Are You Feeling The Valentine’s Day Facebook Trap?

Do you feel pressured to keep up appearances on Valentine’s Day? Do you compare what your Valentine’s Day looks like to those of your Facebook friends? If so, you’re not alone — many couples feel the tug of the “Valentine’s Day Facebook Trap.”

In recent years, it seems like Valentine’s Day has become less about celebrating our relationships than about judging them. Nowhere is this more evident than what one of my relationship coaching clients astutely named “The Valentine’s Day Facebook Trap.” (The VDFT). 

The VDFT is the phenomenon of wanting a Valentine’s Day experience that is share-worthy and will maintain the appearance of having a great relationship in social media-land…. But which may be disconnected from the reality of your actual relationship. Doing something post-able will satisfy your friends, but may create stress or awkwardness (or even conflict) in your relationship.

For example, the situation of the client who coined the “Valentine’s Day Facebook Trap” term is that she’s in a new relationship of just a couple of months, where the subject of exclusivity has not yet come up — and Valentine’s Day feels predictably awkward.

She’s wrestling with all the normal questions that people in new relationships have when approaching their first V-Day together, like, “How much thoughtfulness and affection on Valentine’s Day is enough?” or “How much is too much?”

But in the midst of that normal early-relationship anxiety she’s feeling a pull to “go big” and do more than may be appropriate for this stage of the relationship, in order to feed The Feed and have something to show. I hear similar stories from clients who are in relationships that feel fragile, or that are having problems to the point where neither person wants to do Valentine’s Day this year.

The pressure to keep up appearances and compete online in these situations creates a trap: Either you have a V-Day experience that is not an accurate reflection of the reality of the relationship, but makes for an interesting, touching, or beautiful Facebook post, or you have a personally realistic, contextually appropriate moment in your relationship that brings anxiety about it not being good enough in comparison to everyone else’s.

If you’re feeling the same pressure, I’ll ask you the same question I asked my client with the new boyfriend:

“What do YOU actually want this day to be about? Really.” 

We joked about the possibilities, and had a little fun with the lengths that people will go to publicly demonstrate their love for each other. (Visualizing a couple shooting themselves out of a cannon from the top of the Eiffel Tower in a shower of rose-petals was my personal favorite.)

But when we settled down and she started to talk about what she really wanted, it was for both she and her new love interest to feel special — but in a way that was appropriate for this stage of the relationship.

Her authentic truth was this Valentine’s Day should be small, but thoughtful, comfortable, and genuinely meaningful. Her ideas for how to actually accomplish that would probably not photograph well, but would feel special for her.

So my advice to you this Valentine’s Day is to very deliberately and intentionally decide to not pay attention to anyone else’s. Focus on what is real and meaningful to you, instead of how it stacks up to what anyone else is doing. 

Remember that there can be a big difference between the reality of a relationship, and what you see online. And do not get tricked into believing that your relationship should be anything other than what it is.

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