Everyone has different opinions on the whole “amount of your life that you should reveal on social media” thing. There’s everyone over 40, who we can split pretty comfortably into “Facebook mums” (reveal a lot, possibly too much) and “Facebook dads” (reveal far too little, omitting posting on social media because “they’re after my data, Jean”, rendering them an entirely faceless and emotionless social media entity). Then there are young people, whose presence on platforms like Instagram generally fluctuate.
Some find it necessary to constantly update their Instagram followers on such things as: how adorable their girlfriend looks while asleep on a Megabus, a candid shot of said girlfriend eating popcorn, a selfie of boyfriend and boyfriend out walking the dog on a Sunday, a selfie of girlfriend and girlfriend in an ASDA self-checkout, etc. Others, however, will post bone-chillingly little couples content on Instagram. (Straight men, I am obviously looking directly at you as I say this.) But what's that all about? Is it a sign they want to hide you, like a troll in their basement, or is it simply not that deep?
For some, an unwillingness to post their partners comes from a certain amount of self-preservation or fear of public embarrassment upon breaking up. “I’m super wary of posting [pictures] with anyone now, to be honest”, says Franco, 26, who up until recently has posted pictures of all his past relationships on Instagram.
“I look back at my posts and half the people there are snakes. Imagine that,” he adds. “You make a page that’s all about your partner, and next thing you know you can’t even handle scrolling down to delete the pictures. Eugh.”
It is true that in documenting each beautiful moment of a blossoming relationship, you run the risk of playing yourself on an epic scale. It’s an inherent risk that comes with the territory – the risk that you might possibly (definitely) fuck up a relationship that you’ve posted about in lengthy detail, and then, at the end of it all, be unable to look at your own profile without it feeling like 18 plasters are being ripped off your arm at the same time.
For others, it's more about privacy. “I’ve never posted pictures of myself anyway, and I wouldn’t change what I post just because I have a girlfriend,” says Freddie, 18. “I don’t feel any need to show people that I’m in a relationship by posting pictures of my partner online, in the same way that I feel no need to show people what I look like or what I’m doing.” These words, spoken like a true Facebook-Dad-in-the-Making, reflect many people’s opinion about posting anything at all on social media: unnecessary.
For some couples, like Joey, 23, and his girlfriend, it’s more about being together IRL. “We don’t have many photos together, and that’s down to the fact we’re just never on our phones much when we’re together,” he says. “Taking pics of our dates is an afterthought.”
This unplugged, living-in-the-moment philosophy is, surely, a good thing? Surely a lower volume of photos posted means a higher volume of quality, in-person time being spent gazing swooningly into each others eyes, as opposed to hours trying to get a like-worthy pic of your partner until your arms ache from holding up your phone, repeating the phrase “why are you doing that thing with your face” until one of you storms out?
Psychologists agree that excessive posting about a relationship online is not always a sign of a perfect relationship, despite the fact it can look like it. According to research published in the the Personality and Social Psychology bulletin, higher “relationship visibility” may be a sign that one or both parties is feeling insecure in the relationship. In other words: that couple who are always posting photos might be hoping to prove something.
Researchers also found that an active unwillingness to post pictures of your partner may be a sign that you have an avoidant attachment style, meaning that you typically withdraw and disengage from your partner regularly, as opposed to giving them the attention that they might want.
This theory of not posting a relationship on social media due to avoidant, fearful tendencies is backed up by Chris, 24: “The idea of posting loads of pics of my gf freaks me out. Obviously I love her, but I don’t know. I hate the idea of being known as half of a couple, rather than as a full person in my own right.”
Axel, 23, says a similar thing: “It’s very rare for me to post pictures of my relationship, and I think it stems from a weakness thing. I never really got the quote from 50 Cent’s ‘Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ out of my head: ‘Love’ll get you killed.’”
Sobering words from Axel there, but words that we could possibly all do with remembering every once in a while, perhaps before we make the decision to upload that seven-slide “Happy 17-Week Anniversary To My Sweetest Angel Face, Can’t Wait To Spend the Rest Of My Life With You” post.