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Couples who post too much on social media always break up

Ramit’s politically incorrect observation #394: If you’re a couple who posts too many lovey-dovey photos on are going to break up.

Ramit Sethi

Ramit’s politically incorrect observation #394:

If you’re a couple who posts too many lovey-dovey photos on Instagram…

…you are going to break up.

Am I the only one who thinks this??

Come on, you know what I’m talking about. One day they’re running on a beach together, drinking pina coladas with that weird intertwined arm thing…and the next day they’ve deleted all traces of the 2-year relationship.

Why does this happen? What is going on here?

I know a little bit about this. I have 391,986 followers on Twitter / Instagram / YouTube / Facebook. Here’s what I’ve learned about social media.

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First off, social media can be amazing. For example, I know what my college roommate is up to from his posts on Twitter. My family has a private Facebook group where we can share photos and video. And for IWT, I can post tons of interesting things and find out what resonates with people in hyperspeed.

But we also have talk about the dark side of social media.

It starts off innocently enough. You sign up for Instagram, see your friends there, and you start posting stuff. Nice.
Then you notice little signs of what people “like” more. Oh really? When I post a picture of sushi, I get a lot of likes? That feels good. Hmm…

Fast forward 2 months. Suddenly your Instagram feed is full of pics of beaches and pics of croissants and almond lattes. So many likes! So what happened?

Just like in real life, the people around you have a massive, invisible influence on what you wear, what you eat, and what you post.

In fact, social media is literally engineered to keep you clicking and scrolling. It’s built to influence you, like taking your brain and replacing it with a 13-year-old’s brain. Suddenly, all you care about is what your friends think.

That’s when social media goes from fun to defining your personal identity. For some people, it’s no longer just a meal out with friends — it’s your Nolita egg sandwich and matcha latte, defining who you are.

I like croissants too. But what happens when social media starts to define you? Read this confession of an Instagram influencer, a voyeuristic look inside social media that will make you die inside.

The ultimate irony is that the more you appeal to what people “like,” the more you end up just like everyone else.

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Looks amazing. Until you see 20 other feeds just like it.

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are all

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The world wants you to be vanilla.

And social media makes it easier than ever to get these cheap vanilla likes. I remember a few months ago, I wanted to learn how to edit video on my phone. I spent 3 hours editing a clip, putting music on top and finally figured it out. I was so proud of myself! It only got about 100 likes.

The next pic, of some stupid eggs I cooked in the morning, got about 400 likes.

So what do I do now? Should I turn my social media into a knockoff of Rachael Ray’s food pics? Honestly, it’s tempting, and sometimes there’s no shame in doin’ it for the likes.

But I hate vanilla. The truth tastes better.

For every post like this on social media —


I screwed up a lot:

Or these:

giphy 1

Most people don’t post the screwups, though.

Social media doesn’t represent real life. It’s a highlight reel, the “best of the best” to show we’re interesting, attractive, fun, and cool. And too often, we optimize our lives, relationships, and businesses to what plays well.

How about you? What’s a “white lie” you’ve told on social media?

Share your white lie below.

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  1. avatar
    Manuel Schulze

    Really great post! I like what you said about couples! You read 6 never-ending (!!!) months about how cute the new boyfriend/girlfriend of person X is, that the love will never end and that they are Mr. & Mrs. Cute. After that, there are two months of how disappointed X is and that Mr./Mrs. Cute was just a liar. Final step: It all starts again. New boyfriend/girlfriend.

    I also like being different. So I shut down Facebook and only use Instagram from time to time and Twitter to follow financial and technical influencers (that do not share, why they are better, more hipster, more in love, etc.).

  2. avatar

    There is a study about this somewhere. Couples that do that are overcompensating and are more probably to break up. They don’t always break up, but they surely are in a bad relationship.
    We all now that the hearty, flowery, sugary phase usually last a couple of months and them people break up or start to love each other like they are so all the cliche stuff disappear and they discover who they are as individuals and as a couple.
    But also, we also have that friend couple who are terribly wrong for each other, and after years they are still together and sicking us with their too cute to be true facebook states (specially sick because we know them on person). They don fool us anymore, but that is not the point, they are fooling themselves.

