I’m fascinated by couples. Figuring out what draws people together, and more importantly, what makes them stay together, is an exercise I conduct whenever I hear of a new couple. Sometimes I’m genuinely surprised when I hear two people are a couple, but more often that not I can see what holds them together. Even more interesting to me is how couples present themselves in the public arena, which in this day and age translates to social media. Muslims tend to put a lot more thought into this than most people given that we know people will think better or worse of us based on the ‘appropriateness’ of our conduct. For some couples, this means consciously marketing themselves in a particular way, while for others it just so happens that they appear in a certain light.
From my observations, there are several types of Muslim couples:
1.) The Covert Couple
The most that these guys will do in the public sphere is update their relationship status when they get married. You won’t see any photos of them together nor will there be any cutesy posts to each other’s walls. Whatever their feelings towards each other, they’re keeping it under wraps. Their marketing message can be summed up as ‘yes, we’re married, but that’s all you’re going to get out of us’.
2.) The Low-Key Lovers
These guys might have a photo or two together with the obligatory ‘<3’, but there won’t be much more than that. The message they seem to send is ‘yes, we’re married and we love each other, but that’s all you’re going to get out of us’.
3.) The Brangelinas
These guys are a power couple. They may have different strengths and different perspectives, but together they’re a force to be reckoned with. They celebrate each other’s achievements in the public sphere and let it be known that their spouse is pretty much amazing.
4.) The Cutesy Pies
These guys get all the likes and the ‘awwwws’. They wear their hearts on their profiles, I mean, sleeves, and they don’t care who sees it. In fact, a cynical observer might say their marketing strategy is to be seen as the cutest darn couple there is, mashaAllah.
5.) The Witty Wedded Folks
These guys love to poke fun at each other and not-so-subtly publicise each other’s foibles. While they generally avoid the corny stuff in public, a cynical observer might think that their aim is secretly to appear as cute as pie in an aren’t-we-so-cool sort of way.
While the above is fairly tongue-in-cheek, it does get me thinking about the serious issue of how we present ourselves online. (In case you haven’t noticed, that’s a pretty big interest of mine.) In this day and age, even the most intimate relationships can be marketed to make the parties appear in a certain light. This isn’t even restricted to romantic relationships. How many of us are guilty of playing up the cutesiness of our relationship with our parents, or our siblings? I know I am. It makes me wonder how much sincere feeling is behind what we project and if it’s possible to lose the latter in a sea of likes and carefully captioned photos.
Projecting an image of ourselves is also worrying from the perspective of envy. I always worry for people who constantly post about their achievements or how cute their spouse is, simply because there could be hidden evils in the hearts of our online ‘friends’. Besides, my life isn’t perfect, nor are any of my personal relationships, so it’s simply false advertising to portray my life as a big cutesy whirl of family and friends. But saying this doesn’t make me any less immune to the trap of marketing myself and my life online. It’s so easy to do it, and the validation we get can make us feel more secure in situations and relationships that in reality are on shaky ground. Some of the most unstable relationships I’ve heard of have the cutesiest, shiniest public exteriors.
How public would you want to be in your interactions with your partner? Do you like being cutesy or do you like to keep it low-key?