Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker (lovingly referred to as Kravis) and Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox have ushered in a new wave of unhinged love posting. In doing so, they’ve re-written the rules of online decorum in the space of a few months.
Before Kravis, the internet was mostly a place encouraging and promoting that single people publicly live their best lives. Mirror selfie thirst traps, late-night DM-slides and flame emojis are all examples of the chokehold single people have had on the internet for the last decade. If you were a cool couple, you were lowkey and understated – e.g Hailey and Justin Bieber, who look like they’ve just come from church.
But this year everything has changed. In an interview for GQ, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly revealed their first kiss was them just breathing in front of each other’s lips. Soon after, they were pictured alongside Kravis getting off in a toilet cubicle at the VMAs. For the first time since Tom Hiddleston wore a ‘I <3 TS’ t-shirt, the cringe couple is back. And all the things you’re not meant to do – matching tattoos, selfies of you biting someone’s thumb or being horny on main – are now cool.
But what does this mean for people like myself, who are typically uncomfortable with internet displays of affection? If I start relationship-posting enough, could I become one half of the next sensational couple, or is it one rule for hot celebrities and another for non-famous people who live sixteen inches into their overdraft? Can I ‘cute day with this one x’ my way to as much goodwill as Megan Fox calling her 31-year-old pop punk boyfriend, and father of one, “daddy”?
To find out for sure, I posted like a celebrity couple on Instagram – checking how my friends would feel, and how I would feel doing it, over the course of a week.
Day 1: Hand-holding soft launch
I decided to start light and copy the hand-holding picture that launched Kravis’ relationship. Also: my boyfriend said the investigation was too embarrassing and he didn’t want to be featured.
I took several pictures whilst out for dinner and they all looked shit. Why do hands look so cursed when intertwined?
The next day I tried again and suddenly realised this would be much harder than I thought. The result was several unusable pictures, one of which I uploaded regardless.
It got 29 likes – not bad. My friends, endlessly supportive regardless of whatever I do, all commented that my nails looked nice. However, one also told me privately that she thought I was having a breakdown as the post “wasn’t very you”.
Day 2: Full on cheesy couples post
This time I was determined to get the vibe of being on a date into the picture, and prove to my followers this is actually “very me” and not a “cry for help”.
I tried the hand photoshoot again. Bolstered by booze, I took photo after photo and, to my delight, they began to look closer to something that might help flog a few items from SHEIN.
My nails were chipped but the composition was decent. The next day I uploaded it under the caption ‘cheesy couple’s post’. This one got 60-odd likes – hello brand deals!
Debriefing with my boyfriend, I realised people are up for endorsing signs of love online but won’t if it’s objectively just a grotesque picture. Fair enough.
Day 3: The photos which can never go on the internet
Mid-way through the investigation was my birthday, so naturally I thought: how could I exploit it for content?
My friends had planned a night away and we found an Airbnb with a hot tub outside months before. It felt like the perfect setting for a cringe couple photoshoot. Or so I thought...
We took the photos after a lot of drinks, and when I checked them the next day they were not what I thought they would be. My friend used the word “seedy” and I agree. The hot tub had a changing colours function which, along with the fact it’s a hot tub, made the photos very sexual.
There’s no way these were going on my Instagram or in a piece. I live in fear they’ll somehow get leaked even now. Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly and Kravis are horny online but never really stray into ‘Berghain piss room’ territory.
Day 4: The GQ cover
To bounce back from yesterday’s setback, I had to go bigger. It was time to replicate Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly GQ front cover - the moment that launched the internet’s obsession with their relationship. Whilst Megan Fox is nearly completely naked, I opted for a crop top and jeans and also swapped out her gun for a playstation controller.
My boyfriend reluctantly agreed to be in the picture and went for a classic hand over the face gesture.
The best thing about their GQ magazine shoot was the unhinged caption Megan Fox used when she shared it, so I tried to put my own ‘London romance on a budget’ spin on it.
Day 5: Blurry holding hands corridor shot
Roughly 50 percent of Kravis’ couple pictures are blurry pictures in corridors. I’m not sure why this is. Regardless, it turns out smartphones have now been designed to stop bad quality photos – even if you try. My housemate took 20 pictures and even shook the camera to get the end result.
While Kourtney went for the ‘what happens in Las Vegas’ caption, I opted for the wildly different ‘what happens in London’. She got 3 million likes vs my 36. Evidently the masses don’t appreciate graft.
Day 6: So random, I’m engaged x
There was only one way to end this journey: engaged!
All week, anticipation of a fake engagement was bubbling in my stomach. It felt too far, but also right.
With the help of my housemate, my boyfriend and I took a version of Kravis’ engagement post where they’re surrounded by flowers on the beach. My attempt took place at the local park in a bandstand.
I didn’t have any jewellery that looked like Kourtney’s rumoured million dollar ring, so I took a picture off Pinterest and passed it off as my own hand.
Lots of people I’ve not spoken to for years liked the picture, which was nice. A few friends said I gave them a heart attack and were discussing if I were actually engaged – signs the post was a success IMO.
Despite posting on a Wednesday morning the post got 40 likes in an hour. People from secondary school congratulated me. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get drunk on the validation. This must be what Kravis feels every day.
Day 7: Rest and reflections
Being a popular cringe couple is actually really difficult.
Turns out it’s really hard to get an aesthetically pleasing candid without a professional photographer on payroll as a member of your entourage. And, although my posts got more likes than predicted (thank you, non-irony poisoned friends I haven’t seen since secondary school!), I didn’t get anywhere close to securing a deal with Moet and Chandon. Sad.
One positive realisation was that people are far more accepting of earnest declarations of love than I first imagined. This investigation was a nice reminder that true friends will like anything you share or do online regardless of how out of character it is. One of my best friends was really shocked that my posts were for a piece and said: “I thought you were just having a love renaissance!”. Another said the whole week felt like I was “soft launching a fiancée”.
The idea of sharing emotion online was initially terrifying. As someone fairly repressed who has increasingly stopped posting on social media due to fear of judgement, this week was equivalent to exposure therapy. The whole process felt like incinerating my social media presence, but it quickly became apparent that nothing bad happens if you post weird stuff online. Liberating to know, in a way.
One the other hand, being a social media couple did put some strain on my relationship. Every evening meal became a photo opp; every intimate moment was interrupted by “shall we get a picture of this??” My boyfriend was a good sport but was clearly losing patience by the end of the experiment.
So, if you’re thinking of becoming an incredibly public power couple: go for it. Just know that it suddenly becomes your job to go on dates and your boyfriend will hate every minute of it and dream of running away.