Can Social Media Define a Relationship?

Can Social Media Define a Relationship?

When Bachelor stars Chelsie McLeod and Matt Agnew split up, the people of the internet believed they called it first. Why? Because the couple rarely declared their love for each other on social media. Can we really judge the health of a relationship by how people share their lives online? Nicole examines this question and asks over 15 other people what they think.

A pattern of comments spread across Chelsie and Matt’s break up posts.

“It was obvious it wouldn’t last, you two never posted anything”.

“We knew you broke up because your last post was weeks ago”.


The trend began weeks before their break up and Chelsie continuously defended her relationship, saying that she was a “private person” and didn’t think to share every moment of their lives on social media.

It got me thinking. We live in a society where social media plays a large role in our lives, whether we like to admit it or not. But does social media necessarily define a relationship?

What social media says about you

I started to reflect on my own Instagram profile. I’ve shared over 30 photos in the two-and-a-half years my partner and I have been together. However, the last photo was two months ago when we went on our three-month trip around Europe. Do people think we’ve split up because of my lack of social media engagement?

There’s no denying that if we want an answer to any question we can probably find it online. Some would say this includes relationship status based on whether people have a) stopped posting photos together; b) deleted old photos together; or c) taken each other’s names out of their bios.

But what if they just decided to be more private? Perhaps they didn’t like the old photos they deleted, or are just too busy to document their entire relationship on social media. Is it really logical to over-analyse a couple based on what they post? Is it logical to say that the couples who do post a lot together are insecure and unstable?

Regardless of what’s wrong or right, there’s no denying that the correlation between a successful relationship and social media engagement can cause us to feel the need to prove our relationship status.

I will admit after seeing all the comments on Chelsie’s post I did wonder if I needed to post something, so people know my partner and I are still together and happy. It gets you wondering if the issue lies within us, or is caused by the people around us. Which is why I asked 15 women how they felt about publicising their relationship.

Here’s what others had to say

A 26-year-old from NSW said she put it to the test, and the less she posted with her partner, the more men approached her online assuming she was single. “Guys seemed to assume that because I didn’t post about my fiancé, I was interested in dirty messages,” she said.

Another person said the older she got the more she didn’t feel the need to update everyone on her relationship. She hasn’t posted anything in months and is still very much in love with her husband. Another four people agreed, and said despite being with their partners for over a decade, they very rarely post anything on social media. Two people said they don’t even follow their partner on social media.

Five people said they will only post a photo if it’s a nice one and don’t feel the need to prove anything. One person did admit that when she and her partner were going through a rough patch, him posting a photo of her on social media made her feel better, as if how they looked on the outside reflected how they were on the inside.

Two people embracing reading phones over each other's shoulders
Banksy’s Mobile Lovers | Source: Artstechnica

Five people said that while they have witnessed people in toxic relationships be lovey-dovey on social media, they themselves post numerous photos with their partner and are in healthy relationships because they want to treasure those memories and share them with their friends.

Around 95% of those surveyed agreed that they too fall into the trap of assumption and trawl social media to figure out if two people are together. And though some of those women may not necessarily post, they do agree that outsiders still assume they’re single.

So it seems that it’s the change of habit that gets people talking. If you’re one of those people who can’t help but define your relationship based on Instagram posts (don’t worry, we’re all guilty of it), think about what it is that makes you feel that way.

If you’re just happy to share anything, that’s great! But if there’s an insecurity at play, maybe it’s time to look beyond the hashtags.