Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — they’re all great … until they’re not. Columnist Ethel Navales navigates the murky waters that is social media and exposes some traps and pitfalls.
As soon as I answered my phone, I heard Rebecca crying on the other end. I didn’t even need to ask why she was crying. Facebook had answered my question through a big, cruel status update:
“Rebecca went from being ‘in a relationship’ to ‘single.’”
After a few minutes of cursing the entire male gender (you know, the usual post-breakup rant), Rebecca began telling me what her ex-boyfriend did wrong. She told me how she had a “gut feeling” he was flirting with other people on Snapchat, how he was obviously hiding their relationship because he didn’t Instagram their dates, how he still had pictures with his ex-girlfriend on Facebook (the audacity!) and how he could never go out without checking his phone every five minutes.
See the common thread here?
Victims of social media traps are easy enough to spot as an outsider, but if you’re the victim, my guess is you don’t realize it. You firmly believe that your suspicions are sound no matter how unreasonable they are, you have a need to check your significant other’s profile every chance you get and, most importantly, you’re convinced that all this is normal. So I’m here to help you out. If you’re guilty of any of the following, then go grab yourself a seat next to Rebecca: You’re a victim of social media traps.
TRAP #1: THE SNOWBALL
Have you ever rolled a snowball down a hill? It starts small and as it makes its way down, it accumulates more and more snow and gets bigger. Well, in this case, the snowball is suspicion.
Like I said, it can start small. A pretty girl likes your boyfriend’s Facebook status. No big deal, right? But then you see that same pretty girl comment on his Instagram. Come to think of it, wasn’t this the same girl with the flirty tweets from a month ago? Before you know it, you’re snooping through a stranger’s profile and — Oh hell no, your boyfriend liked one of her pictures?!
In hindsight, you’ll agree with me: you sound a little crazy. A few minutes ago, you couldn’t care less if your boyfriend liked someone’s picture, but now that you’ve fallen into the trap, it’s a big deal. As you can see, this social media trap has a way of getting people to make mountains out of molehills. You end up over-analyzing harmless social media interactions. The once sensible you is now starting a fight because your boyfriend simply liked a picture. Think about it.
TRAP #2: THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER
A known downside to social media is that we end up comparing our lives to the Photoshopped, hyper-edited lives of others. Unfortunately, we do this with relationships too.
You stumble across a picture of your friend with a bouquet of roses, and you have to show your boyfriend “how cute it is.” Innocent? Nope. It’s really a subtle way of pointing out that he doesn’t get you roses. Or maybe you came across a cute picture of another couple and suddenly you’re thinking the worst about your own relationship. Since your boyfriend doesn’t post cute couple pictures, maybe that means he’s ashamed of you? Maybe he’s hiding your relationship? Maybe he’s into someone else?!
I’m going to go ahead and stop you right there, you poor thing you.
The sensible you knows that you shouldn’t compare your relationship with others. After all, other people only post pictures of their happy moments. You know this, but once you’re in the trap, the only thing you can think about is why you never get any damn roses.
TRAP #3: A DANGEROUS STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE
Your sensible side knows that there are tons of reasons your boyfriend may still have pictures of his past relationships. Your sensible side knows that he probably doesn’t realize those pictures are there. Your sensible side knows that he’s simply too lazy to go back 50 pictures and delete one.
But once you’ve fallen into this trap, your sensible side goes out the window. Social media tempted you into digging into the past, and you didn’t hesitate. Admit it, you’ve stalked your boyfriend’s exes so much you probably even know their favorite color.
Next thing you know, you’re mad at your boyfriend for that necklace he got her … three years ago.
TRAP #4: THE PERMANENT THIRD WHEEL
With addiction, the first step to healing is recognizing the problem.
If you can’t eat a meal without taking a picture of it and posting a “foodie,” you may have a problem. If you can’t go anywhere without checking in, you may have a problem. If you live by the motto “pics or it didn’t happen,” you may have a problem.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for capturing the moment, but not if it takes away from actually experiencing the moment. Besides, we all know that a sure way to piss your date off is to make your phone a third wheel.
If you’ve found yourself falling into any of these traps, don’t worry. We’ve all gone through it at one point. Instead of assuming the worst, try talking to your significant other about any concerns you have first. I’m sure he’ll delete that ex-girlfriend picture once you tell him it bothers you. If he doesn’t, the solution is simple. Dump the dude and go find someone who buys you roses.
I’m just kidding. Kinda.
This story was originally published in our Summer 2014 issue. Get your copy here.