Are Couples Who Get Mushy on Facebook Actually More in Love?

August 6, 2015
What science says is really behind all those heart-eyed emojis

Everyone has those Facebook friends whose entire digital lives consist of gushing about their significant others. Whenever you sign in, you’re treated to a status proclaiming their adoration for the love of their life—or a photo that shows them looking blissed-out on their latest couple’s vacation. It’s hard not to buy into the message that they’ve achieved drunk-in-love levels even Bey and Jay couldn’t match—but is it true?

“It’s possible that they’re so in love, they really want to tell the world about it,” says Tina B. Tessina, PhD., a psychotherapist and author of the forthcoming Dr. Romance’s Guide to Dating in the Digital Age. “It feels good to talk about your happiness, even though others might not be so eager to hear it."

RELATED: What His Social Media Habits Say About Your Relationship

It really might be that simple, according to a study from Albright College. Researchers evaluated 93 Facebook users to see how they portrayed their relationships via the social media site, and some of the conclusions suggest the mushiness you see is the real deal. “In this study, I found that those who were more satisfied in their relationships were more likely to post affectionate status updates and couple photos,” says Gwendolyn Seidman, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania.

But the research raises another possibility: that ecstatic exterior could be a stand-in for true happiness or an effort to prove the poster is part of the perfect couple. The study examined relationship-contingent self-esteem (RCSE), which is a kind of self-confidence that’s inextricably linked with how your relationship is going—if things are on the up and up with your love life, you feel great, and vice-versa. “I also found that people who were high in RCSE were more likely to post information and photos to show off their relationships,” says Seidman. "It may be a way to reassure themselves, and everyone else, that the relationship is going okay."

So really, it could go either way. When it comes down to it, Tessina thinks the real reason behind why some people get so lovey-dovey online is more about showing how they feel than putting up a facade. “Rather than overcompensating, it’s more likely that they’ve had so many romantic disappointments in the past, they’re really celebrating what they have now,” she says. Sure, the people who constantly spam about how happy they are might be trying to convince the world of that fact, but they could also feel grateful to be in a good relationship.

RELATED: Why Guys Say Things on Social Media That They Won't Say to You

And how about when it comes to your relationship? If you’re more inclined to post pun-filled jokes than precious photos of you and your love, it doesn’t automatically make you less satisfied than people whose Facebook walls are filled with evidence of their love lives. “All it means is you don’t feel as strongly about social media,” says Tessina. “You know your friends don’t need to know about everything you do, or you’d prefer to tell them privately.”

Tessina’s advice comes down to focusing on yourself instead of your feed. “You should only be prying into people’s motives for posting things if you’re worried something terrible is going on,” she says. In fact, reading too much into what their posting says about them could be a clue that you’re not happy with your own love life, whether you’re singled or coupled up. “Don’t compare your inside to their outside,” says Tessina. (And really, that’s clutch advice for social-media browsing in all forms). “Concentrate on taking good emotional care of yourself instead of envying what others may or may not have,” she says.

RELATED: The Daily Habit That Can Wreck Your Relationship

But even if you have that on lock, a word of caution about social media in general: The Internet can either help your relationship or hurt it. “With couples in my counseling practice, the biggest pitfall is spending way too much time on the Web, followed by Internet porn, sex or affairs,” says Tessina. It’s easy to get sucked into scrolling through Twitter 24/7 or constantly updating the group chat between you and your best friends. Feel free to get your Facebook fix; just follow these tips to avoid any relationship-ending social media habits.

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