Although I already touched on the implications of posting about your significant other online during the episode of my podcast called “How Social Media Affects Relationships,” putting something in writing somehow makes people take an opinion or fact more seriously. The permanency of the written word seems to heighten the validity of what’s being said, even if it shouldn’t. “People will believe anything they read” is pretty accurate.
One thing I want people to remember when they’re reading this, or anything else that isn’t in a scientific journal, is that basically everything you read is a matter of opinion or interpretation. Even statements “backed by science” could be misconstrued while drawing conclusions from an experiment– perhaps claiming certain correlations or relations that aren’t really what the study “found” at all. Particularly when it comes to any article about relationships or human interaction, keep in mind that very, very few things have been “proven” across the board about human beings.
After years of studying psychology in college, my biggest takeaway was that the individualistic nature of our species allows for an enormous amount of behavioral and psychological variance, even in situations where a norm has been “determined.” The best we can do is detect patterns, but patterns always have outliers. And those outliers really shouldn’t be ignored– especially by writers who aim to influence the way you see a particular subject. Lumping everyone together undermines the monumental importance of idiosyncrasy among mankind.
I’m about to refute an article called “Happy Couples Post Less About Their Relationships on Social Media.” Thoroughly. So buckle up.
Trust me, I recognized the irony of playing defense when this author basically claims that posting pictures with your significant other is a defense mechanism for unhappiness in your real, offline life. So, despite the fact that I will use examples from my own life, I hope you recognize that an explanation for the other side of the argument is more than just a defense mechanism. It’s to be exemplary of everything I said in the first three paragraphs. If someone wants to write about relationship patterns, I want to write about the outliers. Because outliers are people/couples who deserve some representation, too.
Another big thing to keep in mind is that we tend to categorize our behaviors as “better” and “worse,” because we want to feel good about the choices we’ve made. Therefore, if you’re the type of person who never or rarely posts about your relationship online, you’re prone to thinking that choosing privacy means your relationship is “better” or “more mature” or “happier” than the regular relationship posters. Or if you do post a lot on social media, you think you are capturing happy memories and encouraging your significant other in a way that really boosts them up publicly. Especially when reading articles like the aforementioned, we’ve got to recognize our own biases and stop labeling certain unharmful behaviors as “better” and “worse.” Can’t we simply accept that our differences are A-OK?
Due to those biases when reading “Happy Couples Post Less About Their Relationships on Social Media,” you probably felt justified in not posting about your relationship (Yeah! That’s right, all you over-sharers!), or defensive about your social media choices (Hey, that’s not a fair assessment of my relationship!). Please let me remind you that just because you found an author who agrees with your decision doesn’t make you any better or your reasoning more “true.” It’s just someone else’s words on
paper the screen. Similarly, just because the author disagrees with your decision doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. When it comes to what you share on social media– like many other situations in life– there is no “better” or “worse” or even “true.” It’s a matter of preference, personality, and the dynamics of each unique relationship.
Let’s get down to business.
The other author presented 6 reasons posting about your relationship on social media “proves” that you’re unhappy, or at least less happy, with that person in real life. What better way to shed light on the other side of the coin than by simply flipping it over? So let’s take a look at each of her six claims, and directly address the implications she chose not to mention.
[Let me quickly point out that the author is a talented writer, and I’m sure had no ill-intent when writing her article.]
1. “You can make yourself feel better about a part of your life simply by thinking that other people see it differently.”
This is probably a true statement. If you think others believe in your abilities, you’re bound to work hard and reach their expectations. If you think others view you as attractive, you probably feel more confident walking around in public. So, yes, “you can make yourself feel better about a part of your life simply by thinking that other people see it differently.” But tell me how this proves that that’s what everyone is doing when they’re posting happy memories with their significant other on Facebook? That’s a pretty huge assumption. This is definitely one of those claims that points to a correlation that hasn’t been proven at all in terms of social media– even as a legitimate pattern, much less as an indisputable fact.
