I am part of Generation Y, which comes with all sorts of problems that Generation X probably never encountered. One such millennial problem is the rise of social media. Is it a blessing or is it a curse?

During a recent conversation with a friend, who actually doesn’t use social media much, except for a ghost* (by ghost, I mean, the account exists, but isn’t used often) Instagram account, it cropped up in conversation that he doesn’t follow his girlfriend online. When I asked why not, (because in my opinion, I thought it weird), he replied that they used to follow each other, but after a few arguments over him liking other girls pictures, she un-followed him, and he just never requested to follow her back. He said that the girls in the pictures tended to just be girls that had a large following base, and the likes were innocent enough, but they made his girlfriend upset. He said, “My pal told me to follow this girl, so I did, and it pissed her off.” So, do they have it right? Is it better to not follow each other on these accounts?

Out of sight, out of mind can often work. The saying, “Ignorance is bliss” wasn’t coined for nothing, but I don’t think that these fears over social media is completely unfounded when so many relationships now begin over the very thing that can lead to breakups. People get jealous and insecure over their other half’s online habits. One reason is possibly because they feel threatened.

Everyone know’s that everyone else is only posting their high-light reels to the world. It’s like a series of “best-bits”. You never see the out-takes, i.e. the parts of our lives where things aren’t something to write home about. We know this, but yet somehow, getting this message to our brains seems to be a bit of a struggle. And yet here we are, comparing our apples to someone else’s oranges. We aren’t even comparing our grass to the greener grass anymore, we are comparing our grass to the fake permanently green grass – the operative word here being, “fake”. People see me post pictures of travelling all the time and think I am living the dream. While it’s good sometimes, what people don’t see is all of the special occasions that I miss, the times when I am so tired that I want to cry, or the times that I am a bit fed up and feel lonely.

I feel that it is often portrayed that women are the insecure ones, but I would like to know if guys feel the same? Do they check up on their girlfriend’s online activity? Does it make them feel insecure, and they just hide it better? Or are they just realistic and take social media at face value, for exactly what it is, which is literally a high light reel? Someone shed light on this please. Women are generally more emotional and talk openly about these kind of things, whereas guys tend to keep their feelings bottled up. I think that it is this that makes women look insecure and crazy, and not that guys don’t feel it – it’s just that they just don’t voice it.

I remember once, my mum and I went out for dinner in Manchester. We ordered a bottle of wine and sat and laughed and chatted for the entire time we were at dinner, like how a dinner is supposed to go… Sitting at the table opposite us, were a couple, around the same age as me. The girl was absolutely stunning. The guy, who sat opposite her, looked at his phone for the entirety of the meal. I don’t think they even spoke to one another, let alone even looked at one another. When the bill came, he paid as she got up and walked out. This is something that you see all the time now, especially with the new generation. People going out for dinner, yet they sit on their phones the entire time. Eyes glued to screens, instead of looking at their company. When did the social etiquette drop so low? And you have to wonder, why bother inviting a date out, if you’re going to sit on your phone all night.

I hear friends complaining about technology in relationships quite often. “He’s always on his phone…” or “We were lying in bed and he was just looking at his phone the whole time.” The girls and I were at dinner this week, and overheard the table of girls behind us discussing the same thing that we were. We were discussing how one of our friend’s boyfriend likes a certain girl’s pictures constantly. (Seriously, this girl could post a picture of a concrete slab and he’d like it.) Did I mention that she is someone he had a fling with? The guy doesn’t even follow her, and yet he still manages to go on to her page every day to like her pictures. So of course it makes my friend feel insecure. And the table of girls behind us? Same situation. Some girl was waving her phone around, showing her friends some other poor unsuspecting girls page.

Trying to explain these types of problems to my parents generation is lost upon them. My mum and her friends would ask, “So, you’re upset because he “liked” her photo? How do you know that he “liked” her photo? And why are you looking on her page? Just don’t look. What even is a like?” And, her advice would be quite correct when you put it into black and white terms. It’s an alien concept to the generations before ours.

When you think of the impact of social media on relationships, it is quite frightening. Social media is cited in a third of divorce cases now, so it’s not something to ignore. Not to mention the impact it has upon women, and impressionable young girls body image. We are living in a world where we are comparing ourselves to everyone, every day, and the rise of social anxiety and depression as a result of this comparative behaviour is at an all time high.

Surely though, in terms of relationships, we should be confident and trusting enough in our partners. After all, what is a relationship without trust? I am of the attitude that, if someone is going to cheat on me, they will cheat anyway, regardless of wether they cheat with a girl in a bar, or they have an online relationship that evolves into something more. We should be able to take a “like” at face value and accept that, that’s all it is. A stupid like, on a stupid photo, that was stupidly posted, to make our online personas look like we are living the dream. If you snoop around for something long enough, you’re guaranteed to find it – so just don’t snoop.

