Recently, Dr. Benjamin Le, a psychology professor at Haverford College took a closer look at the social politics of Facebook, and discovered something many of us already know: nobody loves an over-sharer. But this was particularly true, according to Le’s research, of couples who gushed in photos and status updates about their dreamy relationships.
For the study, over 100 participants judged fake profiles featuring couples offering up a variety of status updates. They ranged from the overly romantic (‘Pining away for Jordan. . . I just love you so much I can’t stand it!”) to the gush-free (“Phoneless for a bit, email me!”). What Le and his team discovered, was that the participants really didn’t love or “like” the lovey-dovey updates and smoochy photos.
“There is some danger in getting too schmoopie about your relationship on Facebook,” Le writes on the website Science of Relationships. “Although your friends will think your relationship is going well, they will like you less.”
Now here’s the thing: I’m sure if researchers did the same study involving people over-sharing about their great jobs, their awesome families, or their impressive athletic abilities, they’d get similar results. It’s been my experience that people tend to skew ungenerous when it comes to other people’s good fortune, particularly if your friend is absolutely crushing it in an area where you desperately wish YOU were crushing it.
I get that a barrage of PDA photos and/or mushy-gushy wuvvy-wuv status updates from a friend in a relationship is a lot to take, but how rude or disrespectful is your friend really being by sharing his/her love with Facebook friends? Unless those relationship selfies (which I guess are called “relfies,” you really do learn something new every day) have significant tongue involved or EVERY time you check Facebook your friend has posted something new about how much she loooooooooooves her boyfriend/girlfriend, your friend is probably just living her life.
Social media is the place where people share their successes and advantages, because it’s the quickest and easiest way to get good news out. If you’re feeling not-so-great about yourself, it can be rough to scroll through your feed and see people scoring the jobs you wish you could score, being in the kind of relationship you wish you could be in, living a life you wish you could live. But it’s not the responsibility of the people in your Facebook feed to stop succeeding.
I remember so clearly when I first joined Facebook in college. One of the first questions my college roommates ever asked me was “So are you on Facebook?” to which my answer was “Am I on Face-what?” My freshman and sophomore years of college were decidedly boyfriend-less years with a few short, doomed, would-have-been-better-if-they-had-never-even-happened quasi-relationships thrown in to add some variety into my misery. My roommate, my two best college friends, and basically everyone, it seemed, had a boyfriend and posted their sap-tastic relationship pictures to social media on the regular. And I was the JEALOUS-EST.
I was one of the original Facebook-relationship-picture haters. And that was my bad, Because I wasn’t doing my job as a friend resenting my friends’ happiness. My friends were happy and in love and my job was to figure out how to be happy for them (and moreover, how to be happy without the validation of a relationship). The posted PDA was annoying, yes, but it was also sweet. It was a sign my friends were happy. I had to figure out a way to be grateful for the constant updates that my friends were doing well, not resentful, and I’m so glad to say that’s what I eventually managed to do.
Here’s what I discovered: it’s on us as individuals to figure out how to be happy for other people’s happiness and not translate someone else’s success into our own personal failure. Sometimes, of course, when things get too “schmoopie” (as Dr. Le would say), it’s a challenge. But it’s not the responsibility of our Facebook friends to live smaller lives. It’s our responsibility to be bigger people.
(Featured image via)