Can you imagine Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram feed without the occasional glimpse of John Legend? Or President Barack Obama's without the monthly gushy post in honor of wife Michelle? Of course you can’t! That’s why they’re totally /#celebritycouplegoals.
According to a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE, Chrissy, Barack and anyone else willing to talk about their significant others on social media are doing it right; Surprisingly, what you post online can positively impact the health of your relationship.
Considering the sheer number of relationships nowadays that are beginning—and ending!—online, this new research is important and timely. Past studies have theorized that online social networks could cause more challenges for romantic relationships, especially in cases where one person presents themselves online in a way their partner disagrees with. (In layman’s terms, your partner doesn't appreciate your weekly thirst traps. . .)
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Kansas conducted five different experiments to understand how sharing things about yourself online impacts relationships. They used a variety of methods, including self-reported questionnaires, objective ratings made by independent judges, and partner reports.
In one experiment, for example, researchers created mock Facebook pages that contained either a limited amount of posts or tons of status updates containing personal information, some of which might be considered TMI. (Examples included: “Getting close to my goal weight!” and “So we had a pretty bad fight with Mom.”) Participants were asked to look at one of the fake pages and imagine it belonged to their partner. After they’d perused the page, they were asked to complete a questionnaire that predicted how intimate and satisfying their relationship was.
Overall, the study’s authors found that people who are romantically involved with Facebook oversharers—and you may be one of them—are less satisfied with their relationships than those who have partners who know how to edit themselves online. As they summarize, the study’s results “suggest online disclosure, when done incautiously, can bring more harm than good to romantic relationships, from their development to maintenance.”
The good news, however, is that there is an easy fix if you do happen to be someone who likes to share a lot of personal stuff online: Just sprinkle a few status updates and photos that acknowledge the existence of your significant other. After all, you don’t want them to feel left out.
Omri Gillath is a professor of psychology at the University of Kansas and a co-author on the study. In a statement, she explained: “When you include a significant other in your post, perhaps as confirming a relationship status online or posting a photo together, we found that it counters the negative effects of online disclosure, increasing the feelings of intimacy and satisfaction. This validates the relationship, and a partner likely would see their significant other's post as caring and inclusive."
Bottom line: Go ahead and post that cute selfie of you and your BAE on date night. Sharing is caring—at least, your partner will think so.