Gemma Styles: Is Other People's Facebragging Messing Up Our Relationships?
The Debrief: Why do we keep forgetting time and time again, that what we see online is just a happy little fraction of life and not the whole package?
Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins
The rose tinted glasses of Instagram are coming off. Our lives are not as we thought they would be. We know nobody posts their spots or head colds. We have seen the matrix... But Margot and Jennifer, your upstairs neighbours, are on their fourth city break this year, keep inviting you to brunch and always have a perfectly Instagrammable flower arrangement on the kitchen table. It's an epidemic of joyful coupled-up people - and you've just had a row over the toilet seat. Can't they keep their bloody happiness to themselves? So called 'facebragging' (read: Facebook bragging) has been gaining itself some legitimacy as a social issue, with the term becoming more common among lawyers... specifically, divorce lawyers.
As if marriage and long-term relationships weren’t hard enough, the overwhelmingly positive barrage of social media posts from brands, friends and other couples is adding another layer of difficulty to modern marriages, with the pressure to be perfect exacerbating other tensions in relationships. Holly Tootill, family lawyer at JMW Solicitors says that around one in five divorce files on her firm's books involve complaints from clients about their ‘imperfect’ marriages. And that’s not even accounting for all the non-married people who split up and didn’t need a decree absolute to make it offish.
Now don't get me wrong - I've never been married and I still have a dreamy ideal of Sunday roasts and forty year old in-jokes, but I'm not expecting that there won't also be arguments over who forgot to put a bag in the Hoover or whether we really needed to spend that much on a cat bed. (That last one's gonna be my fault. And yes, we will need it.)
It's quite sad really that seeing so much wedded bliss online is causing pressure for real couples. B&Q just aren't going to sell as many bedding plants if the couple on screen are bickering that they'd rather be ‘literally anywhere else, Kevin.’ Of course marketing agencies who are trying to promote house and home are going to be pushing happy messaging; but how can we be losing sight of this as what it is - advertising.
One part of this story I find the most worrying is the amount of focus there is on body image. According to Tootill, ‘Some husbands have threatened to end their marriages and take up with someone else if their wives do not maintain the toned physiques of some of their peers on social media.’ I'm sorry, WHAT? 'You'd better start doing some squats, Zoe, or I'll find somebody who will.' Any husband spouting this kind of crap can take a running jump off something tall as far as I'm concerned - who are these people? (I assume they all look like Ashton Kutcher, not.) As if there isn't enough pressure on women, and everyone actually, to look a certain way, the last thing you need is the person you married shoving someone else's gym selfie down your throat and telling you what you should be looking like.
Of course there's a lot more to marriage than Instagram - or so you would hope - and high expectations don't just come pouring off the internet. But why do we keep forgetting time and time again, that what we see online is just a happy little fraction of life and not the whole package? Seems like some people should be spending less time envying other people's family lives and a bit more time focusing on their own...
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