeguard their identity. Hence, the historical and existing facts can be combined to understand the problems of Black couples for exploring viable solution.

Pinderhughes (2002) seeks to explain why Black couples have problems in maintaining long-term relationships and what factors negatively influence Black marriages. The author argues that there are serious threats connected to intimacy within Black relationships influenced by historical context, and the role of Black people in modern society. Due to the social roles of African Americans shaped by historical context, this ethnic group often experiences anger and frustration. Centuries of discrimination and oppression resulted in various cultural patterns, such as extreme isolation, which is especially widespread among Black males (Pinderhughes, 2002). The factors of historic enslavement and racial discrimination discourage them to engage in marital relationships, which result in decreased number of marriages among Black community (Hurt, McElroy, Sheats, Landor, & Bryant, 2014). However, in intimate relationships partners should share their vulnerabilities to each other. As a result, males often show too much power within relationships to compensate for the existing social injustice (Pinderhughes, 2002). Thus, it can be quite challenging for Black people to use self-disclosure and other strategies essential for the establishment of deeply intimate and trustful relationships. This explains why Black couples have significantly higher divorce rates, and why there is a decline in marriage rates of Black couples. Pinderhughes (2002)

 

concludes that therapists should be highly attentive about historic background of enslavement while working with a Black couple and be aware of various issues resulting in intimacy problems.

Long history of enslavement and oppression has a negative impact on the durability of Black couple relationships. It can be contended that slavery and racism has made Black community skeptic, which results in decreased number of Black marriages and increased number of divorce (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). This negative attitude brings mistrust within Black couple relationships. This mistrust is further aggravated by their inability to express intimate feelings in an offline environment. Such circumstances encourage Black males to involve in interracial marriages (Killian, 2013). Narrative therapists should incorporate social media for encouraging Black couples to share such weaknesses and retell their stories in their personal perspective to highlight their strengths for rebuilding their relationships on strong foundations. Overcoming social and historical trauma will help Black couples to explore their strengths and make their relationships long-lasting.

Black couples, specifically, Black males also face economic issues due to discrimination. The impact of racism discourages Black youth to study in reputed educational institutes, which have directly influences their chances of employment. The economic constraints compel Black males to involve into illegal activities such as drugs and violence. Consequently, overwhelming increased incarcerations directly influence Black communities. However, rate of Black incarcerations are much higher than the Whites, which can be attributed to the legacy of racism and prejudice (Rosenberg, Groves, & Blankenship, 2017). Studies suggest that almost half of the arrested offenders

 

in 2011 were Blacks (Rosenberg, Groves, & Blankenship, 2017). These statistics clearly reflect racial bias in the US society, which has also influenced the criminal justice system. Such negative social attitude towards the marginalized community effectively changes the behavior of Black males. Current policing practices such as racial profiling help promote negative stereotyping of Black people among the general public (Rosenberg, Groves, & Blankenship, 2017). Thus, current public behavior towards this ethnic minority is the extension of centuries old societal and historical trauma, which promotes Blacks as criminals and violent individuals.

Unfortunately, the rise of hip hop and rap music has associated sexism, drug use, and other social evils with Black people. This music scene is dominated by Black rappers who rose from low income areas (Premier Addiction Treatment Center for Men & women, 2018). These areas are epicenters for crime and hustling activity and people of these localities consider it positive to use drugs. Thus, rap music mostly associated with Black community glorifies drug and violence. It is noted that about 11% of rap songs produced from 1979 to 1984 contained positive references to drugs, which increased to 19% by the late 1980s (Premier Addiction Treatment Center for Men & women, 2018). Although White rappers are also promoting these things, the prevailing racism in the US society attributed this behavior only to the Black youths. This unjustified association also impacts this ethnic community as most of the young Black males consider violence as the manifestation of their masculinity.

Such a negative behavior from Black youth has a direct impact on their relationship. Black males try to subjugate their partner in a relationship, which results in negative consequences such as divorce. Researchers such as Davey and Watson (2008)

 

argue that such behavior of Black males can be recognized as post traumatic stress, which gives rise to the feelings of inferiority and oppression. These negative feelings result in disturbed romantic relationships among Black couples. Thus, Black couple characteristic of gender inequality also explains the unique nature of Black relationships. These feelings confirm the study findings of researchers who claim that Black females are less inclined to marry due to indifferent and aggressive attitude of Black males (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). Hence, the traumatic influence of racial discrimination compels Black males to develop the features in their personality, which negatively influence the durability of their relationship.

Apparently, studies on Black couples’ relationships are focused predominantly on various issues caused by historical, cultural, and other factors (Killian, 2016). The studies emphasize high divorce rates and low marriage rates among Black people due to various historical and current social and economic factors (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015).

Social media can serve as an effective platform for Black couples to share their stories anonymously to help therapists understand their specific issues. The technique of Narrative therapy will help Black couples focus on the subjugated voice to provide firsthand knowledge about their relationship issues. However, researchers have yet to conduct studies on the role of social media in the intimate relationships of Black people, thus there is a gap in literature that needs to be filled. Thus, current study applies all previous knowledge and designs a questionnaire, which will seek Black couples’ manifestation of emotional feelings through social media. The study explores social and cultural factors that prevent Black couples to express their feelings.

 

For instance, the study by Senn et al (2009) tried to identify how African American men’s perception of power influences their intimate relationships. The study has found that there is a negative correlation between perception of power by Black men and intimacy. It was found that the perception of power is related to the number of financial resources invested in relationships. Hence, Black men who invest significantly more financial resources than women, are likely to have high perceived power. It may result in increased sexual risk behaviors and sexual contacts outside of relationships. Still, these findings are not surprising and are likely to be generalized over other cultural and ethnic groups.

Research Question

 

Following research question will be guiding this study:

 

RQ How do Black people filter their love stories through the use of social media for developing their couple narratives?

Purpose of the Study

 

The above literature shows that there is a gap in the literature regarding the exploration of Black couples’ use of social media for conveying their intimate stories. Although this ethnic group has been the focus of attention for many scholars, their online behavior regarding the use of social media needs further research. Nevertheless, studies do show that the role of social media in romantic relationships is significant, and these platforms are changing modern communication, including communication between people who are in love or who are married (Gottman & Gottman, 2018). It can be suggested to use social media in psychotherapy to help people share their intimate relationship stories related to a lack of intimacy and feeling of closeness (Gottman &

 

Gottman, 2018). It can be quite difficult for Black people to disclose their emotions and feelings to each other, because this can make them vulnerable. Social networks provide Black people with an environment where they are able to convey intimate messages and foster romantic relationships. That is why finding out how Black people share their love stories through social networks can be useful for marriage and family therapists to better understand Black couples’ relationships. Therefore, my study will focus on this topic.

Black people are one of the most widespread ethnical groups in the U.S. This group is highly influenced by stereotypes, as well as any other ethnical groups, that is why there are many biases related to Black people and lack of objective information. Hence, there is still a lack of information regarding the subjective experiences of Black individuals. In general, the vast majority of studies on Black people and intimacy are focused predominantly on interracial relations and intimacy within them. In other studies, researchers have focused on certain narrow aspects related to intimate relations, such as power (Senn et al., 2009). There are relatively fewer studies explaining how people and particularly Black people perceive intimacy through social media.

The purpose of the study is to explore Black people’s subjective opinions on various aspects of online intimacy through interviews and gain insight into how Black people perceive intimacy through the use of social media. The study is explorative in nature and will use qualitative grounded theory design, in order to create a theory explaining why Black people have certain perceptions of intimacy and how social media helps them to establish intimate relations.

This study seeks to fulfill several major goals. First, it will contribute to the scientific knowledge by filling the gap in the literature and initiating discussion on how

 

Black people perceive intimacy in social media. Second, it derives a theory from qualitative data obtained directly from the participants to understand the concept of intimacy better, as well as how Black people understand this concept, and how their understanding may be different from other ethnical groups. The study also seeks to understand the differences in perception of intimacy between Black men and Black women, because the male and female perception of intimacy is different (Gottman & Gottman, 2018). Finally, this study provides insights that can be applied to marriage and family therapy to support Black couples’ needs.

 

CHAPTER III: METHODOLOGY

 

The qualitative research design was chosen for this study because it aligns with the research questions as well as with the purpose of the study. Qualitative research is based on the constructivist paradigm and emphasizes the importance of direct observations and opinions of participants as the main source of data (Kuper et al., 2008). A constructivist paradigm claims that it is impossible to find an objective truth because every person is biased and the way people perceive the world is limited. Constructivists argue that research should be conducted through observation and interpretation of subjective experiences. It is needed to ask the subjective opinion of people to find the truth and answer the research question. On the contrary, according to the paradigm of realism, there is an objective truth, and it can be established by using quantitative methods and statistical analysis. Thus, while a quantitative research design is used to answer questions “what?”, and “how much”, qualitative studies answer the questions “why?” and “how?”. One of the main advantages of qualitative research is that it allows conducting a study when little or anything is known about the topic of interest.

In general, qualitative research is often exploratory in nature. It seeks to develop various theories, concepts, and models that can serve as a basis for future research. In qualitative research, data is obtained directly from the participants belonging to the population of interest.

