"Happy couples" on Facebook may not be as happy as you think, according to new research
As you scroll through your feed of mushy relationship photos and lovebird statuses, you might be rolling your eyes. But new research hints you may want to have a little sympathy for couples who are constantly posting about their relationships. According to a study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people often amp up their “relationship visibility” when they’re feeling insecure about their partner’s affections.
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The study, led by Lydia Emery from Northwestern University, surveyed 108 couples at a university in Canada, all of whom were listed as “in a relationship” on Facebook—including open relationships or marriages. Each individual kept a daily journal for two weeks, logging how secure they felt about their relationship, and also how they interacted with Facebook that day. Trained coders analyzed their Facebook profiles, taking into account how much time was spent on the social network and how many posts each partner shared about the couple. Here’s what they found: On days when one partner was feeling romantically insecure, he or she shared more statuses, photos, or posts with or about the other partner.
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While scrolling through gushing posts might make couples seem like they’re on the fast track to happily ever after, researchers showed it was not the case. In fact, Facebook is overall a pretty poor predictor for how couples are actually feeling. In August, for instance, a Finnish study from Aalto University found that while people want to be authentic online, their social profiles often include fake components in order to meet social expectations and maintain their “images.” And a recent Albright College study revealed that couples might even use Facebook to monitor their partner’s activities, and reassure themselves that their relationship is in good shape.
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So as you scroll through your news feed, no need to grumble about the over-sharers—they might just be having a bad day. Throw them a “like.”
This article originally appeared in Real Simple.