How social media impacted my relationship (and not in a good way)

Our social media coordinator, Julia, shares how social media impacted the way she viewed her relationship and her struggle to share that part of her life:

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Kids, let me begin by saying that when I started dating my first boyfriend, MySpace was still a thing.

If you aren’t entirely sure what MySpace even is, it’s the Internet’s forgotten playground where many a personalized background and painstakingly selected popular music track have now gone to die along with Tom and his millions of friends.

You know what wasn’t a thing? Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (okay, Facebook was a thing, but as a loyal MySpace user I refused to acknowledge that until circa summer 2009).

In order to let the world know you were in fact dating someone, you could do a couple things:

  1. Update your MySpace profile picture to a picture of you and your honey (“bae” also wasn’t a thing, and in my opinion still shouldn’t be because, really, people?).
  2. Move your honey to the number one or number two spot of your MySpace top eight friends so everyone could know exactly how deeply important that person was in your life (if you were smart, you kept your honey at a solid number two spot behind your best friend).
  3. Walk down the hallways of school holding hands with said honey.

And that was mostly it.

Nowadays there are 402 ways to declare your relationship status to the world:

  1. Update your Facebook relationship status.
  2. Post pictures of you and bae at the baseball game or at your lake cabin or wearing matching pajamas on Facebook.
  3. Post pictures of you and bae at the baseball game or at your lake cabin or wearing matching pajamas on Instagram.
  4. Tweet about the quality time you spent together last weekend. #blessed, #love, #mcm, #wcw, #howdidigetsolucky.
  5. Identify yourself as so-and-so’s boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband in your Twitter bio.
  6. Identify yourself as so-and-so’s boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband in your Instagram bio.
  7. Upload a quick-but-not-so-quick-viewers-won’t-catch-onto-how-cute-you-are video on YouTube of you and bae lip-synching a song together and then post said video to Facebook.
  8. Create a Pinterest board for your upcoming wedding or quotes about romance and go crazy captioning each picture with something along the lines of, “For me and bae!”

And that’s just a few suggestions.

During this past year of dating someone, I became incredibly self-conscious of this widely accepted practice of making a relationship as public as possible. Being someone who is well immersed in social media, I struggled with the very real desire to show the world our life as a couple while knowing the insecurities I faced in doing so.

My biggest fear was posting a picture of my boyfriend and myself and having no one like it. I mean, that feels awful anyway, right? I became really afraid if no one liked the photo or commented about how cute we were together this meant people didn’t like us as a couple in real life. It even came to the point where I spent days trying to decide if I actually wanted to post something or not; I was that afraid of no one responding.

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As someone who works in social media for a living, let me just lay down some knowledge for you real quick:

Social media is all about timing. You could post the same picture twice in one day at two different times on the same medium, but the one posted during high traffic hours is going to get more likes and comments. Similarly, if you post the same picture at the same time but on two different days, such as Wednesday and Thursday, the one you posted on Thursday is going to get the most amount of recognition and likes (because Thursday is the highest traffic day for social media, particularly on Facebook). Also, if you post a photo and use an emoticon in the description, your likes will increase by almost 60%.

Based on this, it would have been pretty easy for me to manipulate a post of my boyfriend and me to ensure a lot of people liked it. But I came to a point where I had to stop myself from doing this because I knew it would be for the wrong reasons.

Social media, in almost all areas of my life actually, has become a form of validation. This became especially true when I had a boyfriend and wanted to join the masses of other couples posting adorable, well-liked pictures of their relationship. I wanted people to see how fun or in love we were, and I wanted these pictures and posts to be popular. Essentially I wanted the opinion of others (which had been reduced to a simple click of the “like” button) to validate the quality of our relationship.

I am not against people posting images of themselves with their significant other. Love deserves to be seen and celebrated. But I think we need to ask ourselves what the motive is behind posts such as these. Do we genuinely want to highlight how important this significant other is to us for the benefit of that significant other? Or, are we enjoying the attention having a relationship brings us and looking for others to take note of that and like it too? Are you in a place where if you uploaded such a picture and received no likes, would you still feel confident and happy about posting it?

These days, our lives play out on social media. Because of this, we give others the power over and over to determine how we feel about our experiences and ourselves. When it comes to showing our relationship to our followers and friends, it’s important to first understand how we feel about it and resist letting others influence our perception through comments and likes. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram should be a means to share your happiness for you, not for the affirmation of others (sorry, MySpace).

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