If you're anything like us, social media can feel like you're swimming in a sea of happy couples. You know, that couple whose whole grid is basically the same picture of them in different locations? Or the girl whose boyfriend is always treating her to stuff but we never see his face? And while this is just something that we're all used to, like every other dating trend (see: fleabagging, whelming and zombieing) now it actually has a name: showmancing.
Plus, now that almost every couple we know has moved in together during lockdown, so-called showmancing has gone through the roof, and we're seeing endless bike rides and couples cooking videos up and down our feeds.
But what exactly is showmancing, how can you spot it, and are we all actually subconsciously doing it?
What is showmancing?
Showmances started life as 'romances' between celebrities that fans believed only existed for publicity purposes, explains dating expert and Head of Trends at happn, Marine Ravinet.
Now, showmancing includes us normals too, and refers to anyone who posts about their relationship on social media, especially if it's over-the-top or forced, says Marine.
That's not to say that showmancing can't still apply to the celebs though. Plenty of celebs are accused of putting on relationships for the cameras. Famous claims of this include Harry Styles' relationship with Kendall Jenner, and Taylor Swift's with Tom Hiddleston, which conspiracy-theorist fans reckon were designed to be publicity stunts. (FYI, Celebrity Showmance was even a TV show where contestants created fake relationships).
On top of this, fan theories also allege that some celeb showmances are driven by covering up the LGBTQ+ identity of one or more of the people in the relationship - which is another example of the compulsory heterosexuality pervading the entertainment industry. In the past, Hollywood stars like Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn were coupled up, acting as each other's 'beards', while both supposedly having external same-sex relationships. And more recently, Cara Delevingne was told by Harvey Weinstein that being publicly out as queer could damage her career.
Why are we all so tempted to showmance?
As much as showmancing might sound like the next ridiculous dating trend, the reality is that we've all probably done it on some level. But why are we so desperate to show off our relationships? Probably for the same reasons we show off everything else on social media: it's our highlights reel, says Marine.
"Before social media, we might have heard the odd occasional story about a friend's perfect romance, but now Instagram gives us 24/7 updates on other peoples lives - and their relationships," says London dating coach and dating expert for Match, Hayley Quinn.
When you throw lockdown into the mix, "How you’re spending your lockdown has become another way to compare ourselves, like saying, ‘my lockdown is better than yours,'" Hayley adds, and if a partner is included in that then it's double the opportunity to show off.
You might also be after some social approval, or to not seem behind your peers, adds Marine.
So when is it time to stop?
Basically, "if you feel like your life together online is better than the real thing," says Marine. "Part of being emotionally intimate is having private time between just the two of you," adds Hayley. "Try to have at least one no-internet day a week where you can be more present, leave your phones at home to go for a walk or bike ride, or play a board game or puzzle."
How to react to showmancing
While we're all tempted to showmance, if someone's 'perfect' relationship is getting you down, remember that nobody's relationship is as great as it looks on social media.
"Instagram pictures are often staged. In reality, relationships have ups and downs - but nobody posts about the negatives," adds Hayley. So don't compare your behind-the-scenes with somebody else's highlights! However, remember that other people can do as they please on social media - so if you don't want to see it you can mute or unfollow them.
Women on whether they showmance
"I want to show my girlfriend off," says Ell, 19. "
"Personally, I post about my relationship on Instagram all the time, because I love my girlfriend and want to show her off and make her feel appreciated in every way I can - and social media is just another way to do that. However, I don't post every single part of our relationship, as I also want us to have some privacy."
"We have a private relationship," says Melissa*, 21.
"I'm not a massive PDA (public displays of affection) person anyway, so when it comes to social media I don't post any pictures of my boyfriend. We have more of a private relationship that I don't think needs to be aired, and when we hang out it's usually just the two of us anyway."
"I want people to know what's going on in my life," says Jessie*, 23.
"I'm definitely guilty of trying to exaggerate a 'relationship' or a situationship on social media. Even if I've just been for a drink with a guy I'll make sure to get his hand in a picture, just so people know there's something going on- and I feel less 'behind' my friends too."
*Names have been changed.
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