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Study reveals the truth about oversharing Facebook couples

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Anna Brech
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Do you repress an eye roll every time you spot a loved-up Facebook post? It’s not a totally fake move, according to a new study

Like any type of cheese, couple updates on Facebook have a limited shelf life.

Post them now and again, and they’ll be well-received. Time them too often, however, and they get over-ripe.

Most people assume that if you go overboard on how happy you and your partner are on social media, you may be masking a few problems in real life. 

And now, a new study has added an intriguing slant on the topic.

Psychology professor Gwendolyn Seidman and her colleagues at Albright College in the States surveyed 348 Facebook users about how they used the platform within their relationships. 

They found that Facebook may indeed be used to compensate for a weaker relationship: but only in the case of what the researchers term “excessive relationship displays”.

“Excessive relationship displays” count as posting content on a partner’s wall that you would not feel comfortable saying to them in real life, or content that shows more affection between you as a couple than you would demonstrate in real life.

It also includes posting potentially embarrassing  material about a partner or a relationship. 

The study found that people who posted excessive displays on Facebook were actually less satisfied with their relationships in real life. 

In addition, the same group of people believed that posting in such a way helped bring them closer to their respective partners (regardless of whether it actually did).

“Those who are less satisfied may post Facebook content that shows levels of affection that they aren’t displaying in their actual offline relationship,” Professor Seidman writes in Psychology Today

“These individuals then believe that engaging in these types of posts has helped their relationship. It’s not clear if it actually has this helpful effect on their relationships. It is possible it has no effect or is even harmful.” 

However, the same study, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, also found that couple posts can be an indication of a happy relationship; if they don’t fall into the excessive display category.

So, participants who posted general relationship information, including profile photos of themselves together and status updates about themselves as a couple, were generally more satisfied than those who did not post at all about their relationships.

The bottom line is that regular couple posts on Facebook can reflect the reality of a happy relationship in real life: but not if that reality is exaggerated.

“The types of displays that simply involve sharing photos and information about one’s relationship may indicate higher levels of satisfaction,” says Seidman.

“However, when someone’s relationship displays on Facebook reflect more affection than they show offline, it is likely that they are in a less satisfying relationship.”

Images: Getty

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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