In this study, the researcher has chosen a grounded theory qualitative design. This design focuses on generating theory from qualitative data (Charmaz & Belgrave, 2007). A grounded theory approach allows for analyzing, organizing, and interpreting data, which makes the research process easier. After collecting the data, reviewing literature,

 

codifying, and interpreting the data, the researcher creates a theory, which provides a detailed explanation regarding the phenomenon of interest. This approach is suitable for answering different kinds of questions and studying various topics, including interpersonal relations, individual processes, personal experience, motivation, emotions, and intimacy (Charmaz & Belgrave, 2007). Grounded theory does not impose limits on what data can be chosen for analysis. The researcher is free to choose among different available sources of qualitative data.

Grounded theory process begins with data collection from different sources, including observations, field notes, interviews, literature, etc. The primary sources for this research are in-depth qualitative interviews. It should be noted that interviews are used when the research topic is rather broad and when open-ended questions are asked in order to obtain detailed answers.

There are several major types of interviews, such as structured, unstructured, and semi-structured. Structured interviews have predetermined questions with no additional follow-up questions (Gill et al., 2008). These interviews can be conducted quite fast, however, they cannot provide in-depth information regarding the phenomenon. Such interviews also have many close-ended questions, which can be answered only with one word or phrase. Unstructured interviews are performed with little or no organization (Gill et al., 2008). While designing unstructured interviews, the researcher may use one or two questions related to the purpose of the study and may ask additional questions during the interview process. Unfortunately, such interviews provide quite subjective results and qualitative data of low quality. Interviewees may provide broad answers that are not related to the topic of interest, and the researcher will have to spend much time analyzing

 

and interpreting such interviews. As for semi-structured interviews, they combine previously described types and are highly effective for obtaining relatively organized and highly informative data. Thus, this research uses semi-structured interviews, consisting of open-ended questions. One of the central concepts related to the quality of data acquired with interviews is data saturation. The researcher must acquire enough interviews to achieve data saturation, otherwise, there can be certain threats to the validity and objectivity of the results (Fusch & Ness, 2015). Usually, qualitative studies use about 10- 20 interviews to achieve data saturation. However, the number of interviews required for data saturation may significantly vary, because of the answers provided by the participants, as well as the purpose of the study. If the research question is too broad, the researcher may need to conduct more interviews.

The researcher will also ask questions before the interview to obtain information regarding demographic variables. These questions are related to socioeconomic status (SES) of the participants, their age, sexual orientation, gender, and some other additional information. Hence, by combining both these sources of qualitative data the researcher will be able to answer the research question. It is essential to gather as much data about participants as possible, because their perception of intimacy may vary. People may perceive intimacy differently depending on age and socioeconomic status.

Research Questions

 

The list of the research questions guiding this study:

 

 

RQ How do Black people filter their love stories through the use of social

  1. What do you think about your life story?

 

  1. Are you comfortable with online intimacy or offline intimacy?

 

media for developing their couple narratives?

  1. What do you think makes your story unique among Black couples?

 

 

 

RQ How do Black people filter their love stories through the use of social media for developing their couple narratives?

  1. What interactions via social media do you have with your partner?
  2. With whom do Black couples share their intimate messages?
  3. How do other people perceive the online intimacy of Black couples?
  4. Tell me about the advantages of online intimate communication?

 

 

Definition of Terms

 

 

Black couples are heterosexual or homosexual couples where both partners are African Americans. Intimacy is closeness existing in relationships between two persons, which consists of commitment and positive affective, cognitive, and physical closeness one experiences with a partner in a reciprocal (although not necessarily symmetrical) relationship (Moss & Schwebel, 1993, p. 33).

Social media also referred to as social network services (SNS), are web-based services allowing individuals to create a public or private profile located within a bounded system, have a list of users with whom they are connected, and communicate with other users of social by using audio, video, textual, and voice messages (Boyd & Elisson, 2007, p. 2).

 

Qualitative Grounded Theory

 

The researcher uses a qualitative grounded theory design to answer the research questions. In every study, researchers have to choose among qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research design. The research design depends on the purpose of the study and on the research question. Qualitative studies are used to derive a theory or to explore the phenomenon, especially if there is a lack of information regarding the phenomenon.

Studies that are exploratory in nature can be conducted with the help of qualitative research. That is why the researcher uses a qualitative research design. Qualitative researchers conduct their studies in order to understand the multiple realities of each participant (Lewis, 2015). That is why interviews are often used as the main data collection method. Through interviews, participants are able to provide their subjective feelings, emotions, and interpretations related to the phenomenon.

Recruitment

 

The population of interest is Black people who are married or who have been dating each other for a long time. There is no accurate information regarding the total number of individuals in this population, however, according to U.S. Census Bureau, 2017 American Community Survey 1 Year-Estimates there are 41.393,491 Black or African American people living in the U.S. About 10 million Black people are currently married, and about 90% are of Black people have a spouse of the same race/ethnicity.

Moreover, many Black couples live out of marriage as about 30% of African American women have never been married (Raley, Sweeney, & Wondra, 2015). It can be concluded that the target population ranges from 15 million to 25 million Black people. Hence, the population is rather huge.

 

There are several sampling strategies that will be used in this research. The sampling strategy used depends on the purpose of the study, design, and other factors. This study uses snowball sampling because it provides an opportunity to select volunteers more easily than other methods. As the topic of study is not encouraging for the Black couples to voluntarily share their stories, researcher will explore acquaintances of the initial recruits to complete the required number of participants. Purposeful sampling is considered as quite subjective and can significantly increase the validity of the qualitative study; it is quite widespread in qualitative studies (Painkas et al., 2015). On the contrary, snowball sampling has several major advantages over other sampling strategies. First, this allows researchers to use specific inclusion criteria, which allows ensuring that the participants chosen to provide highly-saturated information regarding the phenomenon of interest. Second, this sampling method is relatively simple. Finally, it is perfectly suitable for exploratory research. It should also be noted, that due to the specifics of the research, it is needed to recruit participants who understand what intimacy means and how intimate relationships are established. That is why participants need to have the experience of

long-term relationships as will be identified in demographic questions.

 

Qualitative data can be interpreted differently and is saturated with details and subjective descriptions of individuals. In this study, the researcher will recruit 6 Black couples or more in order to ensure that data saturation is achieved (Fusch & Ness, 2015).

Procedures

 

Participants were recruited and the interviews were conducted. Additionally, the information regarding the inclusion criteria is provided. Issues related to the protection of participants and ethics, in general, are also discussed in this section. Challenges and barriers related to the recruitment process are also mentioned

Inclusion Criteria

 

The participants were selected based on several inclusion criteria.

 

  • The length of a relationship. Only those participants who have been in relationships for three and more years will be included in the
  • Participant’s age. English speaking participants of ages 25 and older will be allowed to take part in this study. The researcher of this study is highly interested in Black couples living in marriage because this study is related to marriage and family therapy. Still, Black couples who have long-term relationships for 3 years and more and are not married would be considered for recruitment as
  • The use of social media websites. Only those Black couples with a high presence on social media and have knowledge in this topic will be recruited. It is needed to note that participants will take part in the study
  • Participants have to be regular users of social

 

Exclusion Criteria

 

  • Unmarried Black couples

 

  • Those participants who are unable to read and write in English will be

 

  • Participants who do not use Facebook or Instagram as main social networking websites will be also excluded.

 

The researcher searched for participants via Facebook. This social network provides powerful instruments for advertising and marketing. It allows choosing the target audience by using various parameters, such as age, geographic location, interests, and gender. By using the Facebook Ads Manager, it is possible to search Black people who have relationships and obtain their contacts. Facebook allows using lead-forms where potential participants of the study will leave their phone numbers and emails. This recruitment strategy has been used in various studies. For instance, Ramo et al (2014) placed 36 ads to find the participants. Hence, the researcher will more than likely spend less than $100 to find and recruit all the participants. Six Black couples will be recruited in total. Hence, the researcher will spend about $20-$40 for ads to recruit all the participants. Moreover, such a method allows recruiting people who are actively using Facebook, which is essential for this study.

After obtaining applications, the researcher contacted every person and conduct a brief interview by phone, to ensure that the person meets the inclusion criteria. 6 Black couples were selected for the study and interviewed separately as 12 individuals. Further, the researcher conducted face-to-face interviews with the participants. If participants are unable to have face-to-face interviews, the researcher conducted interviews by using Skype or other applications for online video encrypted communication.

 

Confidentiality and Ethical Considerations

 

American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) Code of Ethics is used to conduct the study. According to the AAMFT Code of Ethics (2015), researchers must honor the public trust in marriage therapists. They should use non- discriminatory practices while conducting a study to avoid bias. An Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Nova Southeastern University approval was obtained to conduct this study. All requirements related to confidentiality, non-maleficence, privacy, and other ethical principles was followed. Researchers are responsible for protecting personal information and ensuring the confidentiality of data. Each participant and each couple were assigned a unique ID. There were at least four Black couples in total, taking part in this study.

Hence, these couples were numbered from 1 to 4 etc., and each participant within the couple was assigned a unique label such as “1M” for male, and “1F” for female. Similar IDs were assigned to all other participants. Furthermore, every participant was asked to sign the informed consent form (Appendix E). This form was sent to each participant via email. The researcher ensured that all the participants take part in this research voluntary and are fully aware of all the important aspects of the research.

According to the principle of non-maleficence, practitioners should never cause harm to individuals. The researcher did not provide any incentives to the participants, which also improves the objectivity of the results. The main concern of the researcher is related to the privacy of personal information provided by each participant. That is why all the required procedures such as data encryption will be done, in order to ensure sufficient privacy and prevent data leaks.

