Love at first snap?

art by Chloe Hooker

Thomas Birmingham, news-features writer

You pull out your phone and check your notifications. Nothing. You start to panic. They haven’t liked your last post on Instagram. They haven’t replied to your most recent Snapchat. You start to wonder whether you have done something to upset your boyfriend or girlfriend. A familiar question plants itself in your mind. What does it all mean?

As social media expands, more and more teens use it to interact with their current love interests. A 2015 study conducted by Pew Research Center displays the depths to which social media has invaded the relationships of the 94 percent of teens who use it daily. Pew found over half of all teens attempted to show their crush their affection just by friending them on a social media platform. The study also found only 55 percent of teens tend to begin flirting in person. Pew predicts the more social media takes over our lives, the more teens will attempt to develop relationships by using it.

Social media is also changing what so-called ‘young-love’ looks like. It used to be a walk through the park, hand-in-hand, sitting down at an ice cream shop or just talking. Now, many young people typically display their affection simply by blowing kisses via emojis and writing hasty captions on anniversary posts. Modern romance seems to have a lot less substance and a lot more Snapchat.

As teens, are we really so afraid of face-to-face interaction that we allow ourselves to take refuge in something as inconsequential as social media? Treating social media as an outlet for romance only validates claims made about our ‘lazy, unmotivated’ generation. Saying you are in a healthy relationship built on social media is like saying you know how to play the violin because you have watched a bunch of how-to videos online, but have never actually picked up the instrument.

Don’t get me wrong, social media has many benefits. It allows us to connect with people like never before and share our stories, personalities and dreams with the world. But it also accustoms us to getting information and other content fast, fast, fast. Don’t let the instantaneous nature of social media prevent you from doing the work required to build a healthy relationship. Like most things in life, true love doesn’t come with the push of a button or the like of a tweet.

Another unfortunate aspect of social media’s effects on teen relationships is how easy it is to change your appearance on these platforms. A CNN survey found one in four people lie about themselves regularly on platforms such as Facebook. Social media allows us to have a selective memory, filtering out the bits of ourselves we find unappealing. All users ever see is the glossy outer shell of whatever person they are viewing. So when relationships start, they are often built on a flimsy foundation, as the couple discovers what they see isn’t always what they get.

Now, I won’t pretend I am completely free of social media’s chokehold. I, too, am guilty of resorting to a simple text when it would have been more appropriate to call or, better yet, meet in person. I get it. But I also don’t have Snapchat, and I don’t check Instagram every day. From my experience, the moments when I’m looking out at the world instead of down at my phone are the best, most fulfilling parts of my day. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true.

So for a couple planning their next date, my advice is to go beyond the norm. People in a healthy relationship don’t pick a location just because it would make a great post on Instagram. They don’t text their crush how they feel about them. They don’t use their phones as an escape route. Instead, they venture out into the vast, vibrant world which lies beyond the screen. And believe it or not, they often find there is real happiness out there waiting for them.

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