#relationshipgoals : social media & relationship comparison

I’m going to paint you a little picture here:

Jillian and Bob have been dating for three years. It’s been a busy week for both of them, and they haven’t seen much of each other this week. In fact, they totally forgot about the anniversary of their first date—something they’ve always celebrated in the past.

Now pan to Jillian scrolling Instagram before bedtime when she sees a photo of her friend, Lucy, sitting across the table from her boyfriend Todd at an insanely expensive restaurant. The caption? “When bae takes you out for dinner, just ‘cuz.”

Jillian’s face gets hot. Bob couldn’t even remember the three year anniversary of their first date, and here Todd is taking Lucy out for expensive dinners “just cuz.”

Jillian is lowkey irritated with Lucy for flashing her perfect personal life all over Instagram, but she takes a screenshot and texts it to Bob, saying, “AWWWW how great is Todd?”

She waits, hoping Bob will understand the not-so-subtle hint to do something special for her.

He doesn’t. His response is “LOL.”

Stupid Bob.

img_0481Sound familiar?

Probably (unless you’re just an inherently noble human who doesn’t fall into the same petty trappings as me Jillian).

Over the past few weeks, my friends & I have had enough conversations about this topic for me to deem it worthy of a blog, so I want to pose a couple questions:

  1. What are the motives behind the information we share about our relationships on social media?

I’ll admit that on multiple occasions, I have drafted the perfect post about my relationship with Mark—the two of us sitting on a quilt watching the sun go down in our favorite park—only to delete it before I pressed the “share” button.

Why? Because I realized (in the words of the all-knowing Chris Harrison) I wasn’t doing it “for the right reasons.”

I deleted the aforementioned post because I knew it wasn’t coming from an effort to preserve a special memory on a digital channel—it was coming from a desire to play the PR rep. for my own image—to prove that I was in a fun, cute, romantic relationship.

I deleted it because even though I may have captioned that photo, “sunsets & this guy. conflicted because idk which i love more,” the honest caption would have been somewhere along these lines:

“Dear Instagram followers, I know this is an old picture, but here’s me with my boyfriend being really cute while we admire a beautiful sunset. I swear the only reason why I don’t have any recent posts about my relationship is because Mark and I haven’t even seen each other in over three months, but we are still crushing this long distance thing and still very much in love, so no need to speculate, carry on!”

Cute? Yes. Genuine? Not so much.

2. How does social media impact my satisfaction with my own relationship? 

Think back to the Jillian and Bob story at the start of this blog. Jillian became less satisfied with her relationship with Bob after she saw her friend’s Instagram post about a fancy date.

As a whole, we tend to evaluate the quality of our own relationships in comparison to the other relationships we observe (shout out to Thiabut & Kelley’s Interdependence Theory), so when you’re comparing your entire relationship (the sparkly side & the not-so-sparkly side) to someone else’s highlight reel, it’s not going to do wonders for your relationship satisfaction.

 Our Instagram couple photos^        60% of our real couple photos^

You’d better believe I’m going to Instagram the bouquet of hyacinths Mark gave me, but there’s no way you’ll ever know that we spent that same evening slumped over our computer screens after an unsuccessful search for reasonably priced plane tickets.

You’d better believe I’ll share the cute letters Mark mails me, but you’ll never see my not-so-subtle texts hinting that he should send me more.

See where I’m going with this?

Social media can be great for promoting positive moments and kind gestures, but if left unexamined, our #relationshipgoals will be defined by the couple whose relationship is the most Instagrammable (it’s a word, kay?).

Expectation                                                  Reality

It’s healthy to have expectations in a relationship, but let’s make an effort to center those standards around the depth of your respect for one another, the quality of your conversations, and the kindness that you demonstrate toward each other—not the price tags on your gifts or the photos on your social media feed.


Kelly Doles


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