As I made coffee this morning, I struggled to remember what dating was like before social media became a part of every day life. I thought back to the days of anonymity, speculation, and sharing news by word of mouth. Before the days of Facebook, there was no definite box to click- “Single,” “In a relationship,” or of course, “It’s complicated.”
These days, relationships seem to be defined by a careful selection of what is shared for the world to see. You see the smiling faces in their filtered Instagram posts, their exciting activities through Foursquare check-ins, and photos of all the seemingly delicious food they’re consuming. I’ve scrolled through these posts while home by myself, watching Netflix and eating microwave popcorn in peace, wondering what is really going on behind the scenes. Sure, they’re enjoying meals together, tagging each other at cool places, and photographing every minute of their excursions for the world to see—but when I see a comment on one of these photos stating, “You look so happy!” I can’t help but wonder if it’s all a show.
Don’t get me wrong; I am not a relationship hater. The real question is, how many relationships are, well, real?
We all have those friends who post about their relationship every day. They must stake their claim on their significant other’s wall. It’s not really a relationship if it’s not Facebook official, right? Whenever I see couples communicating on Facebook, thanking each other for a great day moments after leaving each other, I wonder, would it be so difficult to call or text? Do they just want it clear to the world that they are, indeed, a thing? Personally, I’d rather be content by myself than constantly worried about what the world is thinking or what girls are liking my boyfriend’s status.
Eventually the inevitable happens in any long-term relationship—the talk of marriage. While many of my peers from the Midwest began to find a mate and settle down, I was heading to Taco Tuesday and having short-lived romances with men diagnosed with Peter Pan syndrome. Marriage is great for when you’re ready and if you have found your best friend and companion, but it discourages me how quickly people rush into it. When I see the pictures of couples with huge smiles and diamonds flashed in the air for the camera, a few things run through my mind:
“Awww. I’m glad he finally proposed!”
“I wonder how hard she hounded him to propose.”
“I didn’t even know they were dating.”
A quiet relationship is rare these days. I must say that I respect the people who focus on their personal lives rather than a digital perception of happiness. However, for the majority of social media users, everyone must know every detail about their relationship… including the wedding planning.
The next year will be a production. There will be high levels of stress for newly engaged brides… and they will let the world know. Incessant postings about wedding dress shopping, picking out a venue, engagement parties, bridal parties, bachelorette parties, asking for DJ recommendations, and menu tasting. This goes on and on, until the actual wedding, where the photos and videos are dragged out for yet another year or more. Once the wedding, and dieting, is over, brides live in the memories of that day they wore a white dress and had all eyes on them. Behold, reality.
From time to time I’ll catch up with one of these friends who appear to be extremely well adjusted and happy from their social profiles. The wedding is over, and the real world has kicked in. They’ve got the relationship, the house, and weekend trips to Home Depot. You can imagine my surprise when one of these friends tells me about their upcoming divorce, couple’s counseling sessions, or potential separation. “We really rushed into it,” they say. “We got married too young.” Sigh. They looked so happy on Facebook.
It’s difficult to tame my cynicism when every detail is laid out for the world to see… and I do hope that people are as happy off-camera as they are on. I just wonder how many people focus on their own happiness, not the happiness the world expects from them. Meanwhile, my own relationship status box is left blank, and I intend to keep the world guessing.