We all have that friend who can't help but broadcast her affection for her boo on social media: Whether she's posting mid-smooch selfies or sharing Snapchat stories that make date night look like a Match.com commercial, we've seen it all.
But those lovey-dovey posts in our feeds had us wondering: Are they really signs of a super-healthy relationship? Or can documenting such intimate moments become problematic?
According to Rachel Sussman, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert, chronicling your romance on social media can get, well, complicated. There's nothing wrong with a sappy caption on an anniversary photo. But when the online sharing is fueled by emotions other than love, it may cause issues.
Here are three things your social media accounts might reveal about your own relationship.
Your self-worth is wrapped around your partner
It's a common relationship trap: As you fall head over heels in love, you start to think of your partner as your other half, rather than a separate individual. And that notion can come across on social media.
Research published in 2014 found a link between Facebook users' relationship-related activity on the app and their RCSE, or relationship contingent-self-esteem—which is a measure of a person's dependence on his or her partner for self-worth. The study authors determined that folks who scored higher on the RCSE scale were also more likely to post photos with their partners and write mushy comments on each others' walls.
“People who are high in RCSE believe that successful relationships are an important signal of their own value,” study author Gwendolyn Seidman, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Albright College in Pennsylvania, explained in an email to Health. These people tend to show off their relationships on social media to garner approval from others, and boost their self-esteem as a result.
“Imagine a person whose self-worth depends on their career success; you’d expect that person to post about their work achievements on Facebook," says Seidman. If you feel moved to document every milestone with your boo, it could be a sign that the connection you share has become central to your perception of yourself.
You’re trying to incite jealousy
When you blast off a pic from last night's romantic, candle-lit dinner, are you hoping one person in particular will see it—say, your last flame?
“A lot of people post photos with their partner as a way of getting back at an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend,” says Sussman. “It’s like saying, ‘Look what a great life I have now with my new partner, and what you lost out on!’”
This kind of relationship bragging could mean you're not over feelings of hurt and abandonment from a tough breakup, she adds. If that's the case, you may want to try a social media cleanse.
Chances are, you're also Facebook-stalking your ex, and a study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking found that that habit can seriously hamper your ability to move on.
"Perhaps you need some more time to work through your last breakup in an effective way,” says Sussman. She suggests talking it out with a good friend or therapist, instead of seeking comfort via social media.
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You genuinely feel #blessed
Of course, relationship-related posts can simply signal that you're happy, period. A 2012 study on coupled-up Facebook users found that people used a photo with their S.O. as their profile pic were more satisfied with their relationship and closer to their partner than people who used a solo photo.
If you feel moved by pure joy and gratitude to plant one on your partner and snap a selfie for Instagram, go for it. “It can be nice to see the likes and comments. That feels good," says Sussman. "It’s also inclusive of your parents or friends to see your photos.”
Bottom line: There's no harm in sharing the love, as long as you're doing it for all the right reasons.