  3. avatar
    Drew Wallace

    I completely agree, Ramit. Often, it feels like over-posting couples are trying to fake it until they make it – as if many images of happy couple will eventually make them that happy couple.

    There is a really interesting linguistics concept called “performative utterances” that fits here. Basically, it is people saying something that’s neither true or false, but has social implications. Like sayingI love you all the time, you are not trying to quantify love, you are instead trying to convince everyone around, including yourself, that you love someone.

  4. avatar

    This couldn’t more true. My guilty one is that I take too much time to post food pics of my amateur foodie cooking that it gets cold by the time I’m ready to eat. I cook it, looks great, and I post it on IG like a basic bitch.

  5. avatar

    There’s indeed research about this topic. I tried to become a studyblr, I wanted to give other students “tips” on how to be good students, even if my grades didn’t reflect a single study technique or tip I’d shared, I’m just lucky I’m not so stupid and manage to make it to A’s and high B’s. I stopped doing it because I felt fake. It is true, by having social media, we often look to show the best image of ourselves to have some type of validation about how great we are (when in reality we’re always struggling). It is a tricky situation with social media, we follow those who seem to have their lives together, it must have something to do with social psychology, but this really can’t be fixed if we keep on not only just presenting the best part of ourselves on social media but also follow those who do the same thing and think that their lives are real.

  6. avatar

    My guilty share was during a work trip. I shared my location which was admittedly glamourous but failed to share that I had not been out of the ice rink except to sleep at a very generic hotel. Every Marriott looks similar and all the rinks look the same from Boston, Philadelphia, Toronto, to Quebec.

    Instead of admitting that I was stale and totally uninteresting- I just shared the city.

  7. avatar

    This is sooo true, and something I am painfully aware of. Not only do people make their lives look fun and interesting, only posting highlights, they also freak out about posts that aren’t positive – at least after the first one.

    For example, it’s “okay” to post up that your dog died or you broke your leg. Sympathy and “omg, that’s so horrible” will flow. For a moment. Two months AFTER you’ve broken your leg, and you’re STILL on crutches, and life still sucks big time, don’t you DARE post about how miserable you are – ask me how I know :/ People will jump down your throat for ruining their perceptions that life is good and happy and you are wonderful.

    So, my white lies this past winter were mostly revolving around how “determined” I was to get better. The reality was that yes, while I was determined, I also spent a lot of time down, depressed, and mad….but social media, even your friends, don’t want to see or hear that side of things.

  8. avatar
    Mark Q

    Posted a bottle of Dom the other night…….I wasn’t the one paying for it.

    You need to check out Black Mirror, Season 3 Ep 1, on Netflix. A very good episode on someone doing everything solely for social media likes.

  9. avatar

    the article “confessions of an instagram influencer” made me laugh out loud! thank you!!!

  10. avatar

    Thanks for the chuckle today. LOL. This reminds me of an aquaintance on my FB – everyday lovey pics and there’s no greater love than the one they shared and on and on how great each moment is that they’re together blah blah blah…..the next morning her post was…”SINGLE AGAIN AND LOVING IT!”

  11. avatar

    Great post.. be unique! 🙂
    And btw. I wouldn’t agree with the point on relationships. Maybe, because I am in a similar one, we post a lot of cute stuff and hearts 😀 But I don’t think it diminishes the real stuff we have. Again, I guess maybe it is different, because, we don’t fake it, it is the same in real life as what we post online.
    And probably, there are a lot of relationship that are doomed, but from my perspective this is because the couple was forcing something that wasn’t there. Oh and we DO post the screwups too 😀

  12. avatar
    Christine Feaster

    I sympathize with this so much! My white lie is what I DON’T post.

  13. avatar

    Vanilla is awesome. Have you ever had a great Madagascar Vanilla ice cream? Excellent. Vanilla does not equal plain, and it irks the crap out of me when people equate it to dullness.

  14. avatar

    I really like your discussions! I especially like the ones that are less “vanilla” and more truth. Keep up the great work.

