It's no secret that the world of social media is a not-very-real place. People put their best foot forward, sometimes even putting up a version of their life that bears no relationship to reality. But a new survey shows just how strong the pressure to make our lives look better has become — especially when it comes to romantic relationships.
The UK relationship support charity Relate, which provides advice for healthy, strong relationship, surveyed more than 2,000 adults and found that 51 percent of millennials are pretending their relationship is happier than it really is. How are they doing it? Perhaps not surprisingly, 41 percent of millennials admitted to using social media to make their relationship look perfect — but, interestingly, a whopping 92 percent of people surveyed said that it would be better if everyone was more honest.
Though the survey was based in the UK, it definitely resonates with U.S. social media culture as well, and it's worrying to see just how many people feel under pressure to make their lives and their relationship looks picture perfect.
"While as humans we have a tendency to compare our lives to other people’s, it seems social media has a huge part to play in making millennials feel more conscious of their relationship and how it appears," Simone Bose, a counselor at Relate, tells Bustle. "Occasionally with the younger couples we see in the Relate counseling room, we find that their expectations of the relationship can be unrealistically high and that they make comparisons to their friends on social media. The larger the gap between the reality and the expectations of your life, the more dissatisfied you will be."
With the constant influx of #couplegoals and smiling photos on social media, it's important to remember that no relationship is actually as good as it looks. "No relationship is perfect, so try to notice if you are perhaps picking holes in yours unnecessarily, based the stream of ‘perfect’ photos and status updates you see on social media," Bose says. "It seems as though we increasingly seek validation through comments and likes. Particularly if we aren’t feeling so good about ourselves or our relationship, we may feel that if others like our post then everything is OK, when in fact it isn’t." And the more we all post unrealistic versions of our lives, the stronger the pressure becomes.
How Can You Combat The Social Pressure?
While many of us know that honesty is the best policy, it's hard to resist the social pressure to present a perfect life and try to collect as many likes as possible. One thing that can help is remembering that everyone else feels this way, too. "Be aware that other people are likely to be sharing things to give off the impression of the perfect relationship too — half of millennials in our survey admitted to doing this so chances are at least some of your friends do it!" Bose says. "If you see a photo that makes you feel envious, imagine them posting a photo of what they were doing a few seconds before and after, that would be more realistic. It would be good for everyone to show more mundane and less filtered images. By being more honest and real, we would all be helping each other in feeling better."
Bose also suggests being grateful for what's good in your relationship and living the moment — as well as thinking about why you are posting and what you are looking for. And, of course, spending less time on social media is always a great option. Though, if you can't seem to resist the urge to scroll, Bose suggesting unfollowing people or accounts who make you feel bad about yourself or your relationship.
Social media and the pressure that comes along with it don't seem to be going anywhere, so it's important to try to protect yourself if you can. If you find that social media is making you feel negatively about your relationship or your life, remember that it's not real. And, if you have to, don't be afraid to put the phone down and take a good, long break.