In September of 2014, my long term, on-again off-again boyfriend from the big city popped the question. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to either of us. The days after the proposal were a whirlwind of celebrating our news with those around us: friends, family, waitresses, random people in Starbucks, everyone. My fiance and I did not hesitate to share our happy news anywhere including the internet. We plastered photos all over every corner of our social media accounts, just in case we had missed telling anyone personally.
As far as we were concerned, everyone wanted to be us. We were beautiful, young, and unhealthily idealistic. We had no idea what we were doing, but we sure could pretend like we did.
As time went on, the pictures and relationship updates did not slow down. Happy, smiling photos of us at his sister's wedding, at our favorite restaurants, and in front of various brick walls cluttered our friends' Instagram and Facebook feeds. I became unapologetically obsessed with posting unsolicited selfies of us together wherever we happened to end up. However, while the photos depicted a perfectly loved up and engaged couple, the reality was not always that ideal. Our relationship was crumbling and like kids at the end of sugar rushes, we crashed faces first into the living room carpet that was reality. We were left sitting among the pieces of a short and reckless relationship that didn't need to be put back together.
Unlike our engagement news, the two of us were not so excited about sharing with all of our friends that our engagement had failed. And while ending a relationship that was supposed to last forever comes with enough adjustments to deal with, a lot of time was spent wondering what to do about our internet presences that still showed us as a happy couple. I wondered if I should delete the photos of my fiance and I together or not. I worried that deleting them might make me seem bitter and hateful, like I wanted him erased from my memory. But I also was concerned that keeping them would make me seem like I couldn't move on. I didn't want to come across in either of those ways.
I finally deleted the photos after I noticed that my ex-fiance had removed all sign of me from his pages. I felt defeated. It was like I was conveying to my internet friends and followers that my ex didn't mean anything to me anymore, which was not the case. I still cared for him, and our time together was very important to me, but I knew we both needed to move on with our lives. It was then that I started wondering why I had posted all of those photos in the first place.
Did I really need to keep my 300+ Facebook acquaintances updated on what my fiance and I were up to? No.
Did I feel it was important to interrupt our mundane activities to document the occasions for me and the entire internet to cherish for years to come? Not really.
Did I feel I needed to remind people I barely knew how in-a-relationship, and therefore happy, I was in order to gain their approval in the forms of "likes?" Yes. Yes, I did.
Especially when our relationship wasn't' going so well, when every conversation turned into a fight, and we both poked at each other's weak spots until we were balls of insecurity, I subconsciously felt like it was important to convince everyone that we were happy. Deep down, I thought that if I could convince them, I could convince myself.
I spent a year and a half being severely single before entering a relationship again. The moment my new boyfriend and I decided to be "official," I started thinking about how long we should wait before we became "Facebook Official." A few months went by, and while my boyfriend was openly indifferent to the idea, I struggled with when the time would be right. I didn't want to do it prematurely. I thought the relationship should become established first. That way, if we broke up in the early, vulnerable months, I wouldn't have to go through another embarrassing "Nevermind!" moment with my internet friends. But waiting too long seemed like an awkward option as well. Like, "oh yeah, we've been dating for three years. NBD."
Finally, on Valentine's Day, I posted a photo of us on our fancy dinner date with a cute caption about our delicious food and romantic night together. Over the next few hours, the post got a reasonable amount of "likes," but I couldn't stop feeling self conscious about it. What were these people who just offered up "likes" without leaving comments thinking? And worse, what about the people who saw the photo but didn't "like" it? Were they silently judging me for dating someone new? Did they disapprove of my boyfriend and overall life choices? Did they silently hate me from afar?
I got so frustrated at how much I cared what my internet friends and followers thought, that I finally decided to delete the post altogether. I knew I shouldn't care what anyone else thought of my new relationship, other than myself and my boyfriend, but deep down, I kind of did. I wanted everyone to think I was the coolest and prettiest girl ever with the most fabulous life, not to mention, boyfriend. The problem is that is what almost every twenty-something girl secretly wants, so the competition pool is a pretty full.
From that night on, I chose to keep Facebook, and the rest of social media, out of my love life. My relationship, along with all other aspects of my existence, is not in competition with anyone else's, and I have nothing to prove to anyone who keeps up with me online. Also, I should not feel pressure to put up a front and convince others that everything is perfect and happy all the time.
People who unconsciously compare their lives to other people's online presences or post content to gain approval can create toxic environments for themselves and others. It happens to the best of us. We see those women online whose lives seem to be flawless: their spouses always look perfect, their babies never puke all over themselves, and they never have to work out to keep perfect figures. It can be easy to start to comparing how messed up we look in comparison, when in reality, those women are just like us.
When we start using our social media accounts as ways to gain self-worth — be it through posting dozens of selfies so people will give you compliments or trying to convince everyone that nothing bad ever happens to you — we give ourselves impossible standards to live up to, and can cause others to feel insecure about themselves, which is not what social media should be about.
Since taking social media out of the equation, I spend less time trying to take perfect photos of our dates and more enjoying the time I get to spend with my boyfriend. It's strangely liberating to just put my phone away and keep my boyfriend and our relationship all to myself. Besides, there should only be room for two people in a relationship, which does not leave room for my 300 Facebook friends.