Blame it on the year being 2012 or the fact that I’d never had a boyfriend, but when my relationship with my shy blonde coworker shifted from ‘Can you pick up my Saturday shift?’ to ‘I’ll pick you up at 8,’ I was all too eager to make us Facebook official.
It didn’t take long for me to embrace my new status as “In a Relationship.” I was sure to update my followers with plenty of smiling pictures of the two of us on holidays, at special events, and for pretty much any other reason I could think of. Life with my boyfriend just felt so special that it was hard not to share it. I even thought about how exciting it would be to someday post a celebratory engagement status: would I go with the classic ‘I said yes?’ or something a bit more creative? And then what would our wedding hashtag be?
But a couple of years ago, that changed. I was scrolling and double-tapping my way through every spare moment I had and endlessly refreshing my feeds, fixating on notifications, and doin’ things for the ‘Gram was getting exhausting. I decided enough was enough. Over the course of a month, I deleted all of my profiles: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat. At the time, I thought the only impact my digital detox might have on my relationship would be losing the all-too-thorough chronicle of my love story my profiles contained. It turns out that was only one of the ways leaving social media would impact my relationship. Here’s what else changed:
I grew more confident in myself
For as fun as it was to be in the beginning of my first serious relationship, it was also uncharted territory. As I got used to my new relationship status, I looked everywhere but internally for reassurance I was doing the whole “girlfriend” thing right. I found that reassurance on Facebook, where every like or comment on posts with my boyfriend seemed like a vote of confidence in us as a couple. Saying goodbye to my socials meant trusting myself instead of looking to my feeds for validation. It also taught me that the only people who can determine the success of a relationship are the people who are in it — not the distant family members, former classmates, and loose acquaintances on a friends list.
The pressure to follow a “normal” timeline decreased
Growing up, I had a preoccupation with being on track. Will I pass my driver’s test on the first try? Am I going to get asked to prom? Is my chemistry grade ever going to be higher than a C? (Spoiler alert on the chem grade: nope!) And because social media made it so easy to see what everyone else was doing, I found myself using other people’s milestones as a measuring stick for my own life. While — even without social media — I don’t think the feeling of wanting to keep up will ever completely disappear, not scrolling through personal announcements on a daily basis does, at least, make for a bit less pressure and gives me the space to focus on what feels right in my own life. (And by less pressure, I don’t mean no pressure: my sweet mother diligently updates me every time she sees one of my peers’ engagement/wedding/baby posts. Moms… gotta love ‘em.)
I started to show affection differently
Growing up, I remember feeling like the number of adoring photo collages people posted for my birthday directly correlated to how many friends I had. Anyone else? Just me? Anyway, because of this, I used to be really big on digital PDA. I set cute pictures of my boyfriend and me as my profile pic, uploaded albums documenting our adventures, left comments on his wall, and on and on. So, imagine my horror when, in return, my boyfriend opted to keep his same ancient profile picture instead of giving me the place of honor. So, what if he was literally the sweetest human I’d ever met if he wasn’t Facebooking our relationship, right? It took deleting my accounts to reevaluate social media’s place as one of my top love languages. Now, instead of stressing over how to publicly announce our anniversary on IG or shoutout his birthday on Snap, I focus on making the IRL celebration one to remember long after the Story expires.
We forget to document our time together
One thing that’s so great about social media is how easy it is to look back on awesome memories. When I had Instagram, I was always snapping pictures and chronicling my adventures with my boyfriend; nowadays, it seems like my entire camera roll is screenshots of miscellaneous recipes and emails. I was especially bummed when last year, after returning from a trip, I realized I hadn’t taken a single non-selfie photo of the two of us. Yes, we have the memories, but a picture keeps those memories close at hand in a much more vivid way. (Although it is worth noting that I don’t think my boyfriend misses the photographer duties I bestowed upon him any time we passed a mural/brick wall/flower bed.)
It’s easier to give my partner my full attention
OK, the keyword here is easier. This is still a SERIOUS work in progress. (I may not have social media, but I do love reading up on my favorite websites from my phone.) But one big reason I left social media was the sense that I was constantly looking down at my screen and phubbing the world instead of being fully present in it. As much as it hurts to admit it, that even extended to friends and family. Deleting social media took away one barrier to fully showing up for the people — and the person — I love the most.
Life together feels more special
For how much I used to love posting about my boyfriend, perhaps the most surprising change of all was realizing that I actually enjoy keeping my relationship offline. Now, every moment we get to spend together feels a bit more special, like a happy secret for just the two of us. And while keeping secrets isn’t always good, this one really, really is. Besides, no matter what I could share on Facebook or upload to Instagram, I’d still fall miserably short of capturing how much he really means to me.