 

This form provides an explanation of the purpose of the study, data protection, methodology, and procedures. All participants were informed about all the potential risks as well as benefits of this research. They were informed about potential issues related to confidentiality, time needed to participate, and the importance of providing honest answers. Additionally, participants were informed regarding the importance of their contribution to the field of marriage and family therapy. Participants were allowed to take part in the study after signing the informed consent forms (Appendix E). Each interview was audio-recorded, and each audio record will be protected by a password. The researcher saved all records on a personal notebook protected by a password and retained for at least 36 months in my private locked office.

Data Collection

 

Except for some demographic data obtained from the participants, the main type of data collected in this study will be narrative data. This data type was obtained through the narratives of the participants, via interviews with open-ended questions. The research questions were answered with the help of semi-structured interviews and questions created by the researcher. For instance, to better understand how Black people perceive intimacy through social media, the researcher will ask:

  1. What interactions via social media do you have with your partner?

 

  1. What do you think makes your story unique among Black couples?

 

  1. How has social media impacted your relationship?

 

All participants were contacted via emails or via phones gathered through Facebook. The emails sent by the researcher will contained brief information about the study. The interviews were conducted either by using Skype, or face-to-face. Before

 

starting each interview, the researcher provided information regarding the course of the interview and that interviews that are being audio recorded. The researcher also state that every participant has a right to leave the interview at any time. Additionally, participants were asked to answer questions honestly, and ask the researcher if the question is not clear. Each participant were interviewed separately to obtain the information regarding the differences in perception of intimacy between Black male participants and Black female participants.

Data Analysis

 

After obtaining the audio-recorded data, the researcher transcribed all interviews.

 

The researcher did not add or change anything said by the participants. In addition, the researcher used the interview transcript review technique also called Member Checking and sent all the transcripts to each participant to ensure the information is accurate and complete. The reliability and credibility of findings will be established through this qualitative research technique of Member checking. This strategy allows study participants to review summary of the findings to ensure its trustworthiness and accuracy. This technique positively influences the trustworthiness of the study. All audio recordings were stored according to IRB requirements, which mean they will be kept for 36 months from the end of the study. After all participants reviewed their transcripts, the researcher began the qualitative coding procedure. The qualitative coding is conducted using NVivo software. The researcher will identify codes, categories, and themes by using this software.

 

Coding

 

After conducting the interviews, the researcher created transcripts based on audio recordings. The transcripts were saved in a textual and electronic format. To analyze and interpret the transcripts, the researcher uses constant comparison and qualitative coding. This qualitative data analysis method is widely used in qualitative studies, and it perfectly aligns with the grounded theory (Saldana, 2015).

Constant comparison is a method that focuses on developing a theory that is grounded in data (Boeije, 2002). This method allows the researcher to compare qualitative data relevant to the research question and modify it if needed. Every piece of data relevant to the research must be compared with all other pieces in order to increase the internal validity and trustworthiness of the results. Additionally, a constant comparison method is highly effective for identifying when data saturation is achieved. In fact, there are no specific recommendations on how the constant comparison should be done, and what techniques should be used (Boeije, 2002). In the context of the current study, a constant comparison method will be used to compare the interviews of partners in romantic relationships, answers of different Black couples taking part in this study, codes, categories, and themes. The researcher constantly compared chunks of qualitative data in order to develop a theory explaining the online intimacy of Black couples.

Qualitative coding begins with the open coding phase, also known as initial coding (Saldana, 2015). During this phase, the researcher read the transcripts several times and identifies codes that can be assigned to certain chunks of textual information. Codes usually consist of one or several words and capture the meaning of what participants were trying to tell. The coding process is done either manually or by using

 

qualitative coding software, such as NVivo. Software used for qualitative data analysis is called Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) (Rademaker, Grace, & Curda, 2012). Such software is designed specifically for researchers and scientists and has all the functions needed for qualitative data analysis. This software makes the coding process faster and easier and allows visualizing the results of the analysis, as well as provides detailed statistics on the most and least used codes. NVivo makes navigation through transcripts easier and saves resources that can be used to make the study better. This software was used to categorize all the sources, so any transcript or survey can be accessed within one or two clicks.

The initial coding phase is one of the most time-consuming stages because the researcher has to constantly read and reread textual information until all codes are assigned and all textual data is coded. Usually, the researchers use line-by-line coding, meaning that each line of the text is coded, and not just separate pieces (Charmaz & Belgrave, 2007). This method helps to avoid bias and ensures that all data will be coded. Blair (2015) identifies two major approaches to coding. The first approach is using codes that were created beforehand, and the second approach is to assign codes by interpreting what was written. Obviously, using codes that were created before does not align with the grounded theory approach and purpose of the study in general. Thus, the researcher used line-by-line coding.

After conducting the initial coding, the researcher makes an axial coding. During this coding phase, the researcher analyzes codes acquired and combines them into various categories. Some codes can be removed, if they are similar to each other, or can be revised (Saldana, 2015, p. 218). The researcher may also create sub-categories to make

 

data more organized and structured. This stage is transitional between Initial Coding and Theoretical Coding. In some cases, axial coding can be done several times, because in qualitative coding the researcher constantly moves back and forward, adds and modifies qualitative information, to ensure it aligns with the purpose of the study.

The next stage is the Theoretical Coding, also referred to as Selective Coding. It begins with identifying the “core category” which is related to all the codes and categories that were identified during the previous two phases. Sometimes defining the core category can be rather challenging, and that is why this process is quite time- consuming. Further, the core category can be used to create a theory, or modify existing theories, which is also appropriate in grounded theory research. There is no need to create a new theory if previous theories can be modified or improved.

Similarly, to previous coding stages, the researcher modified categories, sub- categories, and codes to ensure that the core theme will be directly related to them. Finally, to create a theory the researcher uses core category and additional data, such as analytic memos and previous theories. As a result, a theory, which provides a detailed answer to the research question, is created. After a theory is created the researcher can initiate a discussion and interpret findings through the lens of the created theory (Saldana, 2015).

Instruments

 

In this section, the researcher described all the instruments used during the data collection and analysis. Except for all the instruments described below, the researcher used a smartphone to record the interviews, Microsoft Office to manage and edit data, including personal notes that are taken during the research.

 

The Role of the Researcher

 

The researcher is a central figure of the qualitative research process and the quality of the interpretations and analysis depends on the researcher. In most qualitative studies, the researcher is considered as a part of the research instrument (Houghton et al., 2013). This is because of the constructivist philosophical orientation, which guides the qualitative process. Though the researcher uses various strategies to improve the trustworthiness and credibility of the study, still, the subjective opinion of the researcher plays a crucial role while interpreting the data and creating a theory. The credibility of the study heavily depends on the procedures used by the researcher, as well as the researcher’s self-awareness (Houghton et al., 2013).

All participants taking part in this study were be involved in multiple relationships with the researcher and will not have any contacts with the researcher before the recruitment process. The data was collected with the help of semi-structured interviews, conducted face-to-face or via Skype. The researcher used self-awareness through the course of the research to minimize potential bias or prejudice.

Summary

 

This research is based on a qualitative grounded theory methodology. The purpose of this research is to answer the following research questions: “How do Black people share their love stories through the use of social media?” and “How is intimacy achieved through the use of social media?” Scientific literature has yet to provide a meaningful understanding of online intimacy of Black couples, therefore there is a need to conduct an explorative study. It means that this study will gain initial insights into

 

intimate online interactions occurring between Black people in relatively long-term relationships. The findings and results will be discussed in Chapter IV and V.

 

CHAPTER IV: FINDINGS

 

                        The primary aim of this study is to answer the following research question: How do Black people filter their love stories through the use of social media for developing their couple narratives? In an attempt to understand the specific way in which Black people perceive intimacy through social media, the researcher posed these questions:

  1. What interactions via social media do you have with your partner?
  2. What do you think makes your story unique among Black couples?
  3. How has social media impacted your relationship?

For the purposes of this study, 6 Black couples were selected and 12 individuals were interviewed separately. Even though the option of conducting face-to-face interviews was preferred, some interviews were carried out through online platforms such as Skype. The individuals who participated in this study were selected based on strict inclusion criteria, particularly the relationship length, participants’ age and participants’ use of social media websites. It has been emphasized that Facebook provided a relevant opportunity for the researcher to search for appropriate participants that would meet the specified inclusion criteria.

The study identified various themes from the interviews conducted with the participants (view Table 1). However, there was one theme that was extensively discussed throughout the entire study, respectively that social media creates a strong sense of intimacy between Black partners. This theme was considered overarching in terms of encompassing other subthemes that provided an overview of the participants’ insights regarding their love stories filtered through the use of social media.

Themes Categories
Substantial Intimacy through Social Media ·                  Intimate messages

·                  Photos, videos, and communication

High Levels of Emotions ·                  Emphasis on emotionality and sensitivity

·                  Preferences of social media platforms over face-to-face communication

Creativity in Expressing Feelings ·                  Emerging voices of Black couples

·                  Finding new ways to express their feelings

Improved Communication ·                  Encouraged intimacy

·                  Frequent communication

·                  Feelings of closeness

Faithfulness and Security ·                  Safety and protection

·                  Greater understanding

Table 1: Themes and Categories

 

Substantial Intimacy through Social Media

 

                        As indicated, the overarching theme identified in this study is that of substantial intimacy through social media, and this theme is directly linked to the first question pertaining to the interactions via social media between the partners. This means that all of the male and female participants have recognized the importance of social media platforms in creating the conditions for bonding and intimacy. This theme is adequately represented in Table 1 below by providing excerpts from the male participants’ interviews. All of the male participants provided comprehensive answers to the first question, which showed that they understood the precise topic and overall strategic direction to be considered.

