It creeps me out. Why do people perform their relationships online? Who is it for? I don’t understand the point of regularly writing deeply personal declarations of love, even if it’s platonic friendship love, for thousands of strangers to see. Do people do it to mark territory? To make their person feel good? To show others that someone is worthy of love, but — hold up — you’ve already chosen them?
Our real lives and online lives are merging; they’re starting to feel indistinguishable. Even regular, noncelebrity people cultivate their own brands. Is a relationship real if it’s not flaunted on Instagram? Is the new definition of a commitment-phobe someone who chooses to keep relationships offline?
Then I’m a commitment-phobe. Daily love posts make me want to throw my phone in the street. Public-proposal videos cause me to cover my head and emit feral howling noises. If you have to keep reminding everyone of how happy you are, something’s not right. Happy people don’t need to announce over and over how happy they are. Happy people just … are. Your friends? They know when you’re in a healthy and loving relationship just by seeing you and knowing you. You don’t need to declare it every time you go online. These constant #relationshipgoals posts doth protest too much.
I get especially weirded out by people who seem interested in cultivating “fans” of their relationship. While it’s cute and flattering to have people make comments like “y’all are goals” and “adopt me” on a picture of you and your lover, I think it creates social pressure to stay in relationships that might actually be unhealthy. One of my good friends stayed with her evil ex for more than a year after she knew she needed to leave, worrying about “letting people down.”
She had relationship fans. Lots of them.
“I just feel so stupid,” she told me, in tears. “Everyone thinks we’re perfect. I don’t want to disappoint people.”
Let’s take a step back from that. As my mom would say, “Turn the spotlight off, honey.” Your relationship and/or breakup is not part of the public domain, unless you invite and encourage that. No couple is perfect, and no one knows the private things that happen between the well-edited photos you’ve posted with good lighting on vacation days with your partner. All couples are a mess sometimes. How weird is it to encourage people to envy you as you play the role of someone in a happy relationship?
Look, I’m not a monster. I feel happy and excited when my friends are in loving partnerships. I’m in one, too! And it’s great! I don’t hate all cutesy posts about partners; a few here and there make me coo out loud when I’m lying on the couch scrolling through my social media feeds. “Awww,” I’ll say to the empty room. “Look at them.” And I will tap that “like” button with genuine feeling and search through my emojis for just the right sparkly pink heart and gay rainbow and flame icon.
I love love. Just not, you know, every single time I unlock my phone.