Performative couple photos

Photo by Nithya Jameshenry Student Publications

There are a few days in the year that are simply miserable for single people. One of these dreaded days is Oct. 3, and it’s not just because it’s midway through Libra season. Oct. 3 is National Boyfriend Day, a fact that is both difficult to ignore and avoid if you make the major blunder of mistakenly opening any social media app on the day of. Instagram stories are chock full of adorable GIFs and photos of couples staying in doing face masks, out at fancy dinners or interlocking pinky fingers on their inevitable and unoriginal, albeit sweet, Sky View Atlanta dates. Valentine’s Day is no different. 

Whether you have a partner or not, tapping through the incessant flow of more and more of the same quickly gets tiresome. In retaliation, one might even choose to go on a rant about the capitalist implications of the big day of love.  

Another might complain that nobody wants to see people’s posts anyways, and if they were really happy and secure, they would not post at all! But jealousy aside, why does this relationship flaunting feel so odd at times? 

We all feel inclined to show the world our relationship status. After all, we are social creatures. The answer is simple; it feels performative.

If you think back to your childhood, you can surely think of a relationship that you idolized. Perhaps it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z (Pre-“Lemonade” era, of course). Or Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, who recently rekindled their romance. Perhaps you craved stability and obsessed over Neil Patrick Harris and his partner, David Burtka. 

No matter what, celebrity relationships have always broken the news. Little occurrences are exaggerated into explosive articles, cheating scandals sit atop headlines and Hollywood relationships are ridiculed. This ridicule likely stems from the consistent failure of A-list relationships. The public eye is often the notable culprit of this phenomenon. While we may lament (or celebrate) our relative anonymity, social media has changed our perception of the average peer. In the modern era of relationships, are we so secluded from the public eye?

The main purpose of social media is to flaunt your experiences, clothes, money, looks and lifestyle. Students studying abroad post their nights out clubbing in Europe, the fine dining food they sampled in New York City for spring break and the designer boots their partners bought for them.

Posting significant others on social media is no different. Every individual is perceived and judged through their social media. Having a bigger or smaller following does not alter the extent of your perception. Information spreads through gossip and casual conversation. You posted your new partner on Instagram? 

Within hours, your closest friends are commenting “So adorable!” on your post and your not-so-close friends are blowing up your direct messages: “When did this happen?” Social media breaks anonymity, especially when posting fuel for gossip. Anyone can pretend like they do not expect this to happen, but every post is released onto the Internet cultivated to garner the perception you want. 

We perform for those around us, and dramatic, flowery and highly publicized couples’ posts are just examples of the performative nature of media. This isn’t all to communicate a cynical, anti-romantic take on love and relationships. Posting one’s significant other is not the equivalent of a shallow partnership or an invaluable connection. 

The appeal of posting cute photos is undeniable; who would not want to show off their loving partner? Nonetheless, there is no denying that when posting one’s partner, at least a part of them is doing it for everyone else.