 

 

Theme

 

Substantial Intimacy through Social Media

 

 

 

Male Participant
1MQ1

My wife and me often share various erotic photos and even videos with each other. I also write her messages full of compliments. These compliments are mostly related to her sexuality and appearance. I feel that such interactions make us closer to each other

2MQ1

I only interact with my girlfriend on social media. I don’t have other people with whom I would like to share intimate information about myself, except for my parents

3MQ1

My girlfriend has access to all my intimate messages, while other people see what I consider appropriate and suitable for them. I use social media for the interactions that I don’t want anyone else to see, except for my girlfriend

4MQ1

Messages, where I write how I love my wife; what I feel towards her, and where I share my deepest emotions and feelings. These intimate interactions make us feel unified

5MQ1

I make some relatively intimate posts on Instagram and Facebook, where I’m sharing my thoughts about relationships of Black couples. I can post a photo of me and my wife enjoying intimate moments

6MQ1

I interact with my girlfriend and sometimes with family members and friends through social media. However, emotions I try to evoke in my girlfriend are more related to sexuality

Table 2: Substantial Intimacy through Social Media (Male Participants)

 

Table 2 below provides excerpts from the female participants’ interviews regarding the theme of substantial intimacy through social media.

Theme

 

Substantial Intimacy through Social Media

 

 

 

Female Participant
1FQ1

I send my husband various romantic messages that I would never send to anyone else. We call each other names, which only we know. I also send romantic songs to him, as well as my photos

2FQ1

People have intimate relationships when they can’t live without each other, or when they really care about problems of other person. If person doesn’t have compassion and empathy to another person, then there is no intimacy

3FQ1

I like sending emojis, and stickers to my boyfriend. I think they show what am I currently feeling than simple text messages

4FQ1

With people I love. I send deeply intimate messages to my sister, husband, and parents

5FQ1

Sending nude photos, and sending messages related to sex and sexuality. “Liking” the photos or “poking” to people you like on Facebook is also intimate for me

6FQ1

I shared intimate messages with my previous sexual partners, and now I share them with my boyfriend. It is always great when you can maintain intimacy via online communication

Table 3: Substantial Intimacy through Social Media (Female Participants)

 

High Levels of Emotions

 

                        The second important theme revealed from the participants’ interviews is recognized as high levels of emotions, which is also related to the first question of the types of interactions maintained between partners. The majority of the participants, both male and female, have emphasized the presence of strong emotions in their relationship. In this context, Participant 3M stated, “We are more emotional than others. I believe Black women are the most emotional, and these emotions can change very quickly from love to hate.” It appears that Black females find it challenging to regulate such changes. Participant 4M added, “Black couple is like a tornado of both positive and negative emotions.” The same participant indicated that Black women often lack control of their emotions, even though they remain quite passionate and loving.

Another participant who recognized the importance of high levels of emotions was Participant 5M who said, “I perceive intimacy as a combination of both physical and emotional connection. Unfortunately, modern society makes us believe that men shouldn’t be too emotional.” The second part of his statement shows the presence of a prevailing social stereotype regarding the perceived gender roles in contemporary society.

In relation to the displayed high levels of emotions, Participant 4F mentioned, “My family members love when I send them something emotional or intimate.” This means that social networks contribute to the closeness between the partners. According to Participant 6F, social media has contributed significantly to expressing her emotions more freely. The same participant pointed out, “It makes me feel less vulnerable. In real life you can’t always feel comfortable when you want to kiss your partner or hug him, but in Facebook you can send any message you want and do whatever you want.” Such freedom is crucial to maintaining high levels of emotions.

Creativity in Expressing Feelings

 

                        It has been observed in the answers of most participants that social media provided them with greater opportunities for being creative in expressing their feelings. The second question from the study directly related to this theme, respectively uncovering the unique dimensions of the love stories of Black couples. Participant 1M emphasized the following, “Yet our story is unique in the sense that we cherish every moment together by making it special.” The same participant recognized the importance of being creative and innovative in expressing his feelings, “I have to invent new compliments, use videos, images, and other stuff available on the Internet.” The male participants tried to be creative in presenting their answers to the second question. Participant 2M indicated, “The aspect of sharing our closeness is unique to our relationship because we believe we are a happy couple and others can get inspired to seek happiness and love in their lives as well.”

Participant 3M linked creativity in expressing feelings to being emotional and sensitive. This participant shared, “We never get tired of each other because we always find new intimate topics to discuss.” In relation to this theme, Participant 4M pointed out, “We show our uniqueness as a couple in the deep level of understanding each other.” Such creativity in expressing feelings is reflected in the ability of partners to create a connection at a deeper level.

Furthermore, Participant 6M discussed the following, “Our story is unique among Black couples since we are able to find the balance and harmony needed to help us address any challenges.” It is apparent that sometimes challenges are inevitable in relationships, thereby the partners need to be adequately prepared to face such difficulties and grow stronger at the emotional level.

With regards to the creativity in expressing feelings, Participant 1F shared, “The uniqueness of our story can be found in the gentle way in which we talk to each other.” Another element of creativity in expressing feelings was mentioned by Participant 2F, “The strong belief upon which we built our relationship is that we are made for each other.” Participant 4F expressed an interesting opinion in relation to the creativity in manifesting feelings, “We believe we are equal in terms of preferences and needs.” The aspect of equality has been brought to the relationship.

Improved Communication

 

                        An important theme identified from the participants’ interviews is the ability of Black couples to improve their communication through social media platforms. The reason why social media is helpful to improving communication between partners is that it is usually perceived as a more convenient tool to interact rather than face-to-face communication. In this context, Participant 1F mentioned, “social networks are great for lonely and shy people, or for people who always wear ‘masks’.” From the perspective of Black women, they always prefer to look stronger, which means that social media platforms help them increase their self-esteem and confidence in their online interaction with their partners.

The theme of improved communication has been linked to the concept of convenience in fostering closeness between partners. Participant 2M argued that online communication cannot replace face-to-face communication, but “still it can be quite useful for people who don’t see each other often.” The functionality of social media platforms has been directly related to the aspect of convenience as part of improved communication. Participant 3M indicated that due to hectic working schedules, he rarely meets with his girlfriend. Therefore, he pointed out, “some days we don’t even see each other, and Facebook or WhatsApp help us to communicate. I think our relationships would suffer without social networks.”

Participant 4M also emphasized the importance of social media in creating improved communication between partners. This participant indicated, “I think online intimate communication makes people less aggressive, and contributes to mutual understanding.” The freedom to express their feelings online implies fewer obstacles for couples to engage in effective communication. Participant 4F discussed, “when he is in another state or country because of his work, we can enjoy each other physically, with a help of social networks.” A similar level of convenience is automatically translated into improved communication over time.

Participant 5M provided relevant insights into the potential of social media platform to help Black couples engage in enhanced communication. This participant argued, “You can use audio, video and other content to make your beloved person feel better and happier.” The convenience of sending messages through social media platforms has been persistently emphasized by the majority of the participants as a way to improve communication. Participant 6F said that social networks “erase barriers existing between people, and make Black people show their true identities to each other.” In this way, having improved communication is the prerequisite for growing more as individuals.

Faithfulness and Security

 

                        The final theme emerging from the participants’ interviews is the establishment of faithfulness and security in the relationships between Black people. In relation to this theme, Participant 2F shared the following, “We do not experience trust issues because of our uncompromised attitude towards being faithful to each other.” The immediate connection established between partners on social media platforms helps them create feelings of closeness and security.

Participant 5M said, “Maybe social networks provide an opportunity to make people feel more secure.” Yet it is unclear how this security is established, even though most of the participants stated that online communication helped them improve their interactions in terms of frequency and bonding. Participant 5F also talked about the contribution of social media websites in making the feelings between the partners more visible. The same participant shared the following, “We never hide our feelings because they make us stronger and unique as a couple. Our passionate feelings help us take the direction we need in our lives to feel loved, secure, and protected.”

Participant 6F presented her opinion in relation to the theme of faithfulness and security, “The communication through social media platforms enables us to be open and to search for new ways to manifest our love.” Such communication emerges as a proper way for Black couples to manifest their strong, sincere feelings. As a result, they commit to each other since being faithful and honest is the foundation of solid relationships.

The answers of all of the participants are provided in Table 4 below.

Question 1.

What interactions via social media do you have with your partner?

Question 2.

What do you think makes your story unique among Black couples?

Question 3.

How has social media impacted your relationship?

1MQ1

 

“My wife and me often share various erotic photos and even videos with each other. I also write her messages full of compliments. These compliments are mostly related to her sexuality and appearance. I feel that such interactions make us closer to each other”

 

 

 

 

1        1MQ2

 

“Yet our story is unique in the sense that we cherish every moment together by making it special.”

 

“I have to invent new compliments, use videos, images, and other stuff available on the Internet.”

