I have thought of how interesting it would be if I were able to look back at social media during each of my previous marriages and compare how I interacted with the world. Thankfully, social media was just becoming popular during my first marriage and it took years for me to actually join MySpace and Facebook, so that is not possible for that train-wreck of a relationship. I didn’t have access to a smartphone or the ability to take photos and upload them instantly and I’m fairly certain that if I had this ability that I wouldn’t want to look back to see my decent into depression and loneliness throughout the years. In recent years it has become possible for us to post every moment of our lives on social media, for better or for worse. This leads me to ask: Is our focus on how the world perceives us and our need for attention playing into how we interact with our spouses? Are our cryptic status updates and selfies a cry for help? I believe the answer to these questions is, YES!
I purchased my first smartphone after my divorce at age 26. I became active with social media and even started online dating. I viewed each interaction as a way to distract me from the pain I felt and give me the confidence I was severely lacking because of my failed marriage. Selfies became an addiction for me. I started posting them constantly in the hope of having men react with “Likes” or comments telling me how beautiful I was. I lived for the attention! I would make status updates that cried for attention, most of which never fully stated what was going on with me but instead, encouraged readers to ask questions. I would get supportive comments back that told me I was pretty and strong, but I was never fully satisfied by anything that was said. It was almost as if I believed that acting like a lonely, pitiful woman would inspire someone to come rescue me from the immense grief I was feeling.
I eventually met my second husband through a dating app. He gave me the attention I needed and was nothing like the controlling, emotionally abusive man I had married the first time. Unfortunately, I was no where near ready to date yet and as much as I made myself think that my love for him was more than friend love, it took getting married for me to realize that I wasn’t truly in love. Throughout my entire relationship with my second husband I had a strong social media presence (As did he). I never really thought about what this meant until recently, but although I was in a relationship, I still felt the need for outside attention. I continued posting status’ that screamed for attention and selfies that made me feel sexy and beautiful, subconsciously hoping for likes and compliments. It wasn’t until I borrowed my ex’s tablet and found some disturbing conversations he had been having on Facebook with another woman that I realized how harmful our addictions to our phones had become for our relationship. It wasn’t long after this revelation that our marriage completely imploded.
During my second divorce I was forced to face how social media could negatively impact my happiness and the way I approached relationships. As I went back through my Facebook profile to delete all traces of marriage #2 I faced an ugly truth, my profile painted me as a sad, attention-seeker to those who could view it. So many of my status updates were typed with the intention of having others make me feel better or to passive-aggressively punish others for wrongs, when I really should have just confronted them in person. I could also visually follow a trend of what types of photos I posted when I felt content in my relationship, to when I was feeling unsure, to when I wanted out of it. When I was happy and confident in the relationship all of my photos were of my spouse and me or of the fun activities were involved in. As things got complicated the photos increasing became party pics and selfies. Then, in the end stages, when I was super unhappy I had all selfies, (some sexy) and inspirational quotes.
After realizing the way that social media was impacting my life, my happiness, and my relationships I took a step back to look at myself. I lessened the time I spent on it, stopped posting cryptic updates, and left the sexy selfies to the professionals. I met my third (And FINAL) husband and actually found it refreshing that he rarely used social media at all. He had accounts, but rarely posted on them or even looked at them. I found it inspiring and it only strengthened my opinion that I too, needed to stop seeking the attention of others and find healthier outlets for expressing myself.
This article isn’t meant to bash social media or to say that it is bad. I truly believe that there are amazing benefits to social media: reconnecting with old friends, finding new friends through common interests, and bringing families together who aren’t able to physically be together. Social media can be a beautiful instrument, when it is used properly, but when it is used as a means to treat mental health, cure loneliness, or as an escape from marital problems, it can be detrimental. I encourage you to go back and look at your social media presence. Are your updates and photos meant to inspire or are they a cry for help? Are you suffering with marital problems and searching for answers on Facebook? Are you seeking comfort from someone online who isn’t your spouse? If you think that your relationship could possibly benefit from a face-to-face conversation about social media and maybe a break from it, talk to your spouse! I hope that you can realize that true happiness does not come from “likes” and compliments, true happiness comes from discovering who we are on the inside and learning to love that person, flaws and all! I wish you happiness and peace.