  15. avatar
    Felipe Chalreo

    People try too hard and they end up looking all fake. Just look the #entrepreneur

  16. avatar

    I kind of do the opposite- I don’t post things that could look like I am bragging or that others can feel jealous about. Like when I traveled to 30 different countries while having an FT job, I posted about 2- my first and last trip. Even when I had people asked for photos/updates. Or when good news happens, I rarely share it. So I minimize my life actually.

    Also, no one wants to hear if you are doing bad either.

    Summary, only vanilla stuff gets posted. Even though I have less than 200 people on FB (I’m selective on purpose), I still feel like I can’t keep up with everyone. How do people do this? Luckily, I don’t care too much about social media; I am out there living my life instead.

  17. avatar

    I agree with you. That’s why I share too little on social media even if that doesn’t appeal my friends and relatives. I think sharing memories with limited who are a part of them or really good (with no hidden intentions) are the ones with whom we share such posts. Thanks! Happy to read your emails and wonderful ideas.

  18. avatar

    my white lie is that i post the most on social media when i’m unhappy/bored….with happy/active pictures. the more i’m OFF social media (whether looking at it or posting on it) is usually when i’m the most happy…doing things i love in the real life with no time to check social media. =O

  19. avatar

    It’s a dopamine issue. We enjoy the dopamine hit (the good feeling) we get when people Like or Share our posts, so we produce more in the same vein. It’s already difficult to be different or to share our painful moments, and if we get no dopamine feedback on those we’re less likely to post more of them. Which is a shame because people don’t necessarily want to ‘Like’ your pain, but it makes for more interesting feeds!

  20. avatar

    When something hilarious/embarrassing happens involving my baby, I want to share this experience with my friends. Usually I have to censor something about it because I’m afraid someone will scold or shame me for something. If I post a photo of sleeping baby, first I move her toys or blanket out of frame because why? Doctors recommend babies sleep in an empty crib.

  21. avatar

    My IG account is anonymous and I delete everything once a month. Usually I post quotes I collect and songs I feel pair well. It’s like an anonymous public journal. I never post pictures of myself. I consider the account therapy, and for this reason keep it anonymous and sometimes also private. I only have about 250 followers and I don’t particularly care about having more, it’s enough. I have developed a few close relationships online through that account however and feel that currently it is the most honest representation of what I am actually thinking about. I have stopped using Facebook except for messenger since I have friends / contacts that like to message me there and unfortunately I used it to open my Spotify account which I can’t change until I’m in the US again. Actually the public display aspect of social media makes me very uncomfortable.

  22. avatar

    I check out once in a blue moon people’s profiles. And this is for me one sign of voyeurism. I only have a Facebook page. I don’t like social media because it makes you addicted to fake. I totally agree with the fact that people want you to be vanilla. Also, I still try to understand the narcissist idea of selfies. I never post things of me or my partner. The pictures posted are by my friends or groups I’m in. I deeply believe that we’re all a rainbow of different flavors and that makes the world so rich and interesting.

  23. avatar

    You are like a chapter of black mirror.
    I think exactly the same about everything you said here.

    Social Media is like any addiction, you need to control it when you use it. Otherwise you will find yourself lost trying to create a fairy tale of you and the time you spend on it will not be healthy.

    What moves people to share content is to show themselves to others for approval and esteem. It’s almost anthropological.

  24. avatar

    Great post. I really enjoy using Social Media and creating content for Social Media (for myself and companies I work for)… but it can really take a dark turn pretty fast, and become super addictive and cause anxiety. I recently started to make more of an effort to NOT consume so much content on Social Media. Example this morning I purposefully did not look at my cellphone as soon as I got out of bed, or when I was eating breakfast… and I’ve gone on Social Media fasts before. I’m a little shaken up this week …. I found out that someone I admire and follow online committed suicide late last month. I would have never guessed from her feed that she was ever going to do something like that. I was even a little envious of her life! No one’s life is Instagram-perfect.

  25. avatar

    I’m guilty. I do photography in DC on the side of my full-time gig and was so jealous when other photogs in the city suddenly struck it big and became Instagram “influencers” who got flown every where and given new kicks to post for us minions. Oh yeah, and the hundreds of likes. I was so upset and felt like my work sucked, I wasn’t doing enough, and didn’t deserve my clients. Not even posting pics similar to the guys I was envious of brought me enough likes. So, I took a long break from Instagram — a few months.

