When couples are clingy online

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Photo: Stígur Karlsson

I consider myself fairly unflappable in the face of revelations about how others live their lives. You like dipping your French fries in ice-cream sundaes? Well, that sounds gross to me, but maybe you had a tongue accident as a young child. You're a Plushie? I don't care at all what you do in the bedroom, so long as everyone is consenting. You tuned in to Reef Doctors? I'm baffled by your choice of how you spend your time, you nutty McCune-ophile, but I can never not watch an episode of Snog Marry Avoid when I stumble upon one, so I feel your shame. In rap parlance I subscribe to the mantra of "you do you and I'll do me".

But I remember being very shocked several years back when one of my ex-colleagues mentioned that she shared an email address with her boyfriend. "You know they are free, right?" I managed to squeak out rather rudely before my brain caught up to my mouth.

She explained that it was just more convenient, so they both knew what was going on in one another's lives, plus they had nothing to hide anyway. I bit my tongue and didn't mention that I believed there was a distinct difference between having nothing to hide, and having nowhere to hide something.

Is the digital age making clingy couples worse? Social media has undoubtedly made it increasingly easy for those amongst us with co-dependent tendencies to merge identities online. This can come in the form of constantly sending public correspondence that might be best left private (I didn't want to know your pet name was Sweet Cheeks) or posting a zillion mid-smooch pics. Some even go so far as to take the ultimate step of setting up a joint Facebook or Instagram account, or start co-blogging.

In the analogue days, at least clingy couples actually had to be together to get all lovey dovey and annoy their more introverted friends, but in this millennium there are more extreme ways for lovebirds to stay connected in every facet of their lives.

Big businesses are trying to encourage this trend to boost their bottom line. Facebook last year cottoned on to this idea of "hyper coupling" and in its quest to own every relationship, created couples pages – an automatically generated "us" page showing the timeline of whoever you list yourself as "in a relationship with". It was actually a repackaging of the already existing friendship pages, but now in a twee, and just a tad smug, couples format. And if you find this cutesy concept a little gag-inducing, you'll feel the bile rise even higher as Facebook also made it incredibly difficult to opt out of, which understandably led to quite a few upset users.

But not everyone finds the idea of publicly cataloguing every sweet nothing tacky. Take the case of Robin Coe and Matthew Fleming, a married pair who met on Instagram and have developed quite a following chronicling their relationship. They ping-pong rather charming messages of adoration on the popular photo-sharing website, complete with hashtags such as #matthewlovesrobin. It's proven incredibly popular: Robin's Instagram has more than 375,000 followers, and a snap of them on their wedding day got 8651 likes. Kind of gives new meaning to the term public displays of affection though.

If you do have a friend who is clogging up your feed with XOXOs not addressed to you, there's probably no polite way to voice your irritation to them. It's all part and parcel of engaging with social media. Or, of course, you could just send them an anonymous link to one of the many apps such as Couple, Between or Avocado – social media networks built for only two – and hope they take the not-so-subtle hint.

Despite the trend for those of us coupled-up to create our own Brangelina-esque brand, I'm still wary of the whole thing. Women are already at risk of having their identities subsumed as "Ben's wife" or "Daisy's mother" – why would we want to speed up the process ourselves by virtual means?

Having your own interests and hobbies and passions is integral to being a well-rounded human being. And quite frankly, having to share your own digital soapbox sounds kind of awful.

But perhaps the joke is on me and my seemingly, increasingly antiquated notions of privacy and independence. A recent study found that Facebook users who have more photos with their partner and tag one another report closer relationships.

Yet despite this grave warning from science, I'll take my chances going it alone. After all, I believe (and with sincerest apologies to the great Virginia Woolf) a woman must have a password of one's own.

14 comments

  • The worst was when a distant facebook friend of mine and his new girlfriend started posting things like 'Thanks for the sexy-time in the truck, gorge' and the like.

    Barf-o-rama.....

    Commenter
    AT
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    June 24, 2013, 9:17AM
    • I think its so weird, when couples set up a single facebook page for the both of them. Or when every post is like "just helped bubby cut his toenails".

      Seriously people, we don't need/want to know every intimate detail of your lives together. Nobody cares. Keep that stuff private please.

      end rant.

      Commenter
      Adrian
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      June 24, 2013, 10:36AM
      • To be honest, I think it reflects relationship insecurities. Why do you feel the need to declare your love, publicly, every single minute of the day?

        Granted, I'm basing this on a family member who is considerably older who has had a child with someone half their age, who engage in this daily. But it is this example that has really made me think about this sort of behaviour. The relationship itself is insecure, and I think this public declaration... well, yes, I'd hope you love each other, and I'm pleased you do. But I don't need to know that you miss someone, love them forever, xxxxxxxxxxxx, because they have gone to work for the day.

        I think there are some things that need to be sacred about a relationship, private... it's part of intimacy. Something that is for you and that special someone only.

        And yes, they are "hidden" from my news feed.

        Commenter
        Eskimo
        Date and time
        June 24, 2013, 10:47AM
        • + 1

          Commenter
          B
          Date and time
          June 24, 2013, 11:24AM
        • I completely agree Eskimo. I have a friend on facebook like this. She is constantly posting status updates telling us how wonderful her husband is, and sending him facebook love letters that show up in everyone's news feeds. I'm sure she is trying to convince herself, along with the rest of us, that she is blissfully happy because deep down she's actually not (lots of issues in that relationship). It's actually really sad.

          Commenter
          Heidi
          Date and time
          June 24, 2013, 12:24PM
        • I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. I am always incredibly suspicious of people on Facebook or in real life who engage in such behaviour. I always wonder what they are overcompensating for.

          Love is private – that’s what makes it special.

          Commenter
          latinnital
          Date and time
          June 24, 2013, 12:36PM
        • True! That's what private messages, etc are for! Not for the whole world to have to see.

          Commenter
          BPA
          Date and time
          June 24, 2013, 3:17PM
      • Wifey and I have separate email accounts but they both appear together in the apple mail program. I can see hers and she can see mine - I suppose if she wanted to send a private email she could open a gmail or hotmail account but what's the point unless she's organizing a surprise party for me :-)
        If a pal wanted to share a secret with me and not my wife ... then he can tell me over the phone , text it to me or <gasp> come and see me !! ...because only total idiots commit deep dark secrets to email

        Commenter
        arbee
        Location
        Newtown
        Date and time
        June 24, 2013, 11:26AM
        • Shared facebook accounts (particularly), also present a practical problem: who is writing? which individual is responding to me? If i send a message to one party, have i got any guarantee that it was ready by the intended recipient, or the message was passed on by the other member? a cheeky response from one person in the relationship might be a joke, but the same thing from the other member could be insulting. It's simply frustrating and unnecessary.

          Is it just me though, or are others seeing a general decline in the amount of social media usage among their friends? I'm 30-odd and most everyone has a facebook and/or twitter and/or instagram, but on the whole i would say people are posting less and checking it less too. It's main use these days is arranging things in small groups, even events are falling off as the efficacy of a FB invite is probably only around 30%. Maybe I'm just getting old....

          Commenter
          Bushy
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          June 24, 2013, 11:29AM
          • Society has always promoted coupling for economic advantage.The internets just carrying on the tradition of the love knot.Sickening really.Icant stand couples----,so co dependent.Its like a form of immaturity, of never learning to stand on your own two feet.

            Commenter
            Jane
            Date and time
            June 24, 2013, 11:37AM

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