Social Media PDAs

‘Hubby made me breakfast in bed!’ (Accompanied by #marriedlife and a photo of said breakfast.)

We’ve all seen posts like this. Many of us have done the social media PDA thing and thought little of it. But what are we really trying to convey when we do and what effects does it have on those in our online vicinity?

Arguably, people who post things about their partners aren’t trying to convey a particular message at all.  Many of us are so accustomed to sharing bits and pieces of our lives online that it becomes an entrenched, unthinking habit. Graduate? Post a graduation shot and watch the likes roll in. Wearing a cute new outfit? Post a selfie. Sitting at home on the couch? Snapchat a story about it. Sharing things about our partner simply becomes part and parcel of this unselfconscious sharing process.

The phenomena of making ‘announcements’ about our personal lives covers anything from a new job to a new car to a new handbag, but it’s particularly interesting to see how Muslims announce their relationships online. Because so many relationships remain undercover until the engagement, it can come as a complete surprise to many when a friend (i.e. some person we met once at a party) updates their relationship status to ‘Engaged’. (It’s rare that Muslims will update their status to ‘In a relationship’, given the ambiguity this seems to carry, but I’ve often thought that if Facebook had a ‘in-a-secret-getting-to-know-thing’ option, we’d be all over it.) Many people post little hints before the actual exchange of rings, but we seem to be used to people announcing their engagements or even marriages with little to no preamble.

A person’s posts about their partner often reflect the stages of the relationship as it progresses. Initially, there’s a lot of wonder, gratitude and general all-around mushiness. Love hearts and emojis will be thrown around willy-nilly. ‘Alhamdulillahs’ and ‘MashaAllahs’ will abound. Photos will often be high in volume and may be sweet and cutesy to the point of tooth decay. Once the wedding is over, wedding shots will be circulated for months to come, often with neat little hashtags to remind everyone that it’s been #threemonths. But soon enough, these posts will decrease in their frequency and ones which are shared will begin to exhibit a quirkier, slightly irritating side to their partner, like them leaving their socks on the dining table or making a witty wisecrack at their other half’s expense.

And then there are those who remain completely undercover. No photos will be posted and no relationship statuses will be updated, leaving the general online populace slightly confused as to whether a wedding has actually taken place. For those who use their social media presence as a political/intellectual/da’wah tool, this lack of personal updates seems fairly standard. But their online silence regarding their partner arguably leaves room for potential misunderstandings and mishaps. Some would argue that we have a responsibility to ensure that people know we are well and truly ‘off the market’, and that if our social media presence is silent on this issue, people may get the wrong idea. Is this person engaged, married, divorced or a unicorn? No one really knows.

Another issue to consider is the effect posting lovey dovey things about a partner may have on those who are struggling to find one. Frequently, we think about this from the perspective of attracting envy and the evil eye, but it’s also important to consider that the negative aspects of relationships are very rarely displayed. It’s easy to forget this when our newsfeeds are groaning under the weight of cutesy couple photos, but all relationships have their hidden struggles and disappointments, ones which aren’t easily packaged for social consumption. The stories of sorrow behind the anniversary posts and the perfectly captured holiday shots are all too easy to miss, to the point where people even begin to compare their very real, flawed relationships to people’s heavily edited Facebook relationships.

How, when and why we share things about our relationships still seems to be somewhat unclear. As with any of the things we share, there’s no real ‘need’ to do so, but there’s also nothing inherently wrong with expressing joy and gratitude for our blessings. In fact, if we weren’t able to do so on social media, it’d be a pretty bleak, boring and meme-ridden space. Family and friends all over the world can be connected to celebrations and even people they’ve never physically met, and this can only be a beautiful thing.  But it’s also important to think carefully about the way in which we depict our relationships and how this may feed into a general culture of gratuitous, narcissistic oversharing. We don’t need to tell all 500 of our followers every time our partner buys us a chocolate muffin; we can just thank them personally and tuck right in.


5 responses to “Social Media PDAs

  1. Im wary of contacts on social media that dont post personal things. Doesnt need to be daily or weekly. But those completely silent on this aspect of their life are interesting. Why should you have access to my personal information but have yours guarded. Its like theyre silently analysing… I actually dont post very often or overshare but ocassionaly I put up the odd picture of myself or food or whatever. I guess I have the option of not befriending them on fb. Anyway who am I to tell people what to do?!

    • It is interesting that people can share so little of themselves yet be privy to everyone else’s personal snippets. But I guess they would argue that the onus is on each person to share or not share as they see fit.

  2. Hmm, I don’t particularly agree with this part: “Another issue to consider is the effect posting lovey dovey things about a partner may have on those who are struggling to find one.” Mostly because I think everybody’s social media persona is so carefully cultivated that it’s a little silly for this to be a real issue. It’s true that constantly seeing this selective depiction of what is a perfect relationship may take a toll on some people’s self-esteem, but likewise goes for everything else. People try and make their lives out to seem better than it actually is on social media all the time — posting pictures of beaches and mountains and festivals over taking pictures of them lounging on the couch doing nothing, statuses about academic achievements, not mentioning the subjects they failed along the way. These could just as well have an effect on somebody who’s feeling inadequate about their lives, falling under the false impression that everybody else is living life to the fullest and only ever succeeds. So I think it’s kind of a fallacious argument to make it out like giving people the wrong impression of a relationship is something everyone should be considerate about. I guess it goes into a larger discussion about social media and the way we’ve constructed images of who we want to be around it, but I don’t think it’s all that relevant towards the argument of couple PDA.

  3. Congratulations I just read on Instagram that you got married! I’d love to see an article about your story!

  4. This is a difficult one, in one sense I’m always happy for people when they get married and I kind of adore seeing little glimpses in to the married life. But I will admit when I’m not in the best mood or a little down about not getting married I really don’t want to see it, lol, sometimes it just depends on the day.

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