internet dating

OK, so let me be a total jerk for a second. There’s this one couple on Facebook that makes me roll my eyes every single time I see their posts: constant pics of making out, her foot popping as he lifts her in the air. I met these people in college, and although I can probably count the number of times I’ve spoken to them on one hand, I know more details about the inner-workings of their relationship (or at least, the happy, lovey-dovey stuff they choose to share) than I do about literally anyone else’s. If they’re deeply and truly in love, that’s great, and I’m happy for them — but honestly, they’re one step away from making a joint Facebook account.

However, every time I groan at their sappy kissing selfies, my stomach turns with guilt. . . because my annoyance is totally hypocritical, and I know it. The thing is, I used to be a chronic relationship oversharer, too.

Right before my sophomore year of college, after going through a messy breakup with my very first boyfriend of almost four years, I met J. He was cute, funny, charismatic, and newly single as well. Unlike my ex, he didn’t criticize my passion for social media, nor did he silently doubt my choice of major (communications). Unlike my ex, he was emotionally available. He wasn’t afraid of expressing his appreciation for me, both to my face and to his loved ones. And to my utter shock, he actually wanted to take cute pictures of us together and show them off on social media.

To 19-year-old me, all of this translated into a gorgeous sentence that I wanted to scream from the rooftops: he wants to show people he loves me. This was an entirely new feeling for me. I hadn’t realized how different my first relationship was until J walked into my life.

Sharing the cutesy elements of our relationship all over Facebook started as a combination of two things: 1) that wonderful, over-the-moon high, the kind that can only be achieved via a brand new relationship, and 2) my eagerness to reciprocate that appreciation that J was giving me in abundance. But after a while, I started noticing all the likes, the comments. And I started to believe, deep down, that if I don’t keep sharing everything about our relationship, people will notice. People will think we’re not in love anymore.

I have to show people I love him, too, I thought.

And that’s when I became addicted.

First, I’d post cutesy stuff about J primarily as a “thank you.” A thank you when he would make me dinner when I was exhausted, or when he would surprise me with a bottle of wine.

But after a while, though our relationship started to wane slowly and steadily, I kept on posting.

I’d post a pic of the roses he gave me on Valentine’s Day morning — the ones he got me five minutes previously from a Produce Junction across the street after he forgot about the day entirely and noticed me sadly looking at my roommate’s bouquet — with the caption “From my handsome Valentine!” I’d post about missing him during spring break. . . even though, with one day’s notice, he had just bailed on a week-long road trip we were supposed to embark on with another couple (he drank and played video games with his buddy at home while I third-wheeled the road trip, half in tears the whole time).

What I was doing was unhealthy, and I knew it. I had become so deeply entrenched in the need to prove to everyone that I’m happy in my relationship, I PROMISE, I’M HAPPY, NO REALLY, HE MAKES ME HAPPY. I was trying, in vain, to stick a sparkly bow onto a ripped-up box.

After a while, all my posts became less about expressing my love, but proving to myself that I am. Or, rather, fooling myself into thinking I am. Because I so desperately wanted to be. I so badly wanted to transport us back to the beginning, the honeymoon period, when we were happy and carefree and so madly ecstatic.

My relationship oversharing began benevolently, truly. I wanted to express my appreciation. And that’s very well what that Facebook couple I know could be doing, too. By no means do I think this is how it is for everyone who posts about their relationship all the time. But for me, oversharing quickly became my crutch, my ruse. It became my only source of comfort and my only way to deny the truth.

I don’t know how it happened, but I finally came to the realization that it doesn’t matter how many times I post. It doesn’t matter if I post a #ManCrushMonday, and it doesn’t matter how lovely the Valentine’s Day roses look on Instagram. That glimmering bow wasn’t fixing the damaged box underneath. It turns out that sparkly bows may shine in the sun, but only when you hold them at the right angle.