    In that time I weaned myself from cheap praise. Accepted that I can post what’s interesting to me and be ok with a small audience because social media does not impact my self worth.

    I actually enjoy looking at many people now and can even appreciate the work of people I once envied, BUT one of those “influencers” publicly shared how his life of hawking products for companies to sell and being bribed to pimp out his followers led to a house full of useless crap and a circle of fake friends.

    As for my relationship – that’s one thing I’ve shielded from the scrutiny of social media. My partner and I just celebrated 5 years together with a dinner at ur favorite restaurant. No one witnessed it but us, which is what makes it so special. No food shots or selfies, just an evening for us.

  26. avatar

    I think media in general can set up unrealistic expectations. A couple of years ago I did a professional fitness photoshoot and quite honestly laughed out loud when I saw how awesome the pictures were. For many years I admired the women in fitness magazines and wished I could be as beautiful as they were. The joke was on me – of course the makeup, lighting, and amazing camera/photographer make a HUGE difference! That whole time I was being so down on myself and all along I looked great! This experience really changed how I view magazines and media in general – I felt like I saw “the man behind the curtain” so the illusion is ruined. That being said, I still love and use my pictures because they make me feel beautiful 🙂

  27. avatar

    So agree with this. I’ve never told a “lie” on social media but one thing I posted did swell up similar to how Ryan Howard of “Trust me I’m Lying” says.

    I’m a football fan and my team was playing against the Cowboys. I’d previously been to the stadium and took a pic on the field in my teams gear.

    The day of the game, (I do travel to some games)I posted that picture saying “GO LIONS”

    Despite the fact that the location clearly said “Miami Florida” as my present location. Someone said, “wow, you’re at the game and on the field”. Within an hour I got a flurry of text and initially I was responding saying, “I’m NOT at the game”. Then it got too much to respond to all

    We later lost and then I went back to the topic and there’s all these “long flight back home” messages. I couldn’t belive how big it had become.

  28. avatar

    I’ve been travelling over a year now. I’ve been posting pics of amazing locations and lifestyle, when in fact at times I’ve been unhappy and lonely. But I’m just ashamed or afraid to admit that. And people are still jealous that I travel.

  29. avatar

    I don’t have any lies to share because I tend to stay off social media except to see what other people are doing. (I haven’t posted a FB status in about 6 years). But there’s an interesting book by Nir Eyal called “Hooked” that explains how they engineer sites to keep you, well, hooked. He also has a good TED talk about it if you don’t have time to read the book (or just have a shorter attention span).

    The science behind social media is really fascinating.

  30. avatar

    LOVE your post! You nailed it.

  31. avatar

    And there are so many women who have not yet realized this and allow what they see in magazines to impact their self-worth negatively. Myself included, for a long time but no more. I admire my own pics too 🙂

  32. avatar
    Angélique Roux

    Green smoothies that look amazing but taste like shit so bad I have to go back and delete the photo in case someone asks for the recipe. 😂

  33. avatar

    My white lie is that I even have Facebook – I hate it but it seems a a necessary evil as friend’s never text me but message me on messenger. Another white lie is that I even post anything in the first place. I just don’t care enough to post – & when I do make a status update I usually forget to login & see if there are any responses or likes. And if there ARE comments I feel obliged to write back, which then annoys me! The only exception to this is the occasional selfies I’ve posted – I feel slightly better if I get likes. Slightly. I only have family & close friends in real life on there (maybe 35 people) & that’s all I care about. What’s funny & stupid are the times I see close friends making their lives look great when I know for a fact (as they’ve confided in me privately) that their lives are crap! OMG.

  34. avatar

    Too much smiling or ridiculous attempts to look casual like I didn’t care, or off to the side…Felt like each selfie was an awkward attempt to convince myself I could convince others that someone needed convincing of something…not my thing. Feel 1000% better that I don’t participate.

    If anything, my white lie would be that I don’t sometimes wonder why I can’t just get into it like “everyone else”. Guess we aren’t all designed to be some a form of celebrity.

