Social Media Displays of Affection

In the age of over-sharing and social media, it is no surprise that valentines day and Instagram go hand-in-hand. Just a simple scroll down your Instagram feed today and you will most likely be bombarded by posts of friends and their significant other, or for those who are single maybe something like a bottle of wine or a pet. The posts aren’t unique, but in the age of knowing everyones business it seems almost necessary to express your undying love for your current girlfriend or boyfriend on social media. I know I’m sounding a bit like a scrooge, complaining about my friends caring about someone, but thats not it. I’ve been guilty of social media displays of affection too, many times. Of course the trend of posting a picture on Instagram to show your love isn’t limited to valentines day, although it is definitely more prevalent today than usual, it takes the form of birthday posts, or woman crush Wednesdays and man crush Mondays.


As someone who doesn’t post often, and doesn’t like to post about personal things. There is a sense of skepticism behind these posts. Are the posts really for the benefit of your significant other, or is it simply a moment to feel validated by the “likes” of others.

I had a teacher in middle school who liked to talk about the value of discretion, not in the hide something that you’re doing wrong kind of way, but in the kind of way where you don’t need to share every personal moment with the world. His message really stuck with me, and maybe thats why I am not a fan of all the couple photos with sappy captions being posted today. For me, when I see couple pictures with sappy captions on valentines day I generally lose interest in the post.

As Instagram has been around for longer I think these types of posts have become ingrained in us as almost a requirement. I know people who were genuinely upset when their significant other didn’t have a birthday post for them, or if the caption wasn’t cute. This kind of culture has seemed to only grow with the growth of Instagram and other social media platforms. Simply caring for someone doesn’t seem to be enough unless you are posting about it on every platform you can.

This type of post seems to create two reactions, there are those that find it cute and romantic, and those who don’t. But it seems as if the people who don’t are typically less vocal than those who do because it seems that the number of posts grow each year. The couples photos that fill our feeds every valentines day make me think of what many early twitter critics seemed to say, “who cares?”

We have always liked knowing what is going on in other peoples lives, however it seems that as social media has grown, so too has the view that everyone cares about everyone else’s personal lives. Whether they are getting snippets in 140 characters or less, or from grandparents on Facebook, or just about everyone else on Instagram it seems as if everyone wants the world to know everything, even the should be personal notes to your boyfriend or girlfriend.

It has been said that social media is actually making us less social in person as we’d rather be behind our screens, but is it also making us less romantic? I would argue that flowers are better than a post on social media, and that sharing a private moment or message with someone is better than sharing it with the world. But in our social media driven age, it seems that I would be wrong. Who would want a handwritten card when you could have a caption with emojis?

When I was little I was always grossed out by public displays of affection, making out in public is a bit aggressive, it was then and it is now. To me these couples posts are the digital version, the social media displays of affection are just as unnecessary to me as PDA. Im happy for friends who have someone they care about, but I still don’t need to see there sappy post with the person they’ve been dating for a month. These valentines day posts just stand to remind us that social media was made because we like an audience, and that is no exception today. Even knowing that my feed is all couples photos with cheesy captions, I am still hooked on social media and have been checking it constantly today. Social media platforms like Instagram have made it impossible to not be interested in peoples personal lives, including about the boy/girl they love with all there heart, because over-sharing is the norm now. It’s whats expected of us.


  1. Part of me agrees with your position on public displays of affection on social media. A lot of the posts lose their romantic effect as more and more couples post every year. Being romantic means thinking outside of the box. Part of me likes to think that social media serves two purposes; to share content with others and to create a virtual scrapbook. As much as I hate the Valentine’s Day social media posts, I do enjoy looking back on posts from Valentine’s Day past with my wife.

  2. When you wrote about the handwritten cards it reminded me of my grandparents. No matter how much social media has developed, they will always be giving me these handwritten cards for my birthday. I wait for their cards each year, but it’s funny that from different people (friends and the younger generations) we expect different things. This just shows the differences in generations, and their ways of showing their affection. The way social media has evolved makes it harder to revert to the “old” ways of doing things, but this also makes me really appreciate the differences between all.