Maybe that is what some couples are doing. BUT MAYBE NOT. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: It’s all dependent on preference, personality, and the dynamics of each unique relationship. Let’s use me as an example, shall we? I am extremely outgoing, and can’t keep my mouth shut when I’m excited. I love sharing good news with the world. Just ask the 50 friends I texted once Aaron and I chose our new puppy. Everyone I’m close to got a picture of her adorable little face. I wasn’t trying to prove anything, and it didn’t imply that my whole life is in shambles, so I needed to convince my friends that something cool was going on. No, I was just exploding with excitement and needed to share!
With that kind of personality, it’s no wonder that I post pictures of my husband and me often. He really does make me SO happy, and I’m the kind of person who loves expressing her positive feelings! Social media is an outlet to do that. I don’t care how many likes I get, nor do I need other people to see my relationship as happy in order for me to be happy. No, I already AM happy, and coupled with my natural inclinations to share joyful moments with the world, it’s a no brainer that I’ll probably share it. See? Personality meshed with the dynamics of our actual relationship, and voila, I post a happy picture.
To the author’s point, some people’s personalities and the dynamics of their relationship don’t match up in a way that means they’d post to social media for the same reasons I do. She could be right that there are people out there using validation through social media as a way to find emotional contentment that their relationship doesn’t offer them in real life. Yeah, maybe some people post their happiness in need of such validation, but not everyone. Not me. Lord knows if I needed approval from the general public, I wouldn’t have gotten engaged after just 2 months of knowing someone.
(Let me take this second to remind you about what I said in the opening paragraphs: Try not to see me using my personal life as a direct defense mechanism, but rather as an example of how everybody is different.)
2. “When you’re happy with your life (or a relationship) you’re naturally more present for it.”
This one really gets me. Newflash: It takes exactly two seconds to snap a photo. Hold up…scrolling through my Instagram real quick for a recent example. Ahah! Okay, so Aaron and I drove up to Colonial Williamsburg to stay in a bed and breakfast for a little one-night getaway before he left for deployment a month ago. For dinner, he made special reservations at Williamsburg Winery, which was a blast! We laughed really hard because the hostess wouldn’t speak above a whisper, expressed how much we’d miss each other when he leaves, and spent twenty minutes debating which dessert to get based on the uniqueness of each menu description. It was simply a wonderful, private little night.
On our way out of the restaurant, I quickly asked the [very quiet] hostess to snap our photo. Why not? It was a fun memory, and I wanted to capture it! She said sure, snapped our picture, and we were on our way to enjoy the rest of the night, where we laughed hysterically at our crazy Uber driver, got another glass of wine in Colonial Williamsburg, then befriended a bartender who likes whiskey as much as Aaron does. That one little picture on our way out of dinner doesn’t mean we weren’t “present” or enjoying each moment of that night!
Sure, sometimes I’ll stop to take a picture with Aaron (or with all the other people you see on my social media accounts) when we could’ve spent that 5 seconds more soaking in a view or something, but it’s not like I miss anything. Heck, I took a picture with my dad at a one year old’s birthday party this weekend, and I’m pretty sure those 4 seconds didn’t diminish the two hours we spent sitting around enjoying wonderful conversation with friends and family.
There’ve been plenty of times I’ve not taken pictures because I forgot to in the moment, but let’s be honest, how often are you really doing something that has no lull at any moment? Even the most exciting events tend to have a second of downtime during which you might remember to take a picture. It’s not a reflection of not having true fun, it’s just a dang picture. If someone wants to spend a few seconds capturing a happy memory, is that really so bad?
3. “Any couple that keeps their intimate arguments or struggles offline is always better off.”
This one, I couldn’t agree with more. I don’t think it’s appropriate or fair to your significant other to tell the whole world about your intimate issues. Not only does it never help you solve them, but it creates an air of disrespect and lack of unity. None of those things are good for a relationship.
Even though I strongly agree with this statement, I still have to accept that someone choosing to post this sort of thing doesn’t mean he/she’s a horrible person in a horrible relationship. Their personalities are simply that that I can’t understand, just like some people may not be able to understand why I’d post a happy picture of my husband and me at the beach. Are the repercussions of posting a happy beach picture verse an angry rant less destructive in the relationship? Well, yeah, I think it’s safe to assume so. But I also don’t understand how some people’s brains work, so I mean, maybe there are exceptions.