 

 

 

1   1MQ3

 

“    “We Share intimate messages with each other”

 

.   “I believe that online environment is less intimate than offline”.

 

“Social networks encourages intimacy”

 

“ Online environment stimulates me to find new ways and strategies to surprise my wife”.

 

I can’t write all the time “you are the best” and “I love you more than anyone in this universe”, that is why I have to invent new compliments, use videos, images, and other stuff available on the Internet.

 

 

 

 

Th Themes

 

Q1. Use of photos and video to validate and provide reassurance in their relationship amongst themselves and others.

 

Q2. Challenges that black people live in impact their ability to achieve and maintain intimacy Issues such as financial stability and being able to always meet the expectations of their society.

 

3Q. Online is less intimate than offline. However, online encourages more intimate behaviors among the couple.

Validation and reassurance is important.

1F    1FQ1

 

 

“I   “I send my husband various romantic messages that I would never send to anyone else. We call each other names, which only we know. I also send romantic songs to him, as well as my photos”.

1F  1FQ2

 

I “The uniqueness of our story can be found in the gentle way in which we talk to each other. We believe that our love is so strong that we can overcome any challenges.”

 

 

 

 

1F 1FQ3

 

I don’t like talking by phone, and that is why it is more convenient for me to communicate via social media”.

 

“ I can send highly intimate messages whenever I want to make my wife happy. I think that new technologies make people connected to each other”.

 

ThThemes

 

Q1. Use of photos and videos to increase intimacy

 

Q2. Intimacy is easier/ Convenient to establish intimacy but offline is still a preferred method of intimacy.

Perception of cultural and societal views play a major role in the relationship of black couples.

 

Q3. Online is a consistent and effective way to maintain intimacy.

2    2MQ1

 

I only interact with my girlfriend on social media. I don’t have other people with whom I would like to share intimate information about myself, except for my parents”.

 2.  2MQ2

 

““”The aspect of sharing our closeness is unique to our relationship because we believe we are a happy couple and others can get inspired to seek happiness and love in their lives as well. Friends’ approval of our relationship makes us more excited to express our love and talk of intimate issues with much enthusiasm.”

 

 

 

 

 

2    2MQ3

 

I don’t think that online intimate communication can replace face-to-face interactions, still it can be quite useful for people who don’t see each other often”.

 

 

 

 

 

Themes

 

Q1. Online is useful tool for black couples to use engage intimacy.

 

Q2. Social influences impact black couples relationships

Online is a great way to build and maintain relationships among family and friends.

 

Q3. Offline is preferred form of intimacy. Online is more convenient than offline.

 

2FQ1.

 

People have intimate relationships when they can’t live without each other, or when they really care about problems of other person. If person doesn’t have compassion and empathy to another person, then there is no intimacy”

 

 

 

2FQ2.

 

 “We do not experience trust issues because of our uncompromised attitude towards being faithful to each other. The strong belief upon which we built our relationship is that we are made for each other.”

 

 

 

2FQ3.

 

But when you use Facebook, you can send messages once in 5 or 10 minutes, all day long. It makes me feel that my girlfriend is always close to me”.

 

 

Themes

 

Q1. Online intimacy promotes and validates compassion and empathy in a relationship.

 

Q2. Social and historical contexts have facilitated the mistrust in black couples.

 

Q3. Online intimacy is more convenient and easier to sustain over a period of time.

3MQ1.

 

My girlfriend has access to all my intimate messages, while other people see what I consider appropriate and suitable for them. I use social media for the interactions that I don’t want anyone else to see, except for my girlfriend”.

 

When person knows you better than you do, this is the intimacy”.

 

When you know what other person is going to say or what this person is thinking right now – this is the true intimacy”.

 

 

3MQ2.

 

I like being emotional with my wife because this makes her more secure and strong. She is also emotional and sensitive by manifesting her love in numerous ways. We never get tired of each other because we always find new intimate topics to discuss.”

3MQ3

 

Actually, for me there is not so much differences”.

 

I think our relationships would suffer without social networks”.

 

 

 

Theme

 

Q1. Online intimacy is an effective way filtering appropriate images of black couples.

 

Q2. Impact of social and historical contexts on the interactions of black couples.

 

Q3. Social media is a very useful towards maintain communication with your partner.

3FQ1.

 

I like sending emojis, and stickers to my boyfriend. I think they show what am I currently feeling than simple text messages”.

 

3FQ2.

 

Passion. Black people are very passionate, and I don’t think that intimacy is possible without passion”.

“Our passion as a couple is tremendous, and we like to show that because it makes us deeply connected to each other. Having passionate communication is uplifting to us, as we think that passion is the foundation of our strong relationship.”

 

3FQ3.

 

It makes easier for people to find each other, and to find person with similar characteristics, desires, and needs”.

Themes

 

Q1. Intimate messages through social media.

 

Q2. Passion is a necessity in relationships.

 

Q3. Social media is a tool to maintain communication with others.

4MQ1.

 

““Messages, where I write how I love my wife; what I feel towards her, and where I share my deepest emotions and feelings. These intimate interactions make us feel unified”.

 

4MQ2.

 

Black couple is like a tornado of both positive and negative emotions. Black women often lack control, and at the same time, they are very passionate and loving”.  

“We show our uniqueness as a couple in the deep level of understanding each other. We make such understanding possible through passion which makes us feel connected.”

 

4MQ3.

 

I have many friends who found their beloved ones by using social networks”.

 

“Personally, I believe that in the digital age people the intimacy became quite different, and people feel freedom of expressing their intimacy in various ways. I think online intimate communication makes people less aggressive, and contributes to mutual understanding”.  

 

 

 

 

Theme

 

Q1. Intimate messages online helps the relationship.

 

Q2. Black couples display strong sense of passion in their relationships

 

Q3. Black couples submerged their intimate messages with each other in public due to perceive social norms.

4FQ1.

 

With people I love. I send deeply intimate messages to my sister, husband, and parents”.

4FQ2.

 

I think it can be rather challenging for Black women to find a good man. That is why, many Black women have huge patience. So many relationships within Black couples are not equal, and women often have to sacrifice their personal interests”.

“ “We believe we are equal in terms of preferences and needs. Such a high level of equality in our relationship has been translated into instant closeness and intimacy.”

 

 

 

 

4FQ3.

 

My husband also likes some intimate practices. You know, when he is in another state or country because of his work, we can enjoy each other physically, with a help of social networks”.

 

 

Online is helpful towards maintaining communication when distance is involved.

Themes

 

Q1. Online promotes intimate messages.

 

Q2. Social and historical contexts that have impact black relationships.

 

Q3. Online is a positive form of communication in relationships.

5MQ1.

 

I make some relatively intimate posts on Instagram and Facebook, where I’m sharing my thoughts about relationships of Black couples. I can post a photo of me and my wife enjoying intimate moments”.

 

 

 

5MQ2

 

I “In my relationship with my wife, I always communicate in an open way to avoid any misunderstanding or confusion. The ability to talk openly makes us more intimate and ready to share how we feel towards each other at any moment.”

 

5MQ3.

 

We started our relationships with a help of social networks. I think that there is little difference nowadays between offline and online intimacy”.

 

You can use audio, video and other content to make your beloved person feel better and happier.

 

 

 

Themes

 

Q1. Intimate messages through public display of affection online.

 

Q2. Societal and historical context of black couples being “emotional” and passionate.

 

Q3. The use of social media is an effective tool to maintain intimacy in a relationship.

 

Online intimacy provides a level of protection and/or security for black couples to share their affection.

5FQ1.

 

Sending nude photos, and sending messages related to sex and sexuality.

 

“Liking” the photos or “poking” to people you like on Facebook is also intimate for me”.

 

 

 

5FQ2.

 

I “We never hide our feelings because they make us stronger and unique as a couple. Our passionate feelings help us take the direction we need in our lives to feel loved, secure, and protected.”

 

 

5FQ3.

 

They give freedom to people and provide unique experience of online intimate communication. For people having relationships on a distance, online communication is perfect for keeping intimacy”.

 

Social networks just provide a way to express intimacy and to become involved in intimate relations with others”.

 

 

 

Theme

 

Q1. Intimate messages such as sexual content

 

Q2. Social and historical context impact on black couples. — Image and perception

 

Q3. Social media provides a sense of comfort among to express themselves publicly that their society deems acceptable.

6MQ1

 

I interact with my girlfriend and sometimes with family members and friends through social media”.

 

However, emotions I try to evoke in my girlfriend are more related to sexuality”. 

 

Any message that evokes emotions can be considered intimate

6MQ2.

 

It “Our story is unique among Black couples since we are able to find the balance and harmony needed to help us address any challenges. I believe that social media has helped us built a stronger and more emotional connection between each other.”

 

 

6MQ3.

 

They help to destroy masks Black people have to wear in real life. I think the main advantage is that they allow us to be weak, when we needed. It is quite difficult to be strong all the time”.

 

 

Theme

 

Q1. Intimate messages on social media can evoke emotions

 

Q2. Unhealthy interactions among black couples.

 

Q3. Social media provides comfort towards showing affection and emotions.

 

6FQ1.

 

I shared intimate messages with my previous sexual partners, and now I share them with my boyfriend. It is always great when you can maintain intimacy via online communication”.

 

 

6FQ2.

