Until a few years ago, Instagram was my ‘happy place’, one where I admired beautiful images shared by budding photographers from across the globe. I would scroll through feeds at a leisurely pace and, in the process, try to pick up some tips and tricks. Today, however, the scenario is completely different. There is nothing slow or leisurely about the photo-sharing app, as it is being bombarded with content on everything under the sun—from fashion, food and fitness to home decor, and more. But did you ever imagine that this social media platform would soon turn out to be your relationship advisor?
Welcome to the world of self-proclaimed Insta therapists and dating experts, who dole out relationship advice by the minute, without being qualified to do so. It’s a bit unsettling that these social media relationship experts have over a million followers or more, who hang on to their every word. Every time a relationship coach asks someone to follow certain steps to be the perfect partner, or ignore their significant other to attract more attention, there are people taking notes and experimenting with their personal equations.
It doesn’t end here—there are a few influencers, who have in the recent past, offered to listen to their follower’s relationship issues for a ‘minimal’ cost. Then, there are others who are wildly popular on social media, but are not ‘qualified’ or ‘accredited’ mental health or relationship experts; they are merely authors or bloggers.
So, are we responsible for blowing up this dangerous trend? Are we heavily reliant on Insta relationship experts to shape our dynamic with our partners?
The extent of influence
In 2019, Preksha Sudha (34), a New Delhi-based sales professional, decided to move in with her partner of five years. It was at that time that she came across several posts that promised to reveal if a partner was really ‘into’ the relationship. Unfortunately, Ankush (her boyfriend) didn’t really match up to that prototype of the ‘perfect’ partner. The parameters mentioned in the post were so deeply entrenched in Sudha’s mind that she began questioning every action of his. In no time, the couple’s relationship was fraught with conflicts; and soon after, they parted ways.
This isn’t the only case; there are several relationships that die a slow death due to the overdose of such content. A lot of the posts are themed around boundary issues. And given that these viral influencers have no degree, their advice is quite generic. But that doesn’t stop people from swearing by these ‘pearls of information’.
“I have always been fascinated by relationship posts on Insta and I have tried to follow their advice closely. But over a period of time, I have started to turn away from these and am more interested in doing my own thing. It is only now that I realise that I had been exhibiting unhealthy behaviour. This led to several of my friends and partners cutting me off,” shares 36-year-old Vineeth Sinha, a Kolkata-based advertising agency head.
Also read: How sologamy can set you free
It’s common for people today to look up to these mini-cult leaders for any nuggets they have to offer, without even realising that the “content has been created to go viral”. Unfortunately, there is no authority to keep a check, making this a tricky terrain to tread on.
A threat to one’s relationship?
The advice we see on Instagram can really mess with one's idea of an ideal relationship. “In today's time of instant gratification, and external sense of validation, relationships anyway are difficult to nurture, and having an added unsolicited input can strain them further. The content that these influencers put out is quite generic in nature. However, as individuals, we form very different and unique relationships, which carry their own shades and contours,” explains Akanksha Singh Chandele, a Noida-based trauma-informed therapist.
It is important to be mindful of who you are following, advises Preeta Ganguli, a Gurugram-based therapist and mental wellness consultant. Social media can also be a storehouse of helpful, reliable sources of information on relationships — there are a few authentic relationship therapists that do significant research and steer clear of unverified information.
Filtering content, one post at a time
If you find something that resonates with you, research and look for other sources and information on the topic to build a better perspective. Sit with the information you have gathered and discuss it with your inner circle or guides, who may know you well, and whose advice you trust, says Ganguli. If you are in a relationship, you could also discuss the subject with your partner, depending on your comfort, safety, and dynamic.
“Pick and choose parts (if any) that you want to integrate from your learnings, and how that may look, specifically for you. Communicate with yourself and with your partner. Check if something is getting triggered by social media posts, and there could be an issue that needs to come to the surface or be addressed,” she explains.
If required, reach out to a professional, either individually or as a couple. “Relationship counselling looks at the partnership as a whole. It does not have to be sought only when a relationship is ending — it can be taken at any stage of the relationship to help understand both partners and their needs, creating a stronger foundation,” she concludes.