What your coupled-up Facebook selfies really say about your relationship

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Kayleigh Dray
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If you take a quick scroll through Facebook (go on, we’ll wait), it’s possible you’ll find yourself inundated with loved-up selfies and ‘romantic’ (read: painfully dull) status updates about the relationships of your acquaintances. You know the ones we mean – they usually involve a photograph of something utterly banal, such as a bubble bath, and a line about how they’re so lucky (#blessed) because their partner knows how to turn on a tap.

But what of those couples who prefer to stay quiet about their relationship on social media?

Well, as it turns out, Ronan Keating was on to something: we really do say it best when we say nothing at all. Online, at least.

It seems as if those who prefer not to present themselves as #relationshipgoals are, in fact, the ultimate #relationshipgoals, because they’re the happiest and most content couples of all, according to new research.

First things first, of course it’s completely normal – healthy, even – to be loud and proud about your relationship. However, a team from American and Canadian universities has conducted a study which suggests that the smiles in those cute couple selfies aren’t quite as genuine as we might like to think.

“On a daily basis, when people feel more insecure about their partner’s feelings, they tend to make their relationships [more] visible,” the paper states.

Couples who feel more secure in their relationships, on the other hand, are less likely to brag about them on social media – they are not seeking validation and are too busy living “in the moment” to update their status.

It’s not the first time that this theory has been postulated: sexologist Nikki Goldstein previously told Mail Online: “Often it’s the people who post the most who are seeking validation for their relationship from other people on social media.

“The likes and comments can be so validating that when someone is really struggling, that’s where they get their up from – not the person making the gesture, but what other people will say about it.”

This is supported by the fact that happier people, in general, tend to use social media far less than those who are unhappy with their lot – although this, in itself, is a ‘chicken or egg’ question, especially as scientists have found that we’re more likely to become depressed after using Facebook.

Then again, a separate study found another nuance to the issue of how visible our relationships should be on social media. And, as it turns out, displaying our relationship status on Facebook at all suggests that we’re more “satisfied, committed, invested, and with lower perceived relational alternatives”.

Or, in other words, individuals in relationships that are ‘Facebook official’ report being in more committed, stronger relationships than non-Facebook official counterparts. 

It just goes to show that there’s a definite sweet spot when it comes to showing off your #bae to the world.

Perhaps the takeaway is that while it’s obviously up to you how often you update your status and share couple selfies, it could be worth asking yourself why you’re doing it before you hit publish. If it’s to gain approval from friends and family, maybe step away from the keyboard. But, if it’s because doing so genuinely makes you feel happy (or, y’know, because you look really good in that photo), then it’s your call.

After all, Ronan Keating also said that life is a rollercoaster and we’ve just got to ride it. So throw caution to the wind and just do you...

Images: Gossip Girl/Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.