06 Mar Is exchanging words of love with your partner on social media real, or is it an insincere exercise to flaunt your love in the face of others?
We receive quite a number of questions each week from visitors and members. I answer all questions directly and privately, however, from time to time, we get a question that I think others may also have on their mind therefore sharing it, as well as the answer, may be useful. Needless to say, details relating to the identity of the member who asked will either be altered or omitted to protect the privacy of the asker.
With that in mind, here’s a question I was asked this week: Is exchanging words of love with your partner on social media real, or is it an insincere exercise to flaunt your love in the face of others?
I really liked this question. It is of course very topical as social media has become part of our everyday interaction with all those in our lives, not least our partners. I do have to hold my hand up here and declare that my first reaction to this question was that you are asking the wrong person. I don’t get this new phenomenon of expressing love to your partner on social media. However, I paused and thought about it for a while because I have to factor in the fact that I am a child of the 70’s. I grew up in a totally different environment where social media, or even mobile phones, didn’t exist. So, before I become judgemental, I have to also remember that my parents never got why I’d rather listen to my music on a walk-man (remember them?) then on our home music system. They also didn’t get why I found it necessary to have a tear or two in my denims (I could go on, but I won’t, I think you get what I’m trying to say….). In other words, I’m not sure where the line lies between generational progress and loss of sincerity which I think is what this question is about.
If we think about it, perhaps we are missing the real issue behind the question. We must consider the individuals involved. To them, social media may just be the easiest and most obvious way to communicate. Therefore, if they are choosing this avenue to say ‘I love you’ to their partners, only they would know if it’s a genuine gesture of love or if it’s more an exercise of flaunting their love in the face of their social circle.
Looking at it from this point of view, it doesn’t matter how you send a message to a partner. Giving your loved one a card with some loving words does not make it any more or less sincere than doing it through social media. You could still be lying; surely we cannot say that lying to your partner started as a direct cause of the invention of the internet. Therefore, we need to go to the core of the issue, is the relationship itself genuine? Is it based on true love or is it something both partners need so they feel socially accepted or perhaps simply so they avoid feeling lonely? If we pose the question within this framework, we have to conclude that the only real way to gauge a relationship is not by looking at the method used to send messages to one another, we have to instead use those two tried and tested tools: time and being honest with yourself.
I don’t see social media as the diluter of emotional expression. I think there is a much bigger threat out there: the battle between political correctness and conformity on one side, and freedom of expression and liberation of the self on the other; sadly, the former seems to be winning. The current understanding of relationships encourages repression, editing of thought and being careful to prevent getting in the bad books. We encourage not asking too many questions or expressing doubt in order to avoid rocking the boat. This, more than anything, kills love.
If we change this mentality, if we allow partners to be truly honest and expressive to one another, we may increase the number of genuinely fulfilling long term relationships that start and continue to be fun, rather than slowly but surely turn them from fun to functional. The cost may be that many relationships start and end quickly because revealing your mind as you would with a best friend does not appeal to everyone around you, that is why we have one or two best friends but know tens and hundreds of people. This brings us closer to the essence of this question. Can we make relationships only last if they are sincere best friendships where for example the children of such a couple will witness their parents exchange laughter, love and happiness far more than friction and criticism?
We can do this by changing some of our current understandings. For example, if we make couples aware that sharing their fantasies, realised and unrealised, past and present, says ‘I truly love you’ far more than not sharing them, then we can go a long way in tackling the ever-increasing number good relationships becoming dull and loveless. Sharing your brain’s mischievous side says “I want to love the real you, and I truly want you to love the real me, this is why I want to share ALL my brain with you because there is no point in you accepting just the gentrified society approved version of it, this will eventually kill the fun that we currently have and hope to continue to have”. Not sharing it is saying “Oh god, I don’t want to say or do the wrong and get in trouble, who cares if the laughter goes between us, most couples stop having fun after a while, I can laugh and let go and be myself when I go out with my friends, at home, I just want peace”. However, ‘peace’ is exactly what you will not have if you buy into this way of thinking. A 50% divorce rate and an 80% lovelessness rate in long term relationships proves that.
Therefore, in short, I think attacking public expressions of love on social media is attacking the effect, not the cause of the problem.
I do want to add that, on a personal note, I can never see myself expressing love on social media and meaning it. Then again, I also said some years back that I would never talk to strangers of social hubs like this because I saw it as a waste of time. So, who knows, maybe for our next anniversary, I’ll send my partner something on Instagram….