Kamilia Khairul Anuar questions the need to display affection on social media sites
There are probably plenty of articles floating around about the impact of social media on our lives, and honestly most of the aspects have already been discussed, both the bad and the good – how its availability and accessibility interferes with the enjoyment of our daily non-social media lives, how it encourages attention-seeking behaviour, how it’s a good way to get news and generally stay in tune with what goes on in others’ lives.
But I’m going to talk about Facebook Public Displays of Affection (PDA); a curious phenomenon. I say Facebook because that’s where most of it is concentrated, though you get some of it on Twitter and Instagram as well. Probably the thing that makes it curious is because of its often completely unnecessary nature (granted, most things we do on Facebook are unnecessary anyway). Facebook PDA ranges from taking photos of yourself with your loved ones and sharing them on Facebook (often accompanied by messages of appreciation), to repeated posting of messages of love and appreciation on status updates or on people’s Facebook walls.
But there’s nothing inherently wrong with Facebook PDA. The wrongness of it or anything that you post on Facebook is often, as law students say, a question of degree. How much are you posting about your significant other, how many times do you need to show everyone on your Friends List how awesome your brother is? It’s understandable if, say it’s your two-year anniversary with your partner and you’d like to show everyone a photo of the two of you looking really happy together.
But is it really beneficial to do this repeatedly, despite lack of a real occasion for it? Do you need to show everyone how much you love your significant other, almost every day of the week, by posting your love notes publicly on Facebook? The best way to describe what’s wrong with too much Facebook PDA is that more often than not, these things feel like they should be private, things you would share specially with your loved ones and not anyone else. Everyone talks about how great their mom is or how sweet their boyfriends or girlfriends are. But there’s a difference between talking about your boyfriend with a close friend and constantly trying to make your appreciation for them, in essence, a public spectacle on social media.
For example, if my hypothetical boyfriend gave me a card on Valentine’s Day, and wrote me a message inside just for me, I find something uncomfortable about the idea of snapping a photo of this message and uploading it on Facebook; sharing with everyone what was undoubtedly meant to be shared only with me.
There’s an almost passive-aggressive feel to the entire routine, an exposed need for validation, as if to say, “Look at what my boyfriend got for me! He’s such a good boyfriend, right?” But of course it would be wrong to say that we don’t crave validation. People are inherently attention-seeking and it is perfectly natural to feel the need to show off your partner to everyone so that they can say “Aww, what a sweet couple.” But inevitably at some point, people stop caring, and start rolling their eyes. Your friends are not the ones dating your boyfriend, do they really need to know what mushy messages you send to each other? A persistent habit of Facebook PDA also begs the question, why do you feel the need to make a spectacle out of every affectionate gesture you make? Is it not enough just to tell your loved ones how much you love them? And there’s always the danger that it may replace, rather than add, to real-life displays of affection. Let’s face it, if you were my boyfriend, I would feel a lot more appreciated, a lot more impressed, if instead of posting on my Facebook wall that you love me, you picked up your phone, called me up, and said it to me.
As a shortened version, the wrongness of Facebook PDA can pretty much be summed up in one sentence: private messaging exists for a reason.
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