How Online PDA Affects Relationships

Are you one of those people who gush about their relationship online? Or are you the type who keeps things private, and privately scoff at couples who feel the need to flaunt their affection for each other?

A recent research study hypothesized and concluded, in a limited capacity, that online PDA on Facebook signals and results in a happy, longer-lasting relationship.

The study gathered data from college students, coming back and checking in on these couples’ relationships after six months, the period when most college couples drift apart. The trend was that those who regularly posted about and to their significant other stayed together.

Facebook posts as public declarations of commitment

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‘Public’ in a sense that you declare your affection among friends and family, something that otherwise only happens during engagements and weddings.

The study hypothesized that similarly, couples who ‘commit’ through their online posts on Facebook work harder to keep the relationship going, or at least keep it going even when things have cooled or gone rocky.

Would you do that? Many couples do. They stay together for the sake of appearances, to save face among their friends and family who witnessed their declarations for each other, until a catalyst--like one of them seeing another person--and they finally break it off.


Here are some trends and conclusions from the study:

  • "The more participants listed themselves as 'in a relationship’' with their partners, shared dyadic photographs, and wrote messages on their partner's wall, the more commitment they experienced."

  • But… “Partners that wrote excessively on their loved one's Facebook wall often did not stand quite such good chances of remaining coupled up. Writing on a loved one's wall is perceived as a sign of commitment, while being on the receiving end of the same behaviour, it starts to look like over-sharing.”

  • “Public self-presentations performed on Facebook also affect how people feel about a relationship partner.”

  • “Online social networks can fit into the “public commitment” theory, which dictates that we begin to view ourselves "in ways that are consistent with [our public claims].”


Mature couples and their online PDA

70% of over-50s are online with a Facebook account, and of these, 40% are very active users. Those in the online dating scene are even more glued to social media, coming across potential dates in Facebook communities as much as in online dating sites.

There are no statistics yet on how much online PDA goes on among mature couples, but the study did limit itself to Facebook. Online dating couples are often quite ‘vocal’ on Instagram.


Is online PDA an indicator of an ideal man/woman?

Is it? It all depends on individual tastes. And note that while being the giver of an online public display of affection might feel good, recipients often find it awkward.

Another study earlier this year by Jon D'Angelo mentioned a rather startling but otherwise true enough insight: "What you post about yourself online matters -- what you post may be who you become."

So if someone is affectionate online, are they just as sweet face to face? Or are they affectionate online as a simple extension of their real selves? And what would this say of those reticent in social media, but are real teddy bears in real off-screen?

Mature Match supposes that here is another proof of the importance of meeting and getting to know someone,regardless of their online personas.