Once upon a time, you’d solidify your adolescent relationship with a shout-out in an AIM profile. Now that we’re in the era of “Facebook official” and selfie statuses, it’s pretty clear that the comfort we take in being able to definitively label our relationships — something which can often feel so uncertain and be communicated poorly.
Now, it’s becoming increasingly common to frequently post about your relationship (and life). If it’s not online, you don’t have proof that it happened.
If you think of social media as the modern equivalent of a town square, the place where announcements are made and information is posted and communities are bonded over shared experiences, then it only makes sense that you’d be inclined to share the bits and pieces of your life that you perceive to be worthy of documenting. The point is to post the highlight reel. The concept is to share the parts of our lives that those who aren’t immediately close to us otherwise wouldn’t be able to see — and there is nothing wrong with this.
Yet social media has an added layer of nuance, as it is a supplement (if not a projection) of our identity, connectedness, and self-worth. We can piece together an image of ourselves, quantify how loved and seen we are by others, and ultimately begin to gauge and compare where we stand socially.
It should come as no surprise that we end up addicted to the thrill that all the clicks and pixels give us, as those things that social media represents — personhood, connection, inherent worth — are struggles that are very deeply embedded in the human condition.
If you want to know how someone wants the world to see them, look no further than the patterns in their social media feeds. This is never more true (or interesting, to be honest) than when it comes to their most intimate relationships. While it’s normal and even healthy to be proud and public about who you’re dating, there is at the same time a clear connection between how genuinely content you are with your relationship and how often you post about it.
Here a few reasons for this.
You can make yourself feel better about a part of your life simply by thinking that other people see it differently
In other words, if we aren’t getting a “high” from the parts of our lives that we think are supposed to account for our emotional contentment, we seek that feeling elsewhere.
Most commonly, this comes from how we think other people perceive the situation to be. (TL;DR: If we can convince ourselves that other people see our relationships happily, we feel happier about them, as we’re subconsciously shifting our point of view.)
When you’re happy with your life (or a relationship) you’re naturally more present for it
It occurs to you less to take photos or check your social media feeds. It’s not that you never do those things, but that your life is making you so happy, so why would you want to be distracted by it?
Any couple that keeps their intimate arguments or struggles offline is always better off
On the flip side of oversharing is going public with posting the things you’re not so happy about. But no matter what the context, an issue has never been resolved well after someone aired the dirty laundry for all of their Facebook friends (and family) to see.
Their relationship validates them, so they don’t need to seek that feeling externally
In other words, there seems to be little appeal in constantly writing updates about the relationship. Their joy is in being together, not in posting about being together.
They don’t have anything to prove
They are not using one another to prove to the world that they are happy and lovable and worthy and attractive. They’re together because they want to be, not because their deep-seated issues want them to be.
Research shows that people who use social media less are generally happier overall
People who go without Facebook for a week report being significantly happier. Depression is linked to excessive social media use, because of social comparison theory. Heavy social media use is also commonly associated with a lack of mental health. On and on it goes. The point is that the nature of the beast isn’t so great for us, mentally or emotionally. So it’s no surprise that it would also bleed into our interpersonal relationships.