Why aren’t we “In a Relationship” online?

Hello Alice,

I've been dating my boyfriend for over half a year now and we have had our share of ups and downs, yet there has always been an issue that has been bothering me throughout our relationship together. My boyfriend has never once posted any pictures of me and him together as a couple. I've asked him on multiple occasions for a picture of us together to be posted on Facebook, yet he continuously refuses to do so, and when asked why not, he gives an explanation of desiring privacy and believing that relationships should not be made public as it appears arrogant. So I let the issue go, as well as the other issue of him never having posted a "In a Relationship” status. His status has never existed and I was initially fine with this until I noticed that there were more pictures of other girl friends rather than of me. This upset me, and I began to have growing concerns as to maybe there was another hidden reason, such as him wanting to appear available and if he were ashamed of me. Should I be concerned or am I analyzing this issue too much?

Dear Reader,

The advent of social media has forced many people to redefine relationships, friendships, and other social connections in a new virtual realm. Not only that, these websites have also allowed people a great deal of freedom to craft their online identities. This includes posting personal photos, sharing comments and links, and publicizing connections with other people, all of which include disclosing private details, which for some may seem threatening or invasive. What people (like your boyfriend) choose to broadcast on these sites is up to them, but your concerns are certainly valid. Taking some time for personal reflection and talking with your partner may help you better understand your feelings, your boyfriend’s perspective, and how you both can move forward with your relationship.

As you contemplate this situation further, one issue to consider is that even with the security checks that many social networking sites are implementing, the information posted is public. Social networking sites have made this even more the case, and some fear that their personal information will be viewed by either people they don't know or will become fodder for gossip or water cooler conversations. For some people, perhaps your boyfriend included, this idea is very worrisome and may influence what they choose to share online.

Moreover, when it comes to publicizing a romantic relationship specifically, people have varying opinions on how and when it’s most appropriate — especially now that it may be done in such a public forum as the internet. Some believe that a relationship isn't official until both partners' social networking profiles list them as "In a Relationship." It sounds like this may be the direction you’re leaning, but your boyfriend isn’t necessarily on the same page. Consider asking yourself why this new-age milestone is meaningful to you. Once you know the underlying concerns you have and bring them out of the virtual world and onto the table, you may better understand and be able to communicate why your online relationship status (or lack thereof) is bothering you. Being on the same wavelength with a partner, and being able to openly discuss your relationship preferences, are components of a healthy relationship and this may help you figure out if you're in sync.

Reader, you also mentioned being upset about your boyfriend’s photos with other girl friends; this may be an opportunity for you to ask yourself why you feel so strongly about him posting pictures? What does it signify to you? Would you consider posting pictures of you two on your profile? What if his girl friends were the ones who posted those photos? If you feel that what these pictures signify (i.e., commitment, exclusivity) is something that’s lacking in your relationship, perhaps framing a conversation with him in those terms may help get to the root of your concern.

The bottom line is that healthy relationships involve open communication and mutual satisfaction for both partners. If you feel you're lacking either of these, you and your partner may want to consider discussing how to continue the relationship. If you need help getting this conversation started, you may talk it out first with a trusted friend, family member, or a health promotion professional. You might also consider speaking with a couples’ counselor who may offer additional suggestions.

With social networking sites becoming mainstays in interpersonal relationships, the terms and milestones used to define them are changing, but the need for clear and open communication is and will always be paramount.

Love always,

Last updated Dec 16, 2016
Originally published Nov 19, 2010

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