Half of millennials portray their relationship on social media as better than it really is — here’s why that’s a problem

Instagram feeds are not real life. Svitlana Sokolova / Shutterstock
  • A new survey suggests over half of millennials portray their relationship as happier on social media than it really is.
  • Social media is full of people’s carefully curated lives.
  • But it’s usually not a realistic representation of everything that’s going on.
  • Nobody posts about their arguments, or the days they aren’t looking their best.
  • Social media is great for creativity when used in a healthy way.
  • You should ask yourself whether you’re doing things because you enjoy them, or just because you get a photo out of it.

Your social media feed is carefully curated. Whether you spend a few minutes or a few hours choosing and editing photos, you ultimately decide what’s worthy of being shared with the world and what isn’t.

Apps like Instagram provide a place to be creative and show off your life, work, and personality. But it’s important to know the difference between a perfectly crafted feed and real life.

According to a survey from relationship charity Relate, over half of millennials (51%) feel their relationship is portrayed as happier than it really is on social media, and 42% use it to give the impression of a “perfect relationship.”

“But it seems we’re tiring of this perfect relationship façade,” said Relate. “The vast majority of Brits (92%) feel people would benefit from being more open with each other about their relationship issues.”

Relationship problems can arise if couples are seeking validation from other people. Rather than focusing their attention on each other, they may only feel happy if everyone else sees a picture perfect life they have together – the holidays, the romantic dinners, and the flawless engagement photo.

Not only that, but it can become a feedback loop, with people wanting others to be jealous of their lives, while they constantly look at other people’s posts and try to compete.

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In a previous article for Business Insider, psychotherapist Allison Abrams said it’s only human to compare ourselves to other people, but social media is the perfect vehicle to do this on a more intense level.

“Others’ lives are right there on our screen to see,” she said. “Most are not posting the less attractive pictures or the less pleasant moments that we all experience.”

To All The Boys i've loved before Noah Centineo Lana Condor selfie
A picture might not tell the whole truth of a relationship. Masha Weisberg/Awesomeness Films/Netflix

Psychologist Perpetua Neo told INSIDER even if you get all the likes and the follows, it’s not enough if you feel like the rest of your life is empty.

She said you know you’re being guided too much by your social media life if you wake up and think “what can I Instagram today?”

“That’s a very scary question to be guided by,” she said. “After you post this picture, ask yourself ‘am I actually really happy with my life?’ Because if your life is led by curating all these pictures, and you’re only happy when posting these pictures, and all the other moments you’re not, then there’s a big void and a big problem.”

It all comes down to intentions, said Neo. Why are you using social media in the first place?

“A lot of us tend to rationalise our ‘why’s’ away,” she said. “Like, everybody is doing it, and I’m enjoying myself, and I’m drinking and treating myself – but we’re not really happy.”

The only way out of this cycle is to do things you enjoy and to go to places you want to go to, without being led by the voice in the back of your head telling you to post about it.

It’s not just romantic relationships that suffer

It’s not just romantic relationships that can suffer – it’s our own mental wellbeing, too. Instagram fitness star Sia Cooper, who has 1.2 million followers, told INSIDER the obsession with being perfect comes from social media itself.

“If all you see is a perfectly flawless face and body, you will end up looking at yourself asking questions such as ‘Why aren’t I that thin?’ or ‘Why do I have so much cellulite?'” she said. “Comparison is the thief of joy yet we do it to ourselves every day.”

Read more:
An Instagram fitness star just called out the social media’s body image problem – and urged people to unfollow anyone who is ‘too perfect’

Speaking about the Relate research, counsellor Dee Holmes said there seems to be a lot of pressure today on millennials in particular to be perfect. When scrolling through Instagram, it’s important to remember that behind all those smiles and amazing scenes are arguments and fall outs just like anyone else.

Just because someone is better at publicising their private life, it doesn’t mean they don’t go through all the relationship hardships too.

“We’d probably all benefit from being more open and honest with each other about our relationships and realising that nobody’s perfect, however it may seem on the surface,” Holmes said.

“I know that long-lasting and fulfilling relationships don’t just happen – they require hard work, humour, and may benefit from support such as counselling during tough times.”