Love in the Age of Digital Communication Part 1: TMI

Visibility is a trap.”

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

I believe social media encourages us to consume more information than we can handle. When I was writing my undergrad thesis a few years ago, I would wake up very early in the morning to work on it because that was the time of day when my mind was clear. If I were to work on it towards the evening, I found that my mind was cloudy due to everything that happened that day. The information we consume on social media takes up space in our mind — but is it the best use of that space? You decide. Are you reading cool articles on topics you find interesting? Are you looking at Sally Smith’s wedding photos? Or are you checking out whose photos your significant other is liking on Instagram?

Well, I’ve engaged in all three of these behaviors at different points in my life. So, I have thoughts. Only one of these three examples is a good use of my mental energy. You guessed it, the interesting articles. Today, I want to dive into the third example, the one that causes the most grief for many social media users.

First off, is it inappropriate for people in relationships to follow and like suggestive photos of Instagram models? I genuinely don’t know the answer, and I’d love to hear your opinions (feel free to comment). I will tell you that it is not my favorite. I’ve had many conversations with others who feel the same way. Yet, so many people do it, making it “normal” and “acceptable.” Again, what is right, and what is wrong? There’s definitely a gray area. 

I believe everyone is entitled to privacy. In a relationship, every thought, every feeling, and every internet search does not need to be revealed. Sure, I think the more open you are, the better. However, if I ever had a significant other come home and tell me about the hot young woman he checked out on the subway, we will have an issue. So, why put it out there on social media? When you like something on social media, anyone who follows you can see it as long as the other account is public. If you engage in any sort of social media activity, you are increasing your visibility. As teenagers, we were taught to be mindful of what we shared on social media because college admissions counselors and future employers were checking us out. Well, guess what? In many cases, the people you date check you out on social media too, and maybe even their friends and family members. Be careful. 

I remember back in the day when Snapchat would publicly reveal the friends to whom you sent the most snaps. What a relationship ruiner! People could not handle that sh*t, and frankly, I don’t blame them. Too much visibility. Too much information.

Systems that increase our visibility exist in our world so that people act in ways that fall in line with social norms. So when someone acts out of line (i.e., liking suggestive Instagram photos), they are exposed, and relationship issues may arise.

The one engaging in the questionable online behavior might ask, “why are you looking that closely at my social media activity?” Here’s an answer: you are looking because they are giving you something to look at, whether they are conscious of it or not. Frankly, anyone can check out all the Instagram models they want. That’s their choice, and they can keep that activity private. Once they like the photo, that privacy goes bye-bye.

So, are you wrong for looking? Nope — you are free to do what you wish. They are the ones who put the information out there. The truth hurts, and ignorance is bliss. We come up with our own perceptions about people based on what they post, and what they like on social media. A liked photo may mean something to one person and something entirely different for another.

If social media activity is causing insecurities in a relationship, I believe it is a simple problem to fix. Stop the activity, go out into the real world, and enjoy life.

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