• Couples aren’t as happy as they look on social media, and modeling your relationship after these picture-perfect facades will most likely not end well.
  • Happy couples actually post less on social media because they’re focused on their time together, they aren’t looking for validation, and they show their love in private, more intimate ways. 
  • On the other hand, insecure couples post more because they aren’t just trying to convince their followers that they’re happy — they’re often trying to convince themselves, too.
  • Failure to recognize these social media facades or to adjust the weight that they hold can have detrimental effects on your relationship.
  • You’ll likely set unrealistic expectations, ruminate over your relationship downfalls, place unfair blame on your partner, or even drive your partner away. 
  • Recognizing and unsubscribing from the facade will allow you to refocus your energy on nurturing your real-life relationship and becoming a truly happy couple.

Social media platforms are home to carefully curated content. Rarely (if ever) do we post an unflattering photo on Instagram, write an uncomplimentary Facebook status, or share a tweet that isn’t funny. I’m happy to be the lab rat here. 

In the last photo I posted on Instagram, my hair falls just right, I’m wearing my favorite t-shirt, and even my dog’s smiling big. In my most recent Facebook status, I’m bragging about a new Thriveworks article and telling others they should read it — it’s convincing, if I do say so myself. And I don’t use Twitter because I’m not funny.

I put on a facade of my best self on social media. We all do. And part of that facade, for those of us with significant others, is our relationships. 

The reality is that most couples aren’t as happy as they look on Instagram and Facebook. And so, if you compare your real-world relationship to these picture-perfect relationships on social media, yours will never measure up.

Fortunately, as with most problems, acknowledging the problem is the first step to solving it. But in case you aren’t convinced that the couples you aspire to be aren’t real (or at least aren’t telling you the whole truth), we’ll start there.

Happy Couples Post Less on Social Media

A few years ago, Tracy Clayton, the host of the Buzzfeed podcast Another Round, asked her Twitter followers to get a little vulnerable. “If you’re comfortable doing so, post a picture of you that you shared on social media where you were actually having a really tough time in life even tho you look perfectly fine in the picture,” she tweeted.

The photos poured in, and so did the true stories behind them. A happy-looking mom with her newborn — who was actually experiencing severe postpartum anxiety. A happy-looking teenager covered in paint from a Color Run — who was actually struggling with suicidal thoughts. And, of course, a happy-looking couple dressed to impress at their friends’ wedding — who was actually in the middle of a fight. 

“Happy-looking” is key here. These responses to Clayton’s tweet show that what you see on social media is not reflective of reality. 

Better yet, what you don’t see on social media might be more indicative of the truth. Research indicates that happy couples actually post less on social media — why? 

  • They focus on their time together. Happy couples soak up each other’s company. Their priority isn’t taking a photo of themselves and writing a caption about how amazing date night was — their priority is making date night one to remember.
  • They don’t need approval or validation from others. Happy couples don’t need likes or flattering comments to make them feel good about their relationship. Nor do they feel the need to prove that they’re happy. They just are. 
  • They show their love to each other privately. Sure, an appreciation post is nice every now and then. But happy couples show their love in other, more meaningful and intimate ways that aren’t for the whole world to see. 

In contrast, insecure couples often post more on social media. And a big reason behind it is they aren’t just trying to convince you that they’re happy — they’re trying to convince themselves, too. The reality is that it’s probably time for all of you (and me too) to log out of your social media accounts. Focus your attention on the real-life relationship right in front of you and engage face-to-face with your romantic partner. 

The Negative Effects of Comparing Your Relationship to Relationships Online

Failure to recognize these social media facades or to adjust the weight that they hold can have detrimental effects on your relationship. Consider:

  • You’ll likely set unrealistic expectations for your relationship. Remember: When it comes to social media, you only see what others want you to see. Despite all of the smiling photos, the perfect couple does not exist — every relationship has downfalls, you just might not see or read about those downfalls on social media. So, if you aim to be that perfect couple that does not exist, you’ll fail every time and so will your relationship.
  • You might end up ruminating over your relationship’s downfalls. Comparing your relationship to the very best pieces of someone else’s can make you feel insecure. All of the downfalls of your relationship will become more apparent and the good parts will fall out of focus. 
  • You could place undue blame on your partner. Feelings of resentment may arise and depreciate the value of everything your partner does for you. “Why don’t you buy me flowers that beautiful?” “Why don’t you take me to nice restaurants like that?” Or even, “Why don’t you post photos of us more often?”
  • You’re at risk of driving your partner away. This is the very real worst-case scenario. Those unrealistic expectations, ruminations, blame, and resentment might destroy your relationship — before you realize that couples aren’t as happy as they look on social media. And that you were happier than them all along. 

It’s normal to long for that picture-perfect relationship. To dream up the fairytale love story that you’ve been teased with. But perfect doesn’t exist. And the sooner you realize social media only exacerbates this deep, unrealistic desire of yours, the better. 

Log Out of Instagram, Tune Into Each Other

You have to take romantic relationships on social media at face value. Remember: Happy couples post less. And even the truly happy couples that you see on Instagram or Facebook probably aren’t sharing their flaws with their followers. Instead, they’re posting that nice-every-now-and-then appreciation post.

So, stop subscribing to the facade. Remind yourself that we only share the best versions of ourselves and our relationships with our followers. Log out and take a break from social media for a while. When you log back in, unfollow any accounts that cause you to doubt your relationship. And most importantly, tune back into your partner. Spending time together — raw, quality time that isn’t interrupted by a photo opp — is essential to building on your connection and becoming a truly happy couple.