When Public Displays of Affection on Social Media Are Hiding Unhappiness

cartoon person with long hair covering their eyes and sitting behind a laptop that has stickers that represent Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on it
Image by Pixabay / CC 0

I’ve always been someone who posts positive things about partners on social media. Always.

I post positive things when things are going well. I post positive things when they’re not.

It’s a funny thing because when you’re a relationship writer, people expect you to let it all hang out. For you to have no boundaries about what you say.

But I don’t talk about troubling relationship problems in public while they’re ongoing.

It’s only in secret do I talk about negative things that really bother me while they’re going on — and once it gets better enough to not be scary or worse enough that it’s terminal, eventually I talk about it in public. But only after the time has passed. And I’m performing a post mortem on the relationship. Or at least a bad phase in it that’s safely in the rearview (if the relationship survives the rough patch).

I can look back now at Facebook memories and see glowing statuses I wrote about my ex during times when I was rather unhappy. Miserable, even. When I was frustrated by the division of labor in the house. And when everything I did or said seemed to annoy him.

And I can look at the same accounts and see times when I posted happily in earnest about him or another partner.

The curious thing is that I can tell which one it was as I read each subsequent post, whether it was written out of true happiness or instead a¬†desire for that happiness. Even though in some cases, it’s been years. I instantly read each status and know the truth. Whether it was an honest celebration of a happy relationship or a form of trying to cheer myself in public about a relationship that was troubling me.

It’s clear to me which one it is.

When I go to read other people’s statuses, however, it’s far more ambiguous. I can’t tell.

When Public Displays of Affection on Social Media Are Hiding Unhappiness

It’s said that posting a lot of public displays of affection about your relationship on social media can be a sign that you’re unhappy. That when you do so, instead of enjoying the relationship simply for itself, you’re trying to thrum up those feelings of happiness by recruiting an audience who’ll help you feel things you aren’t actually feeling. Or aren’t really feeling at the intensity or with the consistency that you’d prefer.

I’m not so sure. Having dabbled in that behavior myself, I’ve also done it for other reasons. I know that there have been moments I’ve truly celebrated what I have.

I know that it happens. That sometimes public displays of affection on social media are hiding unhappiness. But I also know that’s not always the case.

And so if I see someone posting a lot about how much they love their partner, I’m going to be happy for them and not assume the worst.

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Books by Page Turner:

Dealing with Difficult Metamours

A Geek’s Guide to Unicorn Ranching

Poly Land: My Brutally Honest Adventures in Polyamory 

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