  3. alexisteixeiraa · ·

    I go back and forth on how to feel about sharing/oversharing on social media. This idea of scrapbooking and evolving our handwritten thank you notes into public expressions of love may seem like an less sincere way of expressing feelings; however, people’s Valentine’s day Instagrams reach a wider audience than proclaiming love in a restaurant. To play devil’s advocate, we always realize the couple that doesn’t necessarily post on social media — therefore assuming that they must be fighting or they must’ve broken up. It is hard to draw a line as to what is appropriate/accepted by the majority because realistically and unfortunately, there will never be a post that everyone loves.

  4. I agree with you that the social media posts seem more for the benefit of the consumers on the app rather than the actual recipient of the message. I strongly agree with your middle school teacher’s philosophy of the importance of keeping some things private, but it seems that social media content is in response to the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, did it really even make a noise?” If you have a boyfriend or girlfriend and don’t post about it on social media, is it really even a relationship? This seems to be the downfall of this generation: the validation of the acquaintances on social media who provide security and reassurance that yes, you are in a cute relationship and it is validated by how many likes and comments it can generate. Interesting topic.

  5. talkingtroy · ·

    Ha, I would have to agree with you – it often seems like more of a performance than a genuine act. Then again, I don’t care much for Valentine’s Day to begin with (we should treat partners well all the time not just one day). I get annoyed when someone’s post seems like a cry for attention or shares too much personal information like when someone goes on and on about how they have the best bf/gf. However, being in a long-distance relationship I can see the benefits of social media in staying connected and sharing emotion (I just prefer to keep it private). To me, it fits more broadly into selfless acts of kindness. I should do something nice because I want to not because I want credit. I hate when I see people posting photos of them with a poor child as their profile picture to show how worldly they are, especially when they never do anything else to help address the problems.

  6. Great post! I think that society has progressively started using social media as a medium of self assurance. I have heard many people making comments like “If it’s no in a video, it never happened”. Almost as if it was more important to record our lives than actually living them. Seems like people are trying to prove themselves in social media when they should use the platform to make real connections with others. At some point the culture of social media should change to something more genuine and avoid so much narcissism.

  7. Ciaran_Cleary · ·

    As someone who posted a Valentines day picture for my significant other, I see where you are coming from, but i just flat out disagree with you. You argue that you will lose interest in a “couples picture,” but so what? I lose interest all the time in different posts by people about their family, jokes I don’t get, sports I don’t care about, etc. That is just the nature of a social media and sharing platform. I think doing it every day would get annoying, or posting somewhat inappropriate pictures would be too much, but I think the idea of surprising your significant other with a post about them on a day designed for sharing your love with the world is not a bad thing at all. Valentines Day was made for the purpose of buying cards, flowers, spending a lot of money to get out on a random day in February, the whole idea of it is weird, but since its a weird day in general, I don’t see why there is anything wrong with posting on social media. Plus, people use Facebook, Insta, and twitter to show off their lives, this would be an important part of their life, so I think this is just a part of how our culture is, and I think it’s a good thing.

  8. laurencondon23 · ·

    Very relevant post. My roommates and I had a similar conversation yesterday regarding this topic. I personally believe that posting a picture in general for Valentines day or celebrating your significant other is not oversharing but there is a fine line. I have seen many captions that are lengthy to to the point that they may as well be love letters, and it is these that I take major issue with. Your followers don’t want to see it and I assume your significant other would appreciate it more if it were said to them in private.

  9. mikeward7 · ·

    Wow, Ciaran just came at your life with that comment. You didn’t deserve that Zack and I really agree with a lot of the points that you made in this blog. Yesterday some of my roommates and I talked about how instagram was pretty annoying yesterday because everyone and their grandmother was posting pictures of their significant other. Like you, I understand that people want to show their affection for them on a social platform but sometimes I feel like it takes away from it when you’re just another couple posting a picture of you kissing

  10. erinfitzpatrick123 · ·

    I find all of your points and these comments very interesting! One thing that this makes me think of, outsides of the couple debate happening here, is Mother’s and Father’s day posts. This is something that has always kind of bothered me. But only in some cases. I’ve had a lot of friends posting social media posts for their mom or dad on those days, when their mom or dad doesn’t have an Instagram or Facebook or whatever it is. I feel like they’re sharing just to say “I posted too” or to share a cute baby picture of themself. I understand the sentiment, and want to give a shoutout to my parents sometimes too, but at the same time are they just trying to rack up likes? I’m not sure what the intentions are. Maybe just send a card? Does it need to be so public?

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