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Social media and being seen: what all those Facebook photos really mean

Anita Cassidy

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The moment I start to see an increase in photos of smiling couples being posted on social media, couples who have not just met but, rather more frequently, have been together for a while, I start to wonder: what is driving this need to be so visible with their “happiness”?

In my own experience, it is the couples who are posting and “chattering” a lot on social media who are the ones who are struggling. Social media sharing seems to be a way of seeking visibility that is not being received or enjoyed in their own space and relationship. Saying “look at us” is, all too often, really saying “I am not feeling seen”.

The need to be truly seen (as well as heard) is a key one in all relationships but it’s not something that many people fully understand.

We all know couples who barely acknowledge or touch each other but it is also true that even those who are content, or mostly happy enough, have often got into unhelpful habits with regards connection and touch.

It can be helpful to tune into your feelings about the relationship(s) you are in and to reflect carefully and with kindness for yourself and others upon the needs you have. 

Ask yourself some gentle questions:

What do you need to say that you have been putting off?

How seen do you feel? How much and how fully do you really “see” your partner(s)?

How often do you hug, cuddle and physically connect with your partner? Have you noticed a change or made one yourself?

What parts of yourself are not permitted or feel less “allowed”? What parts of yourself are you sharing with others but not your partner?

Are there any activities or behaviours do you do that you feel, deep down, might be attempts to say: can you not see me?

Not feeling seen or heard, that sense of being invisible to the ones who are most close to us, is one of the things that drives Naomi, a character in my book Appetite, to her affair and it is a commonly cited reason, by all genders, for cheating or deceit.

It is tough to say and even tougher to hear and act upon but we are responsible, in our relationships, for speaking up*  about our concerns and issues. If you feel unseen or unheard it is important to take a step back and to see if there really are issues that you need to address.

Conscious relationships create space for conversations about the relationship that can be had without either party feeling scared or worried. Conscious relationships are marked by honest and open communication, even about the toughest things, as this is the key to a thriving connection.

Ask yourself: 

Have you emotionally or physically withdrawn? Or do you feel that your partner has?

If you could say anything, with no fear, what issues would you speak of?

All too often, it is resentment and unspoken grievances/concerns that eat away at relationships. These resentments get in, like weeds, silently, and always small at first, but they grow steadily, until, all too soon, they are draining all the goodness away.

Start by writing a few things down. Take any heated feelings out on the paper first. Set a calm and quiet time aside, when all parties are feeling rested and not distracted, in which to talk. Know that how you feel is likely how your partner feels too. Know that speaking up is better than remaining silent.

Make sure that you have undisturbed space and time to talk and agree on how any time out is to be flagged and taken as well as how long the conversation is to last. Make a commitment, verbally, to listening carefully and agree to let the other finish before speaking. Agree to remain clam and use time outs if you need to take a breather or deal with difficult feelings. Take it in turn to talk, giving each other time to finish sentences without interrupting. Take your time and be kind to each other and yourself. 

If you are unsure of where to begin, or of how to talk about the concerns you have, consider the following sentence structures.

When you xxx I feel yyy.

I have noticed that we xxx / vvvv I’d like to talk about how we both feel about that.

Or, in complete confidence, please get in touch with me to talk with me about how I, the Alethya community and socials I founded or the experienced professionals listed here, may be able to support you. You can contact me here: anita.cassidy@alethya.com Social media and its impact on relationhips is a subject we cover in our forthcoming workshop, The Monogamy Hangover. Click here for more details.

• assuming it is physically safe to do so, if not then there is support available. Try: https://www.womensaid.org.uk

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