  35. avatar

    One more thing…

    That influencer article was fascinating. That disturbs me to a degree; like were we really put on this planet to do that? Then a piece of me thinks, why the heck not, if it floats your boat then enjoy. Just make sure you are really enjoying your own ride!

  36. avatar
    Nadia Abdullah

    Hi, Ramit.

    Interesting post. Yes, I do agree with the part about highlight reel in social media.

    In my FB newsfeed, the posts that get loads of likes are those about vacation – in Europe, Maldives or somewhere exotic, posts on eating out in fancy restaurants, posts on drinking at Starbucks or anywhere where they serve gourmet coffee, posts on their latest expensive gadget, or the fact that they’ve bought the latest Mercedes or BMW.

    To be honest, I don’t get a lot of likes. I usually share my thoughts openly in FB on anything that interests me, which includes commentary on ridiculous adverts on TV, movies and TV shows (the good ones and bad ones), my pencil sketches (I love to sketch animals), or share my thoughts on current news such as the ridiculous obsession on beauty and pencil-thin figures in South Korea.

    And yes, I do share the ups and downs in my life in FB, including the time when I had to quit my job in June 2015 to care for my mom full-time at home. The funny thing is, it’s when I felt depressed about my finances that I arrived to your site in the first place. I had this tunnel vision that earning money is only associated with working in an office 8-5.

    Given that the economy isn’t good in Malaysia, I’ve seen people being retrenched even those with five-figure monthly income. Hence, even working at a full-time job is risky. There’s no guarantee.

    And I learned from you that there are other ways to make money. But of course, taking that leap is a scary thing. And I made lots of mistakes along the way. As you said in one of your posts – Yes, it’s hard. Yes, the path isn’t clear. But still, this is the way.

    Oh, by the way, sorry for rambling here. I tend to write lengthy comments. Just wanna share my thoughts.

  37. avatar

    Social media thing I’ve noticed.

    If someone in a relationship with kids starts posting lots of pictures with just the kids out and about, with the significant other nowhere to be seen.

    They’ve broken up, or are about to.

  38. avatar

    If you start using this strategy and posting more failures and truths about you, you will instantly be more likable 😀

  39. avatar
    Jer Smith

    Fantastic post. With three daughters – one teenager, one tween, and one younger – my wife and I constantly strive to teach them about social media, what it is and what it isn’t. I shared this article tonight with them and it sparked a great discussion. With so many adults uncertain, clueless, or naive about social media, teens are even more susceptable to the negative influences of the warped worldview that can result from the constant highlight reel presented in social media. The linked article – “Confessions ” – will be used for more follow-up discussion in our family.

    Personally, I’m not hardly on social media. I had a blog associated with my photography website and went through some phases of “mandatory” posting. This helped boost my creativity and push my skills, but I found it was too easy to become fixated on how many views my posts had and lose focus on the real goal of what I was trying to do – push my photography skills and creative boundaries, not generate views or likes.

  40. avatar

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  41. avatar

    Hahah. My band’s social feeds are a continual white lie. I love what we do and I love to play music which is never fake or put on, but so much of the marketing side of being in a band is total BS. The photos, the lights, the flyers, the ‘cool’ fonts we use for our album covers, bleh. Honestly we don’t take it super serious, so I hope that it doesn’t effect us. I’m sure it does in some way. I think it was worse when we started because we desperately wanted people to like us, but lately we’ve started posting more silly, personality showing posts that reveal all of us are secret dorks and we don’t care. Instead of sharing one more ridiculous moody photo of the group overlooking a cliff while looking bored, we’re posting videos of my boxer chasing a balloon around the rehearsal space, frankly because it’s hilarious.

  42. avatar
    Julia Griffin

    Fabulous, insightful, original post. Thank you from my heart for telling the truth!

  43. avatar

    OMG…I love it. And although I LOVE vanilla ice cream, I hope someone kicks my ass if I ever “go vanilla” on social media.

    As for my social white lie? That everything is honkey dorey keeno kewl when my heart was breaking and I was having serious health issues! Oh, and that I seriously wanted to kick my ex’s ass for being an ass.

    Final one? That I swear like a sailor once you get to know me!

    Have a great one Ramit…this was a great one …