 

I think our story is unique because we maintain strong principles of honesty and faithfulness in our relationship. The communication through social media platforms enables us to be open and to search for new ways to manifest our love.”

 

6FQ3.

 

It makes me feel less vulnerable. In real life you can’t always feel comfortable when you want to kiss your partner or hug him, but in Facebook you can send any message you want and do whatever you want, because no one except for my boyfriend will see it. They erase barriers existing between people, and make Black people show their true identities to each other”.

 

 

Theme

 

Q1. Intimacy and communication can be maintained through social media.

 

Q2. Issues that are prevalent among black people can impact their relationship.

 

Q3.   Social media eliminates barriers for black couples to display their emotions with each other and others.

Table 4: All Responses of the Participants

 

Summary

 

                        As illustrated in this chapter, several themes emerged from the participants’ interviews. These themes were described as substantial intimacy through social media, high levels of emotions, creativity in expressing feelings, improved communication, and faithfulness and security. As demonstrated in the excerpts from the participants’ interviews, the majority of the individuals have recognized the importance of communicating frequently and openly through social media platforms. In this way, the partners were able to establish a solid sense of trust as a foundation for their relationships.

 

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER V: DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS

Discussion

 

                        The primary objective of this study was to provide relevant insights into Black people’s way of filtering their love stories through the use of social media. Interviews were conducted with 6 Black couples, as 12 individuals were interviewed extensively in order to gain multiple perspectives of the issues faced by these couples in an attempt to convey their feelings. The research findings reported in Chapter 4 indicated the emergence of several themes which were described as substantial intimacy through social media, high levels of emotions, creativity in expressing feelings, improved communication, and faithfulness and security.

The coding process implied a constant comparison between opinions and attitudes towards different love stories. In comparing the answers of different Black couples, it was possible for the researcher to specify the overarching themes emerging from the participants’ opinions. This indicated substantial attention to detail in exploring the distinct perspectives shared by Black couples. At the open coding stage, the identification of different codes facilitated the entire coding process, since the researcher emphasized the emergence of similar and different patterns in the respondents’ answers.

Narrative Therapy

Traumatic historical experiences of racism by blacks have been a determining factor in their relationships with others and as couples. The process of building self-identity and autonomy requires blacks to address the entrenched feelings of trauma and fear of criticism, which can best be achieved through narrative therapy (Hardy, 2013). The key attributes of narrative therapy include therapeutic alliances, such as that practiced by the researcher, in which interactions with other blacks resulted in countertransference (Cunningham, 2015). The therapists’ compassionate understanding and unequivocal positive regard for the issues faced by blacks form the basis of healing among the communities. The narrative approach encourages story-telling focused on the main events that characterized historical happenings with an objective of externalizing those experiences (Coombs & Freedman, 2012). The objective of the treatment is to enable the individuals undergoing narrative therapy to breakdown the boundaries of their episodic experiences and dissipate them in order to build more functional relationships. Through narrative therapy, the experiences of black couples are described based on various themes both from the analyzed literature and from the participant responses.

Increased Intimacy

 

All of the participants in this study pointed out that social media platforms enabled them with numerous opportunities to experience increased intimacy. Reaching a high level of intimacy was commonly associated with the act of sharing various romantic photos and videos (Hand et al., 2013). In this way, Black couples felt quite close towards each other, as they were comfortable with sharing different intimate details about their relationships (Gottman and Silver, 2012). This aspect can be explained with the convenient manner in which online interactions take place.

Furthermore, most participants reported of having greater freedom while communicating through social media websites. It has been argued that making compliments related to the sexuality and appearance of the female partners has been a common technique to increase intimacy among Black couples (Gottman and Silver, 2012). In fact, partners were encouraged to explore their relationships at a deeper level owing to the aspect of visual intimacy on social media platforms (Gottman and Gottman, 2018). Through visualizing their experiences on social media, Black couples became more confident in the strength of their relationships.

The interviewed participants described the ease of developing and maintaining social interactions. They found online communication less challenging compared to face-to-face communication, especially from the distinct perspective of shy persons (Gottman and Silver, 2012). Individuals with shy personalities obviously need more flexible and open platforms such as social media websites to express themselves better and filter their love stories as clearly as possible. The specific way in which online communication is structured makes it possible for Black couples to become more involved with each other on social media (Gottman and Gottman, 2018). The intimate social space established on similar platforms helps individuals feel comfortable with the thoughts and emotions being shared.

It is apparent that in the modern environment marked by the Internet revolution, perceptions of intimacy have changed through social media. This means that Black couples’ perspectives about intimacy were different in the past, particularly more conservative and traditional (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Unlike the past, Black couples now face fewer social constraints and prejudices while communicating with each other through social media platforms (Gottman and Gottman, 2018). Thus, the participants in the study shared their enthusiasm of being open on sharing intimate details with their partners via social media.

Recognizing High Levels of Emotions

 

                        As discussed in Chapter 4, the second important theme identified in the study is high levels of emotions. Most participants in this research emphasized the importance of expressing various emotions, as this concept is embedded into the specificity of social media platforms (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Due to the extensive emotionality and sensitivity of Black people, particularly females, a wide range of emotions has been established. It has been concluded that Black females were rather intense in expressing their emotions with their partners (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). Such emotions usually varied from love to hatred and vice versa.

The presence of both positive and negative emotions in the narratives of Black couples makes it challenging to determine the precise way in which their relationships will develop. The recognition that Black women were among the most emotional women was perceived as a compliment by the majority of the participants (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Therefore, expressing in an emotional manner has become vital for the survival of Black couples. An inseparable part of such emotions manifested by Black couples was extensive passion (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). When such passion is combined with a loving attitude, the partners will not be prevented from the opportunity to explore their emotions at a deeper level.

An important finding illustrated in the study is linked with particular social stereotypes regarding expectations of gender roles. In this context, it was mentioned that Black males were not expected to manifest substantial emotionality and sensitivity (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). Yet making a similar assumption is inaccurate because the ability to show emotions should not be restricted by gender norms (Fincham and Beach, 2010). Therefore, most participants recognized the importance of this fact and tried to remain neutral regarding Black males’ levels of emotions manifested in their relationships.

From the insights shared by the participants in this study, it can be concluded that social media websites unlock the various emotions existing among Black couples. Due to the fewer restrictions to communicate via social media, Black couples experienced immense joy and satisfaction for contacting their loved ones whenever they felt sad and lonely (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). Even though some participants recognized the presence of both positive and negative emotions among Black couples, it is important to clarify that even negative emotions can be used in a constructive way (Billingsley, 2016). This means that individuals can learn from the mistakes they make in their relationships and try not to repeat them again if they want to maintain a high level of emotional and physical stability (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). From this perspective, it can be stated that communicating through social media websites can be more effective than offline communication because of the different possibilities people have online to express their emotions.

Creativity in Expressing Feelings

 

                        One of the questions that the participants needed to answer in this study was associated with determining the unique dimensions in their relationships. Therefore, the term creativity was linked to the necessity of having unique relationships that could differentiate them from other couples (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Such creativity implied the emergence of numerous possibilities for interaction on social media websites. However, it should be noted that creativity is interrelated to individuals’ attitude towards the relationship itself (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). In other words, if individuals want to keep their relationship strong and growing, they will naturally become creative and innovative in finding new ideas of how to make their partners feel better through social media communication.

Since creativity in expressing feelings among Black couples was related to finding new possibilities for interaction, individuals demonstrated their commitment to their partners. As a result, Black couples were adequately connected, emphasizing the principles of balance and harmony in their relationships (Coyne et al., 2011). Once they were comfortable with each other, the partners also felt stronger to overcome any challenges (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). This is the strength of close, intimate relationships that are based on honesty and genuine care for the well-being of loved ones.

It has been considered extremely important for Black couples to understand each other well. It is clear that such understanding comes from individuals’ ability to find creative ways to express themselves (Hill, 1997). Despite the fact that such expression may be challenging at times, Black couples need to be as open and flexible as possible in order to improve their relationships with time (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). Yet it is not surprising that the majority of the participants in this study have succeeded in developing close and sincere relationships.

Opportunities for Improved Communication

 

                        It has been revealed in this research that the communication of Black couples through social media platforms has been quite substantial and positive. The frequency of their interactions was complemented by high quality in terms of emphasizing the need for a deeper connection between the partners (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno, 2013). As previously indicated, online communication via social media is a more convenient form of interaction for shy individuals compared to offline communication. For instance, some people express themselves better with writing a short text message or sending emojis (Boyle, Church and Wakefield, 2018). The way of expressing one’s life is dependent on one’s personality and precise level of connection with their partner.

By having more opportunities for improved communication on social media websites, Black couples feel more confident and satisfied in their relationships. Their communication is not restricted by particular norms and social expectations (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno, 2013). The communication among Black couples happens at the moment when the partners feel that they need each other to express their loving feelings or concerns (Hill, 1997). It is important to emphasize that every relationship is marked by both positive and negative aspects, and Black relationships are not an exclusion.

Regardless of the problems experienced by Black couples, they feel empowered through the open communication which is possible on social media platforms. These individuals are aware of the fact that they can solve their problems through regular, open, and transparent communication which takes place both online and offline (Jelenchick, Eickhoff and Moreno, 2013). Both types of communication should be adequately recognized for their advantages and limitations in helping Black individuals filter their love stories (Hand et al., 2013). As illustrated in this study, communication via social media helps Black couples maintain a high level of mutual understanding. This is because Black couples have the opportunity to discuss their feelings in a non-restrictive manner.

