Happy couples share very few photos on social media. Science says so. Almost all couples that are on social media share particularly special moments in their lives with photos, shout-outs, videos, etc. But then there are the couples whose relationships are solely about what gets posted online.
According to researchers at Albright College, this behavior is related to what is called Relationship-Contingent Self-Esteem (RCSE).
Those who have low personal self-esteem, who find it difficult to express their feelings in real life, or who have high social anxiety are more likely to demonstrate this sort of behavior.
"Those with high RCSE feel the need to show others, their partners, and maybe even themselves that their relationship is ‘OK’ and that, therefore, they are OK," says Gwendolyn Seidman, assistant professor of psychology at Albright.
Conversely, happy couples don’t really need to constantly post about themselves on social media because they are busy enjoying each other's company offline. Taking and posting pictures all the time or posting a new status would distract them from enjoying the present moment.
Love on social media: is it true love?
After interviewing more than 100 couples, researchers at Northwestern University found that those who frequently post about their relationship on social media are actually deeply insecure about their relationship. The researchers’ thesis is that if a couple continuously posts content about their relationship, it is likely to be a ploy to convince everyone else that they are in a happy and healthy relationship. In reality, it’s just a way to trick themselves into believing they are in a happy, healthy relationship.
When your boyfriend or girlfriend becomes a trophy you show off
Then there is yet another phenomenon of showing off one's girlfriend or boyfriend as a trophy to brag about.
In this case, flaunting each other's beauty allows us to feel important and like there’s something we have that others should envy.
There are boys and girls who need to feel like others look up to them. They need to know that others appreciate them. Having a good-looking, well-dressed, charming partner to show off increases their self-esteem.
Thus, one runs the risk of reducing one's boyfriend or girlfriend to an accessory. The article A Girlfriend Isn’t a Trophy offers a testimony about a girl "displayed on social media" by her boyfriend so he could be envied by his friends.
Social media, in these two cases, doesn’t help anyone to see and value the beauty of that person. On the contrary, they push the commodification of affection, feelings, and the body.
If you find yourself in a situation like one of these, it is important to first understand why you come to see social media as a kind of escape from real life, why you struggle to relate to others “offline,” and what holes you are trying to fill.
And speaking on behalf of those who work in academia, it would be wise to promote true emotional education, even simply starting with these behaviors found in the digital realm.
It is important to raise awareness about decency and modesty and to help kids see that behind every face in a photograph is a real person who deserves to be known and loved in real life.
Otherwise, we risk kids ending up believing that life is nothing more that posting “like-worthy” stories.