You might want to think twice before posting that status update.
You know that super cute couple you secretly hate, even though you ‘like’ all their Facebook and Instagram posts?
Come on – we all do it. We post little emoji hearts in the comments of their latest adorable couple pics, all the while waiting for the day their relationship status changes, or they vaguebook something that makes you suspect all is not well in happily-ever-after land. It might be something about love being complicated, or it having been a hard year, or about going somewhere alone.
Or maybe you’ve actually been in one of these relationships yourself, posting happy pictures and gushing about your SO on social media, then not knowing how to handle it when things went south in the relationship. Most of us have been on both sides of that coin.
Here’s the thing about relationships and social media: it’s complicated.
On the one hand, what’s wrong with sharing our happiness with everyone we know – or virtually know? On the other hand, what are we doing to our relationships when we share those intimate, everyday moments with the word at large? Are we turning our relationships into commodities, thereby cheapening them? Are we doing ourselves and our loved ones a disservice by branding ourselves and our love?
Sure, plenty of couples embrace social media, enthusiastically posting couple selfies (just don’t call them ‘ussies’ – ugh) and coming up with clever hashtags for engagements, weddings, and anniversaries. And I suppose if you’re in one of those relationships, you don’t think social media is ruining your relationship. But here are a few reasons you might want to reconsider…
Recently, the Modern Love column in The New York Times featured a story by Sage Cruser, titled ‘Cropped Out Of My Own Fantasy,’ about how she’d used social media to craft a storybook image of her relationship that was never really true.
“I always felt as if I had to prove to everyone that he and I were happy and that our relationship was legitimate, and social media helped,” Cruser wrote. “On Facebook, I was able to exclude the negative — a dismissive comment here, a lie there — and showcase not only how I wanted others to see us but how I wanted to see us.”
And consider this: A 2013 study by Clayton, Nagurney, and Smith found a correlation between Facebook use by couples and negative relationship outcomes, mostly for couples who’d been together three years or less.
When we post about our partners on social media, it’s inevitable that we’re putting on a show, to some degree or another. We’re picking and choosing what to share, glossing over the difficult moments – the conflicts and confusion, the hurts and heartaches. Whether you mean to do it or not, you’re creating another reality online, and that can affect your actual, IRL relationship.
To post or not to post?
When I was first dating, this wasn’t even a thing. There was no Internet. Or at least, there was no social media. Yes, I’m old. But I’m not so old that I’m shy about posting selfies now, or writing about my life online (obviously). I’m not above wanting to post a few cute pictures of myself with my boyfriend, even though I know I’m probably doing one of those things people hate on Facebook.
But why do I want to post those pictures? Is it because I’m just so darn happy, and I want all my friends to know? Is it because my mom lives far away, and she likes to see pictures of us together? Or is it because I hope my boyfriend’s exes will see them and feel a twinge of jealousy because I’m younger and prettier than they are? I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t all of those things, all rolled up into one thorny ball.
That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing to post couple pictures, or that I’m going to stop doing it. It just means it’s a good idea to be mindful of why you’re posting. My rule of thumb? If your post makes your stomach hurt, it might be best to delete it.
What happens when it ends?
Then there’s the question of how to handle the end of your relationship on social media. Do you announce it? Delete all your couple pics? Become an expert at vaguebooking and subtweeting? I know people whose marriages have been over for years, but who still for some reason haven’t changed their names or relationship statuses online. And then there are people I had no idea were splitting up, until I saw them take back their maiden name and update their status to ‘single’ on Facebook.
Scaachi Koul wrote about the question of whether or not to delete your couple pics after a breakup on Buzzfeed. Writes Koul, “does the ongoing existence of the photos just make you sad? Do you think deleting them will cure you of whatever residual heartbreak remains? Do you think you can extract from the tar of your soul whatever influence he had, whatever devotion you had to each other, that you can scrub it away by spending 40 minutes going through your accounts and hitting delete?”
When I got divorced, I quit Facebook for a year, then started over with a totally new profile. If I had it to do again, I might not completely decimate my old social media self. But at the time, it seemed like the easier thing to do. You have to do what feels right to you.
The bottom line? Relationships are hard enough to navigate, without worrying about whether or not you’re projecting the right kind of image to your social media accounts.
GIFs via giphy.com, freebeacon.com.
Comment: How do you think social media affects your relationship?