Sammy Nickalls
September 25, 2015 12:13 pm

Facebook oversharers. . . we all know one. You know, that person who clogs up your newsfeed posting every single thing about their life. And because they are able to post about the good stuff and cover up the bad stuff, many times, they’re painting an online picture of their life that doesn’t exactly match up to reality. But let’s take this and apply it to a couple. If you think about the most lovey-dovey couple on Facebook — you know, the pair that is always posting pictures of each other kissing and statuses that could essentially double as love letters — that couple very well could be getting into arguments IRL all the time.

Do Facebook profiles actually match up with their real “coupleness” — and when they “like” a lot of the same pages, is that a representation of how close they are offscreen? In a recent study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, researchers analyzed just that. The study took a look at the depth of a relationship vs. its presence on Facebook by surveying 46 different couples, measuring how invested and committed they are in their relationship as well as their overall relationship satisfaction.

To do this, researchers used a scale called the “inclusion of other in the self” (IOS) scale, in which participants are asked to choose out of an assortment of Venn diagrams the best one that represents their relationship (one circle representing themselves, one circle representing their partner). The study also measured profile overlap via “Facebook inclusion of other in the self.” No Venn diagrams involved here; the researchers instead used three different types of information gathered from Facebook: 1. The number of mutual friends compared to individual friends; 2. The number of pictures featuring both members of the couple compared to individual pictures; 3. The number of mutual “likes” of pages compared to individual “likes.”

The study uncovered something interesting: that those who feel more overlapped with their partner are more overlapped on social media. Those who felt more committed in their relationship shared more with their partner — in terms of friends, “likes,” and photographs on Facebook, for example — than those who didn’t.

So it turns out that the couple you’ve been thinking of throughout this entire article probably does feel closer to their partner. . . or at least, that’s their perceived reality. But before we draw too many conclusions here, it’s important to note that this certainly isn’t the first study on the infamous relationship between couples and Facebook. Let’s take a few major studies and check out the evidence, shall we?

When you’re falling in love, you post more often. . . that is, until you’re in the relationship

Last year, Facebook Data Science published a blog post outlining exactly how the site knows you’re falling in love. There tends to be a pattern — you post more and more often (likely in part to impress the object of your interest) until the day you are in a relationship with that special someone. Suddenly, there’s a sharp drop-off, and you post less often, presumably because you’re enjoying time IRL with that special someone.

When you’re falling out of love, you post more often

Facebook Data Science also published a blog post highlighting that Facebook knows all — including when you’re falling out of love. As the fire starts to die down, you post more often, with a sharp peak happening when the relationship breaks off. This is presumably because you need more support from your friends and loved ones during this time.

Those who “brag” about their relationship on Facebook are less confident. . . 

Previous studies (such as a September 2014 study entitled “Can You Tell That I’m In A Relationship“) have suggested that those who share about their love more often are less secure in their relationship — that their chronic posting was actually a way to say, “Yes, everybody, I am in a relationship!”

. . . or have a misplaced sense of confidence

Other studies have found that those who use Facebook to broadcast their relationship have their confidence closely tied in the relationship. That is, their relationship is what makes them feel confident in themselves, and they’re afraid of said confidence going out the window when the relationship does.

In the context of the above findings, the latest study’s implications — that more posts = more feelings of closeness — could simply be oversharers wanting to feel closer. In some cases, oversharers may have their confidence rooted in their relationship, or may feel less secure and are using social media to ease those feelings. The brain is a powerful thing, and it’s easy to convince ourselves that we’re truly happy.

But hey, maybe those online x’s and o’s are genuine. All is fair in love and war.

(Image via Shutterstock.)

Related:

Why this guy’s Facebook post about his girlfriend went viral

Science says you’re in a good relationship if you do this

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