Why you should stop reading into #couplegoals

April 01, 2016
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It’s the end of a long day of work, university and battling through life’s obstacles, and yet again you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed. You’re bombarded with posts of friends living it up, delicious foods you can’t create, destinations you travel to only in your dreams, and couples who plant a seed in your mind, which grows into a never-ending list of #couplegoals until all you can see is how imperfect your relationship is.

Think about your idea of the perf relationship. Now think about how Instagram depicts it...

According to your trusty friend Instagram, the ideal coupling is all about smiles, passion, gifts, and Cinderella (or Fifty Shades of Grey) romances. You may think it’s beneficial to create a complex recipe for your perfect partner, but in truth, Instagram and its hot couples are delivering a dangerous daily dose of unrealistic #couplegoals, leading you in the wrong direction.

The filtering process

You don’t usually jump on Insta when you’re in the middle of living your life to the fullest, right? This is where the problem begins. After a stressful day, awe-inducing posts from the likes of Alexis Reneg and Jay Alvarrez are going to make you completely re-evaluate your life. Their lives appear to be an endless stream of travel, passionate love and flawless moments – AKA “perfection”.

Clinical psychologist Gemille Cribb, of Sydney’s Equilibrium Psychology, touches on the “skewed idea of reality” that Instagram creates. “People who use Instagram and other forms of social media often portray themselves to enhance the qualities they have that they think are desirable,” she says.

Insta couples like the ‘Follow Me To’ duo select their most glamorous moments to share with the world and, according to Cribb, we “believe that others have a ‘perfect’ relationship or life”.

She calls this the “filtering process” (no, not like Lo-Fi, Willow and Amaro), and when we forget how ‘pick-and-choose’ Instagram’s reality is, we begin to think “we fall short or are inadequate”.

(Unrealistic) expectations are the mother of all f*ck-ups

When we fall for this “filtering process”, our list of #couplegoals is forced onto our partners, prospective partners, or ourselves.

It’s all well and good to want your boyfriend or girlfriend to be affectionate, supportive and understanding, but when your list of demands starts to climb, you’re setting everyone up for disappointment.

A friend of mine - let’s call her Leyla - has a demanding list of ideals she wants her boyfriend to live up to. I’m talking a long list of things not even Prince Charming could fulfil, and you can pinpoint each of them to what media platforms portray.

Relationships take work, and Instagram definitely won’t be showing you the nitty-gritty.

On the flipside, Leyla knows this and has been through a hell of a lot with her boyfriend - we’ll call him Tyler - but still can’t let go of her recipe for the perfect man. As a result, life is harder for Tyler, as he’s having to constantly live up to such ingredients. Keep in mind, you can’t ignore the struggles Leyla also deals with. There are girls and guys aplenty in this position, and it stems from a lack of self-esteem.

When your partner is scrolling through Insta, they’re also likely to be constantly comparing. “When we compare ourselves to others, we are always looking at the areas where we are different [and] either 'better' or 'worse',” says Cribb. According to her, we forget how “in reality, everyone has their own struggles and challenges”. And you can’t expect someone to live up to your perfect recipe every minute of every day.

“Healthy self-esteem comes from unconditional love,” she says.

How can we re# the situation?

If you’re heading into Leyla/Tyler territory, a psychologist might be helpful. But if you’ve caught on to this early, then here are some ways you can stop reading into #couplegoals.

The antithesis to self-esteem is the act of comparing yourself to others, so always keep the “filtering process” in mind and remind yourself of the highlights of your relationship that would make an equally great Insta page.

Cribb believes healthy self-esteem is achieved by not using “images of others to judge [our]selves against, [because we] are worthy no matter what … warts and all”.

You and bae aren’t your favourite Insta couple, and that is perfectly OK. Actually, it’s perfect, because if every couple were the same, then how the hell would we find the one we’re supposed to be with?

“[See] through the ‘filtering process’,” says Cribb. “There is no pecking order of things that make you more or less worthwhile … allow yourself to remain unaffected by the skewed impression you are receiving [and] keep your own sense of self-worth.”

Hayley Mitchelhill-Miller

Hayley is a digital content producer, and creative writing student at the University of Technology Sydney, constantly turning everything into poetry and an ongoing film in her mind.

Image: Mark Sebastian, Flickr Creative Commons license