A look into the performative side of relationships in the 21st century
On January 6, Julia Fox — best known for her role in Adam Sandler’s “Uncut Gems” — penned a blog post for Interview magazine detailing a second date at Carbone in New York with none other than Kanye West. After dinner, she describes in the post, West surprised her with a photo shoot for the pair (directed by the rapper himself, of course) in a hotel room stocked with luxurious clothing. Predictably, the fiery pictures took the internet by storm, prompting many to wonder whether the nascent love affair between the two celebs is genuine or merely a ploy to make Kim Kardashian turn her head. Perhaps I am just a woman scorned, but something about the timing and extravagance of the budding romance doesn’t sit well with me. Hollywood is no stranger to suspected PR relationships (Remember Hiddleswift?), and as Kardashian and Pete Davidson jet from coast to coast together, Ye could simply be giving his ex a taste of her own medicine.
The latest celebrity gossip truly has me wondering: When did love become so damn public?
I’m not talking about the A-lister tendency to publicize their high-profile rebounds, I’m talking about society’s incessant need for external validation when it comes to romance. With the advent of social media, it has become easier and more commonplace than ever to showcase our affections on a public stage. Like clockwork, friends, family and online acquaintances routinely post carefully curated snaps of new partners, flaunt lavish date nights and compose effusive love letters in the captions of Instagram pictures. And sure, these habits appear harmless enough on the surface; after all, it can feel pretty great to show the world we have someone to love and are loved in return. But what implications does the performative side of modern relationships have for life beyond our screens?
If you think about it, the idea of love as a production for an audience is already deep-seated in our collective consciousness. Consider the infamous “grand gesture” — we fawn at public declarations of love in our favorite rom-coms, swoon at elaborate proposals and imagine our favorite love songs were written just for us. Gestures like these are undoubtedly adorable, but they are all contingent on “proving” our feelings for someone with the world as a witness. On a smaller scale, tribute posts for our paramours serve as testimonies that we are ardently, irrefutably in love. The ensuing flood of likes and comments on these posts gives us a dopamine fix because it reassures us that everybody knows how perfect our relationship is. If everybody thinks you’re “couple goals,” then you must be, right?
The pitfall of posting the highlights of a relationship for the entire world to see is that it can often be difficult to reconcile the reality of a relationship with how it is portrayed online. No matter how wonderful love looks through our rose-colored screens — I’m looking at you, Juliye — every relationship has its ups and downs. When our feeds are clogged with legions of happy couples, we may feel resentful or disappointed that we’re not as satisfied as everyone else seems to be. This is because, whether we realize it or not,
our expectations for our partners are heavily influenced by our constant exposure to idealized romances on social media.
To make matters worse, if we continuously seek validation from others through interactions with our own posts, we are unwittingly training ourselves to require external evidence to legitimize the success and desirability of our partnerships. In moments that aren't so Insta-worthy, this can lead to a whole lot of cognitive dissonance.
All this isn’t to say that showing off our beloveds online is an inherently bad thing. In fact, a sweet shout-out has the potential to put a smile on anyone’s face, and it is certainly important to celebrate the happiness and milestones of the couples we know and love. But next time you find yourself wishing you and your beau looked more like the picture-perfect pairs you see online, just remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the screen.
Alex del Cañal is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. Her favorite activities include sleeping in, making playlists for every imaginable situation, writing bad poetry in her Notes app, and endlessly annoying her neighbors with her beloved digital piano. You can find her on Instagram at @alex.delcanal or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.