The possibilities for Black partners to engage in online communication are limitless. This is because they can use a wide range of formats to express their emotions and make their loved ones feel better such as audio files, videos or different text messages (Hand et al., 2013). Even though communication on social media platforms prevents Black couples from being physically together, the emotional connection turns out quite deep and meaningful (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). It is the strong emotional connection that keeps Black couples united and focused on improving their relationships.

The Aspects of Faithfulness and Security

 

                        The last theme identified from the participants’ interviews is described as faithfulness and security maintained among Black couples through social media. It has become important for Black people to understand the importance of trust issues in relationships (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). Even though maintaining trustful relationships online is sometimes problematic, these individuals recognized the importance of being faithful and sincere to each other (Hand et al., 2013). Therefore, their pattern of using online communications helps them remain accountable and transparent.

At the same time, it has been revealed that social media networks contribute to an increased level of security for the partners. This can be explained by the frequency of using such platforms to inform the partners about their daily activities (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Black individuals need to be frequently updated about the activities of their loved ones, which keeps them mentally and emotionally relaxed.

Faithfulness is interpreted as a strong commitment to the other person not to hurt their feelings by any means. Nevertheless, some of the interviewed participants expressed their concerns over faithfulness and security (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). Therefore, these individuals could not provide confident answers regarding the level of security added by their communication on social media platforms (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Such a personal level of security depends on the closeness between the partners and how they generally approach each other on social media.

Use of Social Media in Couple Narratives

Social media has been quite an important resource for the development of couple narratives among black couples. Besides using social media as a channel for communication, black couples have been able to communicate their insecurities, share their feelings regarding the challenges they face, and communicate their support for each other. Social media has also been used extensively in recent times as a platform for sharing personal narratives on relationships without fear (Gottman & Johnson, 2018). The use of social media in communicating couple narratives is also seen in reflections on couple experiences. The responses from participants also confirm the variety of communications that are shared via social media. For instance, the assertion that a participant shares intimate messages and messages on sexuality with his girlfriend through social media is an

From the participant responses, experiences of many black families based on interactions with members of other communities are shared via social media. Kane et al. (2017) described the impacts of social media, such as the reawakening of moments in racial history and the destruction of preconceived stereotypes on the nature of intimate relationships. Based on the experiences shared on black relationships on social media, collusion between black families to affirm the position of the men is imminent, and clearly proves the dichotomy between the behaviors of the black women in intimate relationships and those of their white peers (Kane et al., 2017). Creating a balance between healing from the racial prejudice and enjoying the benefits of intimate relationships and family life is an important practice that black couples have to inculcate unlike white couples, and social media communications on their fears and uncertainties confirm their ways of coping with this need for balance.

Submerged versus Privileged Voices

Institutional racism has segregated the communities into submerged and privileged voices since time immemorial. Due to their minority status and their low socio-economic status relative to other communities in the U.S, earlier communications among black couples have been from the subjugated perspective. Historical experiences of black communities have also discouraged the promotion of personal perspectives, which has limited the degree of openness among conventional black couples (Morgan, 2000). Social media has thus been a platform for pushing discussions on racial violence and can be considered a facilitator of attention directed towards the submerged voices. The subjugated voice has also been used by black couples through social media as an approach to the narrative for the development of personal identities and power among black couples (Morgan, 2000). Such narratives not only build personal spaces among black communities but also purpose to advance the impacts of such personal spaces on enhancing the strength of relationships between black couples.

Social media has contributed to the ability of blacks to document their interactions with law enforcement authorities and consistently celebrate the strength and resilience exhibited by fellow blacks (Smith, 2010). The freedom obtained in communication through social media extends to even personal relationships whereby many blacks continuously find it easier to communicate their feelings, insecurities, and fears to their partners using various social media platforms compared to face-to-face discussions (Hardy, 2013). Among black couples, partnership and caring for one another goes beyond focusing on personal attributes to looking out for spouses and children who are vulnerable to attack under the regime. The women folk remain a voice of protection for the men and boys whose voices are often intentionally interpreted by the suppressive institutions as aggressive (Smith, 2010). What men cannot say because of the institutional prejudice, women can say because of their consideration as the weaker sex, which has continued to make their voices more privileged than those of men within the same communities.

Strengths and Weaknesses of black couples

The strengths of black couples are best explained through their narratives on survival, resilience, endurance through adversity, and perseverance through racial trauma. Black families are strengthened mostly due to dependence on spiritual guidance for decision-making in marital and other family issues. It has also been found that the extended family has played a crucial role in strengthening marriages among black couples (Martin & Martin, 2003). The use of the extended family in black relationships is seen through responses of the study participants who confirm the role of grandparents in childcare and in building relationships between couples. The network of relatives that are characteristic of black families also contributes to the effectiveness of black families in maintaining religious and cultural ties that promote unity among black couples. Routine problems in life are resolved based on religious guidance in the context of the materialistic modern lifestyle (Bent-Goodly, 2015). This strength in spirituality and support from family also reinforces certain values that are important in sustaining strong relationships between black couples.

On the other hand, challenges in black couple relationships have been mostly attributed to responses to historical experiences. Historical experiences of racism create a perfect perspective for explaining the characteristics of couple relationships among blacks. For instance, the preference for cohabitation over marriage has been reported to emanate from historical experiences of discrimination and oppression, and the trauma that comes with the experiences (Hurt et al., 2014).  Furthermore, factors, such as economic instability (Hurt et al., 2014), gender inequality, and reminiscence of the history of enslavement contribute to weaknesses in black couple marriages (Bent-Goodly, 2015). The familial connections in black families are reflected at the societal level through calls for perseverance despite oppression, promotion of healing following racial prejudice, and significant efforts to improve the quality of life by focusing on education and meaningful employment, and at the individual level through resilience and cushioning loved ones in the face of institutional oppression.

Societal and historical influences on black couples

Black couples have been influenced seriously by the historical experiences of both individuals and communities. Racial segregation experiences have been the most impactful in terms of how blacks relate to each other and how their relationships are structured. An important observation from the narratives is that most of the participants reported being careful about the relationships they get into because of the feelings of alienation that have been experienced before. Black women are especially prone to being intentional and selective in terms of making new relationships. Identifying people with whom one shares feelings such as rage about the oppression that has historically been felt by black communities, enables black women to channel their energies towards the right relationships (Hardy, 2013). These historical perceptions influence physical connections and relational connections made through social media platforms, such as Facebook. Blacks tend to align with those in whom they feel confident of shared histories of racial trauma, and with whom they share the intentionality of healing from the racial trauma (Galovski et al., 2016). The choice of people with whom to connect both on social media and in real life is based on the desire to be around safe people, with whom there is no need to censor personal feelings towards racism.

The journey of black people in the path towards emancipation has been supported by social media communities. The participant’s sentiments on the influence of social media confirm that social media has been instrumental in establishing racial identity while also surpassing the challenges of prejudice, as well as promoting self-emancipation among black communities. It has also been possible to break the silence enforced by submergence using social media and narratives built based on the subjugated voice for the creation of personal and communal identities (Morgan, 2000). The relationships between lack of therapists facilitated by social media are also based on shared intentionality in addressing the challenges of stigma and changing the narrative of black couples.

 

Research Findings

 

                        The main research finding reported in this study is that social media platforms emerge as the preferred way of connection and intimacy among Black couples. These individuals consider social media websites as the optimal solution to improving their bonding and communication (Coyne et al., 2011). It appears that face-to-face communication is sometimes found challenging by Black couples who are more adjusted to the freedom, flexibility, and convenience offered by social media platforms (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). The creativity in expressing their feelings is possible solely through social media. These websites offer Black couples numerous possibilities for maintaining interactions, as the partners usually remain adequately connected to each other.

Another important research finding is associated with the opportunities for improved communication on social media websites. Black couples need such communication in order to affirm their cultural values, personal preferences, and true identities (Fincham and Beach, 2010). They do not want to feel restricted in their communication, thereby they try to experiment with different forms of interaction (Fusch and Ness, 2015). Yet it cannot be denied that social media platforms provide Black couples with more opportunities to share their distinct and most intimate feelings.

Implications of the Research

 

                        This research provides relevant evidence that expands the findings of other current studies on relationship issues of Black couples. This study has important practical implications for future research, especially in relation to the incorporation of social media platforms into different therapeutic models. Since narrative therapy has been used as a theoretical framework for this study, individuals were encouraged to discuss their life stories extensively (Coyne et al., 2011). Instead of focusing on emerging problems, these individuals were mostly focused on examining their own abilities and strengths (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). In this way, they demonstrated their skills in conducting a comprehensive self-evaluation of different aspects of the relationship issues they encounter with their partners.

The main reason for using social media among the participants was their conviction of receiving less criticism in the online environment compared to face-to-face communication. As a result, these individuals were able to share their true feelings in an open way, without facing any restrictions (Campbell and Murray, 2015). Therefore, social media websites have emerged as the ultimate way to helping Black couples solve their problems together (Fincham and Beach, 2010). The results of the study demonstrated that social media communication was more beneficial to Black couples rather than offline communication.

