You’ve probably come across one of those Instagram couples with the perfect sun-kissed photographs and saccharine vlogs that make you envious of their relationship. “How are they always traveling? I want to go there with my partner too!” We’ve all thought this at least once.
Though it may happen subconsciously, social media platforms like Instagram and pop culture they promote, along with advertisements and movies, do tend to influence the expectations of our own romantic equations. When you see a couple always traveling with each other and making money while doing it, those weekly dates with your partner won’t seem as enticing anymore.
How exactly does social media affect relationships? What expectations do we end up conforming to? In this article, psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, writes about the impact of social media on relationships.
Social Media, Advertisements, And Emotions
During my experience of working in advertising, I came to realize that advertisements are nothing but the packaging of strong emotion. They sell an idea or a promise to people that their lives will improve in some way. The fear of missing out is what’s capitalized on.
Similarly, you come to realize that social media is essentially just an advertising platform. It’s an aggregation and a public relations tool first. After that, it is a social connection tool. Social connection is the byproduct of the platform, not the purpose.
It’s common knowledge that everything put out on social media is put up for the desired effect. It is not a reflection of the truth, only a highly worked-up version of it. This in turn ties into relationships vis-a-vis the expectations we develop.
Relationships On Steroids: How Social Media Hampers Our Expectations
You see the celebrity couple’s Instagram accounts, with all their followers and they suddenly become “relationship goals”. The travel vlogging couples always seem happy, smiling away all their troubles in the world.
It seems as though there’s a new traveling couple every day, staring back at you while exploring the beaches of Greece. The same couple is laughing all their problems away the next day, and the week after that, they’re in Cancun, blissfully oblivious to the humdrum we seem to be going through.
We all know that real life doesn’t really look like that. Some days you’re tired, some days you’re irritable. Some days you’re not feeling particularly adventurous or romantic. But in the movies you watch and the social media apps you frequent, those days are never documented.
Relationships on social media are essentially relationships on steroids. A highlight reel, put on a plate for your consumption, is highly curated and modified to be made more palatable. Let’s talk a bit more about how this reality that’s been fashioned for consumption can end up harming your own dynamic.
1. Normalcy becomes vilified
There’s no doubt that normalcy and mundaneness have been vilified over the years. You go to work, she goes to work, you meet and eat together and laze around. Compared to the couples on your phone who are spending their days in Mauritius or Cappadocia, your dynamic doesn’t seem the most exciting.
What we fail to understand, however, is that the majority of our lives are spent doing the mundane. In fact, I truly believe that some of the simplest activities, like buying groceries, can be made romantic if you have a deep interest in your partner.
Just because they’re influencers doesn’t mean they will never suffer from anxiety or self-doubt. Just because you’re doing the mundane doesn’t mean you can’t find joy in it. Just because no one was around to hear it, doesn’t mean the tree that fell didn’t make a noise.
2. The grass looks tantalizingly greener
As human beings, we’re constantly trying to improve our lives. To do that, we must assess what our bare minimum levels are. The bare minimum levels of happiness, the levels of academic progress, social acceptance, or being groomed and well-traveled.
When you’re watching people with their relationships on social media live their best lives, those bare minimum standards are constantly redefined and modified. Sometimes, they even turn into unachievable benchmarks. We need someone we can compare ourselves with, and unfortunately, the always-happy couples that live on our phones seem to be the perfect candidates.
Without realizing that the journey those couples have taken is completely different from yours, you start judging yourselves. Their life now seems to be the pinnacle of happiness, and yours is subject to scrutiny.
3. Trust and jealousy issues
“Why did you like his/her post?” “Why do you have more photos with this person than you do with me?” “Who’s this new person who has started commenting on everything you upload?” Stalking and snoopy behavior can cause a problem through social media. However, this usually arises when you generally do not have much faith in your partner.
Let’s be clear, human suspicion has long been a timeless problem. Social media cannot be blamed for it. Though it can still act as the perfect tool to obsessively stalk your partner with.
In the 90s, you’d have had to physically go to your cell phone service provider and get the phone records. Now that your partner knows where you are, who you’re uploading stories/photos with, the trust issues can definitely be escalated, especially amongst younger people.
4. Expectations become unreachable
When we see the best part of someone’s relationship but don’t see the PR and the advertising strategies at play behind them, we’re only seeing a single frame of the entire image. The part is polished with filters and makeup, as well as the perfect angles, lighting, and outfits to match.
Needless to say, the cooked-up representation isn’t an accurate depiction of life. You view them through frosted glass, you can see that’s something happening inside, but not really what’s going on. The expectations we have from our reality, as a result, become unattainable.
Related Reading: Expert Suggests 7 Ways To Help Someone With Trust Issues
Where this leaves us
It’s no surprise that the social media effects on relationships can end up being detrimental. What’s important to understand, however, is that they’re only showing you a highlight reel of the special moments in life.
Without the mundane, the special holds no meaning. The special moments thus make the mundane more meaningful. One cannot exist without the other. The exotic dinners, exotic travel locations, the sun-kissed shots, and perfect pictures you see are all fragments of life, not the entirety of it.
My final piece of advice would be to stop obsessing about the greener pastures on your phone screen and focus on the larger picture. When you let your opinion be swayed by the pictures you see of influencers and celebrities, you narrow the very definition of life.
Don’t believe everything you see, a lot of it is filtered, polished up, and made available to you in bite-sized formats. Forget the Cancun’s and the Cancodia’s, appreciate the smaller things in life. You never know how much you can get to know about a person when you’re grocery shopping with them.