In saying this, my friends have been talking a lot this week about “creeping”. If you’re of an older generation, this word will probably mean nothing to you. For those of you, who don’t know what creeping is, it’s when you scroll through someone’s Facebook, Instagram etc etc just for the basis of snooping. Now, everyone does it. Literally everyone. However, the secret to creeping here, is that it’s actually supposed to be a SECRET. Once on a date, I was discussing how I used to change my hair a lot or something stupid like that, and the date said to me, “Yeah, you really suited your hair blonde.” He was definitely creeping, considering that I have dark hair now and have had so for a long while. I just called him out on it, “Oh? How did you know I had blonde hair before?” Awkward much? My friend was actually caught out recently, whilst sending me a screenshot. He asked me to pick him up something from the mall, and was sending me a screenshot of said thing as his date was sitting next to him. When he opened up his photos to choose the screen shot, his (now girlfriend) pointed to his phone, and said in horror, “Is that a picture of me!?”. It was. He had screenshot the picture from her Facebook – where they were not even connected yet!!! Probably to send to his mum haha! Can you imagine!? Massively caught out creeping!

Anyway, it’s these screenshots and creeping blips that can cause slip ups. A girl I met at work a while ago, was telling me a story about how her boyfriend was acting weird with his phone, and while he was showing her a picture, she saw a screenshot of a girl. She got a bit suspicious, and snooped on his phone (I condone this by the way – NEVER snoop, nothing good will ever, ever come of it). She didn’t find anything at first, until she read his group chat, and checked his deleted pictures. And there, she found out he’d slept with a few other girls while they’d been living together. She then found the one of the girl’s online through the screenshot which showed her username, messaged her, and the girl confirmed it. Now, if this had been back in the day where we didn’t have phones, the guy would have probably still cheated, but she wouldn’t have been able to snoop or message the girl. And it comes down to it again, sometimes you don’t need to know everything. Okay, know his ass cheated so you can move on, but do you really need to know that she was every opposite to you so you can feel worse about yourself? No, you don’t.

It sounds ridiculous reading this, that I should still use instagram and so fourth. But, yet, I cannot seem to bring myself to delete it. It’s the only one that I cannot, and I myself know that it is narcissistic. But I am not alone. Even Ed Sheeran gave up his smart phone for a basic text and call phone because he was addicted to social media.

Recent findings, from a group of researchers from California State University-Fullerton say social media obsession may lead to something akin to classical addiction. Their findings, showed that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use Facebook show some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts or problem gamblers.

They found that peer approval on social media (e.g having people ‘like’ your photos on Instagram) releases dopamine – the same chemical that’s released when you take drugs, or when a gambling addict wins. There was another study in which so many people were asked not to use their phone for one day, and pretty much all of them used it. They could not give it up.

I know that women find it especially difficult when it comes to feeling pressured by social media. The rise of social media with its trends like contouring and fitness can lead to women questioning themselves and their own worth should they not be on a par with these instagram famous accounts. (I myself, cannot contour even though I have the Anastascia Beverly Hills palette – I just end up looking like my face is a bit dirty, and although I enjoy the gym, I do not enjoy kale smoothies or have a six pack). It becomes hard to not criticise yourself. One friend recently made a very valid point though, and I am going to share it with you. She said, “No matter how pretty someone is, or how much I want something they’ve got, I would never want everything they have. There’s always something of theirs, that I wouldn’t want.” And she is 100% right. I love all of my friends, and they’re all beautiful and unique in their own ways, but none of us is 100% happy or living a perfect life. That is because it simply doesn’t exist. Even Beyonce – I think she is insanely beautiful, but I wouldn’t want her thighs, or her love-rat husband.

I wonder if guys feel the same pressure? It’s something that none of my guy friends seem to talk about much, compared to the girls. They make comments in passing about going to the gym, and not drinking this weekend ’cause they’re on a health kick. But they never seem to mention feeling insecure because they feel a bit chubby or don’t have a six pack and their girlfriend is liking photo’s of muscle men on instagram. Do they compare themselves to guys online?

Another valid point a friend made at the beach recently when we overheard a girl saying she felt insecure to meet her tinder date because she felt fat, was that she has never dated a guy who was “perfect”. Maybe they had crooked teeth, or were hairy, or a bit short or something – something. But she liked them anyway, just the way they were and I guess that even though we are not perfect like an instagram filter, it’s okay not to be, ’cause guys aren’t either. Nobody is!

So to conclude, I think, if your boyfriend or girlfriend is choosing to be with you, let them have their little likes online. Whoever they’re liking pictures of anyway will definitely have a whole lot of out-take reels that they’re hiding in real life. These people will have their own hang ups too. But just don’t sit on your phone all the time, ’cause your other half will never love you if you have square eyes, and conversation and laughter is much hotter than an instagram filter any day!

You can watch some good videos on the subject online, so I have stuck some links here that offer some food for thought.

Steven Bartlett offers some very valid reasons.

Ditch The Label also made a realistic video showing the reality of social media.

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