When Couples Are Clingy Online

This originally appeared on The Daily Life. Republished here with permission.

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.

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 among 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 analog 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 caught on to this idea of “hyper coupling” and in its quest to own every relationship by creating 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 cataloging 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 8,651 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 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.

Nicole Elphick is a writer for The Daily Life.

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