Social media have definitely reshaped our lives and our views of the world and ourselves. Therefore, there have been more and more studies researching how social networks affect us and what they tell about us. In a recent study, researchers at Arizona State University examined what our Instagram profiles tell about our relationships, and their findings may surprise you.
For the study, the researchers surveyed 178 heterosexual couples, all of them in the USA. They surveyed them regarding their perceptions of their relationships, but there were also two teams of research assistants who analyzed and coded 3,270 of the participants’ recent Instagram posts. The research assistants were unfamiliar with the goals of the study; I presume in order to keep the objectivity.
There’s a common belief that couples who are too active on Instagram are actually not all that happy. However, the study results tell quite the opposite. According to the results, there is a positive association between relationship quality and Instagram engagement.
“People who were more satisfied with their relationship were more likely to include or reference their partner in their Instagram posts,” PsyPost writes. “They were also more likely to like and comment on their partner’s Instagram posts.” On the other hand, people who are also seeking alternative partners are likely to keep their current relationships less visible on Instagram.
Liesel Sharabi, lead researcher on the project and an assistant professor and director of the Relationships & Technology Lab at Arizona State University, told PsyPost:
“I think a lot of people are skeptical of what they see on Instagram and have this idea that if a couple seems too happy, it must be ‘fake.’ However, we found that couples who appeared happy on Instagram really did have higher quality relationships. The more we observed couples publicly engaging with the relationship on Instagram, the more satisfied, invested, and committed they told us they were in private.”
As for the couples whose relationship isn’t visible on Instagram, the study finds that they are more open to alternative partners. According to the study results, they also tended to interact more often with other potential partners on Instagram.
“We also found that people who paid more attention to their alternatives on Instagram felt like they had higher quality options outside of their relationship and were more likely to pursue them if given the chance,” Sharabi says. “So while Instagram can be a great tool for relationship maintenance, it may also make it easier to exit a relationship if things aren’t going well by making people more aware of their options.”
Of course, there are some limitations to the study so the results should probably be taken with a grain of salt. “In terms of caveats, we collected data in the United States, yet Instagram has a global reach,” Sharabi explains. “How people present their relationships may look different depending on cultural norms surrounding social media use.” She adds that, in the future, “researchers should look at how seeing the images that couples post on Instagram affects their views of their own relationships.”
“In the end, Instagram isn’t good or bad for relationships. Its effect is ultimately going to depend on the way it is used,” Sharabi concluded.
First of all, I wonder what was the age group of the couples who were a part of the study. From my experience, people of different generations behave very differently on social media. Also, I agree that a cultural aspect could play a major role in online behavior, in terms of relationships and other matters.
The study results got me thinking about how I perceive couples on Instagram. I haven’t developed a scientific method, only intuition, so this is purely my perception.
On the one hand, I’ve noticed some couples who share too many selfies together and comment on each other’s posts all the time. From what I know, they aren’t so sure about their relationship despite the impression their photos may leave at the first glance. I can’t tell you precisely what “all the time” means (intuition, remember), but you know those couples whose “happy selfies” and cheesy quotes you see in your feed every day? Those couples. On the other hand, I don’t think you need to be involved in your partner’s profile at all to have a healthy relationship.
At the end of the day, I think it’s all individual. Each one of us uses Instagram for different purposes and in different ways. But still, as far as this study goes, I admit that the results surprised me. And I don’t find myself in them considering that I have a wonderful relationship that you can’t see on Instagram all that often.
I’d like to hear from you. Does your Instagram profile faithfully reflect your relationship? Do you find yourself in these results?