Today’s technology helps shape our relationships as we use it more than ever to socialise and meet new people. Certain platforms allow us to cultivate and present different versions of ourselves to the public, and yet despite this, more often than not, we seem to believe other people’s social media accounts to be an accurate representation of their lives. This is especially true of romantic relationships and as a result it’s becoming harder and harder to maintain them.

Recently I was looking at someone from my school’s Instagram and saw photos of him and his girlfriend of six years. I saw pictures of them abroad, on days out, all smiling seemingly happy. Scrolling through I felt jealous pangs like “why can’t I have that?” amongst the awe of “they’re so perfect!” Part of me even felt annoyed at myself for not yet being able to achieve a similar relationship.

After speaking to a friend and mentioning the casual stalking I had done, she informed me that the owner of the account had cheated on his girlfriend just the week before with our mutual friend. I was shocked. Not only by the news, but also how much it troubled me because after all, I didn’t really know these people. I am well aware that social media can be false, but for some reason that doesn’t seem to register as I mindlessly scroll through strangers pictures. And this is exactly why social media is problematic; we know it’s fake and yet we also constantly forget that.

“We only see the best part of each person’s relationships – holiday snaps, brunch with bae, cute walks in the park”

Subconsciously, as we look at Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, we set expectations about what our relationships should look like. These vary depending on the person but the expectations are still there. We only see the best part of each person’s relationships – holiday snaps, brunch with bae, cute walks in the park – but we don’t smell the deathly farts they do in bed or hear their moans when they’re asked to pull their weight around the house.

It’s so easy to believe in the fairy-tale relationship when that’s all we’re being presented with. It can make not-so-perfect relationships seem abnormal. When your relationship seems not as good as other people’s you start to think perhaps there is something wrong with it. The apps that we have grown accustomed to using hourly are constantly portraying curated lives that often cause or worsen insecurities. We share a lot of content, and often feel like we’re over sharing, but not much of it shows who we really are – it’s a double-edged sword.

Similarly, dating apps have become the norm to meet new partners. If you’re in a relationship, it can be easy to see the plethora of eligible singles online and think you can do better. Swiping right on Tinder based on appearance can not only be an ego booster when you get a lot of matches, but it can also give people a false sense that there are so many other people out there. It makes it easier to give up on relationships – something our parents, and grandparents were less likely to do. People are becoming more replaceable in a sense, and connections made online are valued less because of the sheer number of people available at the swipe of a finger.  That said, online dating in reality has its own issues; it’s easy to discredit people superficially, creating impossibly high standards, and harder to get to know someone from behind a screen.

Not only is social media putting a strain on our relationships, our break-ups are harder too

Not only is social media putting a strain on our relationships, our break-ups are harder too. They’re becoming more drawn out because you have to make decisions about whether you want to keep your ex on every individual platform, and if you do you have to consider how you’ll feel if eventually you see them with someone new. The decision is between appearing civil and remaining friends with them online, or unfollowing, unfriending, or even blocking them which gives your ex, and everyone else who notices, something to gossip about.

Gone are the days in which you could pretend your ex never existed. Social media keeps them alive. It can make the break up process that much harder as, despite knowing online personas can be very fake, during points of high emotions they can seem very real. Your ex might post a picture of them smiling a mere day after your break up, causing you to go into panic and believe that they’re totally fine whilst you’re sitting around crying and feeling sorry for yourself.

That’s not to say social media doesn’t have its perks. It’s entertaining, it keeps people in touch, it’s so much easier to discover new art, new information, new points of view; and let’s be frank, we’re all on it anyway so that’s probably not going to change. What is good to remember is that social media in no way at all reflects real relationships. It’s a portfolio, so to speak, of our best and most curated moments that give everyone else only the image we wish to project on the world. The insecurity some of us have about our not so perfect lives needs perspective, and it is essential to remind yourself of that when the strain of social media gets to be that bit too much.