How much social media PDA is too much?

No more pda. You win. But here's what we are gonna do. We are going to designate one of our closets as a hook up zone. Anything goes. - Michael, The Office


Many of our dating customs today come from the medieval tradition, according to Thought Co. At that time, chivalry was celebrated in men, but chastity was required of women. . Things don't seem to have changed that much in the past 1,000 years.. We still expect a certain level of chivalry from suitors (whether they deliver or not is questionable) and women are still expected to "leave something to the imagination," as my mother would say. Recently, Ariana Grande spoke out about this double standard after a bad encounter with a fan who objectified her in public. After her initial Tweets about the incident, critics claimed that she had it coming because she acted so sexual in her music videos and because of the way she dresses. She replied with this powerful tweet, "expressing sexuality in art is not an invitation for disrespect!!! Just like wearing a short skirt is not asking for assualt." With the stigma for women expressing their sexuality sticking around for centuries, it's easy to see why PDA has also been looked down upon since the beginnings of courtship traditions. Women always seem to carry the burden of the blame when a man crosses a line physically with them.. In keeping with the long tradition of women not wanting to have their public advances interpreted in the wrong way, today's women feel pressured to withhold all together, and thus the iconic term to describe the phenomenon of publicly displaying affection was born: P.D.A.


As much pressure as there is on white women, marginalized groups take an even harder hit. Stigma or not, PDA has been somewhat normalized with white heterosexual couples, but the PDA between a homosexual or interracial couple is not tolerated in some areas and can even provoke danger for a couple faced with a prejudiced community. A friend once expressed his hesitancy to hold his partner's hand in public because of the negativity and hate that still surrounds the LGBTQ+ community. With the prominence of social media in today's dating cultures, PDA has become more complicated than ever. With so much information readily available online, it's easy to piece together budding relationships online the same way you would infer if you saw Cara and Ryan holding hands outside the cafeteria back in the old days. The difference? Although social media platforms have extensive security options, it's still easy to share a friend or loved one's personal info or a photo of them without consent making PDA on social media potentially one-sided, intrusive, and problematic.

I learned this firsthand when I accidentally crossed the line with a former boyfriend, Kenny* , with whom I was working. After this job ended, Kenny* and I became long distance. I missed him a lot, so I would post photos of us, and eventually requested that our relationship status be published on Facebook. This was something that made Kenny* really uncomfortable. We had a number of conversations about it, but , at the end of the day, he wasn't ready to share our relationship with everyone he's ever met.. In the moment, it certainly felt fishy to me, but I had to respect his boundaries and trust him. I didn't totally understand his perspective until recently when I ran into the same kind of social media PDA snap-fu.

I had gone on a few dates with John* and I was starting to like him. He treated me really well and for the first time, I felt like something was budding with someone who was proud to be with me. That feeling quickly crumbled when he crossed the line on social media. The first time he engaged on one of my photos, I thought it was sweet. It was unassuming and innocent; however, this habit quickly developed into turned into what I described to my friends as, "peeing on me like he marked his territory the way a dog would." I don't know what exactly marked the turn in his behavior. It had something to do with what emojis he used, growing from unthreatening smiley faces to flirtatious kissy faces and hearts. The way he insinuated that he knew me in "that way," from the phrasing of his comments, like he was referencing one of our (few) private moments. More than anything, it was a feeling that my personal space had been invaded and that he was now telling the world something about me that I didn't know was quite true yet: that I was his. Suddenly it hit my like a pound of bricks: I was doing that exact thing to Kenny* and I realized that this was uncharted territory, not only for me, but for the masses.


So what conversations do you need to have with your S/O before posting to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and whatever other platforms pop up in the future? The important thing to remember is that consent with sharing someone else's photo or personal information on social media is just as important as consent everywhere else. Some parents are even opting not to share their children's photos on social media until they can consent. Talk to your partner about this the same way you'd talk to them about any other milestones in your relationship. Having an understanding of where they stand will not only make you feel 100% confident if you do decide to post something but will also give you a better idea of where your relationship stands. Discussing whether or not you want to be Facebook Official or FBO seems silly, but it's important according to Wendy Walsh, PhD author of The30 Day Love Detox. She says that especially in the formative days of a budding relationship, "intimacy needs privacy to grow." In my experience, having this discussion opened up more discussions about whether or not we should really be together anyways and personally, that's something I'd rather know sooner than later.

Jackie Thomas from Elite Daily asks you to also consider your audience. "Call me old-fashioned, but I believe cheek kisses can turn out to be adorable pictures, but full-on make-out sessions never do," she says beginning her list of online PDA no-nos. Other pet peeves of hers include the overuse of #mcm or #wcw, other annoying hashtags like #perfectboyfriend #cute #love, and screenshotting your personal conversations and broadcasting them for the world to see. Simply, she feels like there are some things left better between just the two of you that the world doesn't really need to see. Broadcasting too much about your relationship on social media also reveals a certain level of dependency on your relationship for self-esteem according to Women's Health. This can also lead to an unhealthy obsession with your partner's social media presence. ""Previous research has shown that the more a person in a romantic relationship uses Facebook, the more likely they are to monitor their partner's Facebook activity more stringently, which can lead to feelings of jealousy," according to Russell Clayton who lead a study on social media's effect on relationships at The University of Missouri.

Payge Ehrp from Odyssey poses this question: "are we obsessively posting about our significant others because we care about sharing a sincere moment of happiness with our partner, or is it because of the inner validation we get from the likes?" In the same way, does our desire for our partner to show affection for us on social media have to with showing the world how much you love one another or does it have to do with validating any insecurities you might have in a relationship. Bottom line: we shouldn't use social media as a crutch to avoid talking about the things that are hard to talk about and that consent still applies in the complex world of social media- and just when we figure this dynamic out, the information age is likely to throw another curveball at our dating lives.

Do you know how much social media PDA is too much? Take the quiz here:

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