4. “Their relationship validates them, so they don’t need to seek that feeling externally.”
I think the author was running out of ammunition, because this seems suspiciously similar to #1, but I’ll give it a little response, anyway. Perhaps #1 was more about feeling better on an individual level– getting attention from others in a way that makes you feel better about yourself, and this claim is more about feeling better about your relationship as a pair. I don’t know. Same same but different. Either way, the author’s point that couples who don’t post about their relationships prove that “their joy is in being together, not in posting about being together” is completely ignoring the other very real possibility: That people who post about being together can still find joy in being together.
Let me put it this way: Me wanting Aaron to return from deployment has 100% to do with how much I miss being in his arms, connecting and laughing, and simply being together. I miss all of that so much that my heart literally hurts when I think about going another month without it. You know what I’m not missing or thinking about at all? How much I want to post a picture of him and me together again. But do you know what I’m probably going to do when he gets back? Post a picture of us together.
5. “They don’t have anything to prove.”
Wait, I have to quote exactly what she wrote beneath this one:
“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.”
First off, what world do you live in if you don’t think that every. single. person. has deep-seated issues? Yourself included. I mean, it’s just silly to claim that people who post on social media have them, while other people don’t. We all have deep-seated issues, okay? So let’s get that straight, first of all.
And, yet again, let me reiterate that while perhaps some people post about their relationship to prove that they’re lovable, there are other people out there who knew they were worthy and attractive long before a relationship came along.
This brings me to a phrase that makes me want to pull out my hair, because half the time it’s said to someone that it really doesn’t apply to: “You can’t love someone until you love yourself.” People absolutely love to say that to single people. When I was single, I constantly had to tell them, “Hey! Guess what?! I think I’m pretty freaking rad. That’s why I’m so frustrated that I haven’t found someone yet. It’s not a lack of self-love. I love myself SO much that I’m comfortable and confident enough to openly say that I want a relationship. Because I know I’d be a fan-freaking-tastic girlfriend, and my abilities are going to waste.” It’s like openly saying you want a relationship means “you’re not happy with your individual self.” NO! That’s not what it means. It means you know what you want in life, and companionship is important to you. That’s not a sign of not being happy with yourself. It’s literal biology. (For most of us.) Geez Louise.
6. “Research shows that people who use social media less are generally happier overall.”
Take note of the word “generally.” This may be true, generally, but not all the time. So don’t forget to give the benefit of the doubt for all those little outliers out there! Also, this has nothing to do specifically with relationships. See what I mean about pulling together “scientific facts” and then skewing them to fit your narrative? That’s exactly what this “fact” does in this article. The study they reference has absolutely nothing to do with how posting about your relationship reflects your actual happiness in your relationship. So, really, it’s almost not worth refuting, because it’s a moot point.
And yet, I shall refute, because that’s what I came here today to do.
Listen, obviously social media can warp our views of reality. That’s why I wrote my post called “Life is Good. But it Isn’t Perfect.” among quite a few other blog posts about remembering to take social media with a grain of salt. I even specified that while my life with Aaron may look perfect online– and it is really great– no one’s life is free from bad moments. Yes, people who spend all their time on social media can easily get sucked into this false perception that their lives suck in comparison to those of others. I’m not surprised at all that studies find that people who use social media less are happier. Heck, I even wrote about that one example of a gorgeous young woman who killed herself due to the depression that was perpetuated by the subtle competition of “happy lives” on social media. I can’t pretend that this claim holds no truth.
But remember the outliers! I, for one, can comfortably say that I live a remarkably happy life. I have my bad moments, as we all do, but I don’t struggle with the chemical imbalance called depression. And yet, I post on social media probably every other day on average. (I don’t count this blog because writing an essay is quite different than sharing your life in a status or picture.) Just like me, there are plenty of people who are a very normal amount of happy, who also use social media regularly.
Alrighty, thanks for listening to all of that, everyone! Like I said, some of her points may be true for certain couples, but it’s only fair that the other side of the coin be assessed so we can stop grouping every single person and couple together, as if individuality doesn’t exist. And with that, I’m off to hang out with a fellow military wife who misses her man– not taking pictures with her man– as much as I do!