By including social media platforms in narrative therapy, it is possible to improve the efficacy of similar treatments. As demonstrated in this study, the flexibility offered on social media helps Black couples find a common language online and move further in developing strong relationships (Jelenchick, Eickhoff, and Moreno, 2013). In future research, scholars may examine how the use of social media platforms enables Black couples to improve their self-esteem and mutual respect. Such future research may require the implementation of contrast and compare approach in the sense of including couples from other races. In this way, more relevant insights about the psychology and problems of couples can be expected (Campbell and Murray, 2015). The unique experiences of Black couples can be compared to the experiences of other couples in order to ensure a more optimal understanding of the issues Black individuals face when they are in a relationship. Black couples may be provided with a relevant opportunity to reassess their shared goals and overall interactions in a less restrictive online environment.

The inclusion of narrative therapy in this study is helpful to making the voices of Black couples heard. In other words, this theoretical perspective is important in bringing the opinions of particular individuals at the forefront of the narrative on their love stories filtered through social media platforms (Combs and Freedman, 2012). In this way, Black couples will feel more encouraged to share their insights on such a delicate subject as intimate relationships. The utilized narrative lens can clarify the research findings in the sense of making them applicable to different situations and contexts (Coyne et al., 2011). Black individuals should no longer feel restricted to discuss their intimate feelings, thereby the use of narrative therapy on social media is the ultimate way to address the concerns and issues experienced by Black couples.

From a narrative lens, Black couples’ voices have emerged versus privileged voices. As noted, the reason for that is the utilization of social media platforms for communicative purposes on a regular basis (Combs and Freedman, 2012). Black couples turn out to feel more secure and ready to experiment with different types of communication. The most important aspect is to satisfy Black couples’ need for recognition irrespective of existing difficulties (Gottman and Silver, 2012). These individuals need to be confident that their voices will be adequately taken into consideration.

Limitations and Implementations

 

The main limitation of this study is the sample size. The population of black couples across the world and the U.S, in particular, is too large to be represented by only six couples. However, the constraints on resources and time were the motivations for the selection of only six couples to participate in the study. Another notable limitation was access to information. Information on social media use among black couples and its impacts on relationships among black couples were limited. Instead, general information on social media and relationships was used as a construct to define the theoretical perspectives on the study questions. This limitation implies that there is a possibility that the grounded theory constructed from the literature review on this subject, and based on which the narrative sessions built, could have been biased. Therefore, future studies should focus more on actual primary data to construct theories. A change from a grounded theory approach to research to descriptive research or a combination of the two could be instrumental in achieving reliability.

These research findings can be used in developing narrative therapy for black couples struggling with issues of insecurity and fear. Understanding the underlying factors that contribute to fear and how they somehow emerge in contemporary life can be a step towards healing for couples that have conflicting narratives of their lives, which is often a cause for conflict

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Appendices

 

 

Appendix A: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

  1. What interactions via social media do you have with your partner?

 

  1. What do you think makes your story unique among Black couples?

 

  1. How has social media impacted your relationship?

 

 

Appendix B Demographic questions

  1. What is your age?

 

  1. What is your sexual orientation?

 

  1. How would you characterize your socioeconomic status? (low/middle/high)

 

  1. How long have you been in your relationship?

 

Appendix C

 

Coding: Categories and Subcategories

Themes                                                    Categories

 

Benefits of Social Media

 

 

 

Black Couple’s Experiences

 

 

Uniqueness of Black Couples through Social Media

 

 

 

 

Experiences of Intimacy through Social Media

  • Positive Forms of Communication
  • Intimate Opportunities
  • Social Media Encourages Intimacy

 

 

  • Social and Historical Influences
  • High levels of Emotions

 

 

  • Emerging voices of Black Couples
  • Collapse Boundaries
  • Safety and Protection
  • Resilience of Black Couples

 

  • Intimate Messages
  • Photos, Videos, and Communication

 

Appendix D Coding Results

Category& Sub Category Percentage of Response Male Female
Benefits of Social Media 100% 100% 100%
Improved Communication 100% 100% 100%
Intimate Opportunities 100% 100% 100%
Social Media Encourages Intimacy 100% 100% 100%
High levels of Emotions 92% 83% 100%
Uniqueness of Black couples 92% 83% 100%
Faithfulness and Security 100% 100% 100%
Resilience of Black Couples 50% 50% 50%
Intimate Messages through Social Media 100% 100% 100%
Photos, Videos, and Communication 100% 100% 100%

 

Appendix E Informed Consent Form

General Informed Consent Form

 

Black Couples Filtering Their Love Stories Through The Use Of Social Media

 

 

Who is doing this research study?

 

College: Department of Family Therapy at Nova Southeastern University. Principal Investigator: , PH.D. Candidate

Faculty Advisor/Dissertation Chair:, Ph.D. Co-Investigator(s): None

Site Information:

 

How We See It Inc.

 

 

Funding: Unfunded

 

What is this study about?

 

This is a research study, designed to test and create new ideas that other people can use. The purpose of this research study is to explore Black people’s subjective opinions through interviews and gain insight into how Black people filter their love stories through the use of social media. The study is explorative in nature and uses qualitative grounded theory design, in order to create a theory explaining how Black people modify their love stories and how social media have helps them to establish intimate relations.

Why are you asking me to be in this research study?

 

You are being asked to be in this research study because you experience in romantic relationships may provide valuable insights, which can be used further to help people suffering from intimacy-related problems

This study will include about 8 people.

 

What will I be doing if I agree to be in this research study?

 

While you are taking part in this research study, you will be asked to visit one 30 minutes long interview session. You will be asked to review your answers, transcribed by the researcher several days later.

Research Study Procedures – as a participant, this is what you will be doing:

 

As a participant, you will be asked to answer questions related to demographic information, including your age, gender, time in relationships, and social status. Further, you will be asked to take part in 30 minutes long interview, and answer open-ended questions related to relationships and online intimacy. Your answers will be audio-recorded and then transcribed.

Are there possible risks and discomforts to me?

 

This research study involves minimal risk to you. To the best of our knowledge, the things you will be doing have no more risk of harm than you would have in everyday life. The only potential risks are related to the privacy and confidentiality of your data. The researcher guarantees that no personal or confidential information will be disclosed, and appropriate measures will be applied to ensure the protection of data.

What happens if I do not want to be in this research study?

 

You have the right to leave this research study at any time, or not be in it. If you do decide to leave or you decide not to be in the study anymore, you will not get any penalty

 

or lose any services you have a right to get. If you choose to stop being in the study, any information collected about you before the date you leave the study will be kept in the research records for 36 months from the end of the study but you may request that it not be used.

What if there is new information learned during the study that may affect my decision to remain in the study?

If significant new information relating to the study becomes available, which may relate to whether you want to remain in this study, this information will be given to you by the investigators. You may be asked to sign a new Informed Consent Form if the information is given to you after you have joined the study.

Are there any benefits for taking part in this research study?

 

There is no guarantee or promise that you will receive any benefit from this study. We hope the information learned from this research study will benefit other people with similar conditions in the future.

Will I be paid or be given compensation for being in the study?

 

You will not be given any payments or compensation for being in this research study.

 

Will it cost me anything?

 

There are no costs to you for being in this research study.

 

Ask the researchers if you have any questions about what it will cost you to take part in this research study (for example bills, fees, or other costs related to the research).

How will you keep my information private?

 

Information we learn about you in this research study will be handled in a confidential manner, within the limits of the law, and will be limited to people who have a need to review this information. All the participants will be assigned unique IDs and no personal information such as

 

First Name or Last Name will be mentioned in the study. This data will be available to the researcher, the Institutional Review Board and other representatives of this institution, and any regulatory and granting agencies (if applicable). If we publish the results of the study in a scientific journal or book, we will not identify you. All confidential data will be kept securely on the researcher’s personal computer and protected by a password. All data will be kept for 36 months from the end of the study and destroyed after that time by erasing it from the hard disk drive.

Will there be any audio or video recording?

 

This research study involves audio and/or video recording. This recording will be available to the researcher, the Institutional Review Board and other representatives of this institution, and any of the people who gave the researcher money to do the study (if applicable). The recording will be kept, stored, and destroyed as stated in the section above. Because what is in the recording could be used to find out that it is you, it is not possible to be sure that the recording will always be kept confidential. The researcher will try to keep anyone not working on the research from listening to or viewing the recording.

Whom can I contact if I have questions, concerns, comments, or complaints?

 

 

 

If you have questions now, feel free to ask us. If you have more questions about the research, your research rights, or have a research-related injury, please contact: Primary contact:

, MS can be reached at , that will be readily available during and after normal work hours.

If primary is not available, contact:

 

T can be reached at , that will be readily available during and after normal work hours.

 

Research Participants Rights

 

For questions/concerns regarding your research rights, please contact: Institutional Review Board

Nova Southeastern University

 

 

All space below was intentionally left blank.

 

 

 

 

 

Research Consent & Authorization Signature Section

 

 

 

Voluntary Participation – You are not required to participate in this study. In the event you do participate, you may leave this research study at any time. If you leave this research study before it is completed, there will be no penalty to you, and you will not lose any benefits to which you are entitled.

 

 

If you agree to participate in this research study, sign this section. You will be given a signed copy of this form to keep. You do not waive any of your legal rights by signing this form.

 

 

SIGN THIS FORM ONLY IF THE STATEMENTS LISTED BELOW ARE TRUE:

 

  • You have read the above

 

Your questions have been answered to your satisfaction about