Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck and the pressure to make things Instagram official

Are they together or not? Let’s check social media. 

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck have been the subject of recent relationship speculation for several weeks. After Lopez and former MLB star Alex Rodriguez split, rumors about the pop star and her ex-fiancé Affleck bubbled and photos emerged of the two spending time together – and most recently making out at dinner. 

Before the age of social media, this used to be enough to confirm a buzzed-about celebrity romance – at least until the couple eventually walked the red carpet together at the glitzy event of their choosing. But in the digital age, we expect celebrities to declare their status, perhaps with an Instagram shot of their hands linked. (Think Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker or Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox.) And it’s not just A-listers. Experts say many couples these days feel pressured make it “official” on social media, but they should be mindful about what they share with the world. 

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez sit together during Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs, May 11, 2003, in Los Angeles. The couple split in 2004, but almost 17 years later rumors of their reunion have started to trend on social media. (Photo: Mark J. Terrill, AP)

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“(Social media) can make your partner feel valued and feel seen if you’re posting (about) them,” dating coach and matchmaker Tennesha Wood says. “That can go the other way with over-posting and setting an expectation that your relationship is for social media.”

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Couples on social media set false expectations

Wood says the desire to post a relationship on social media often stems from gratification one may receive. Users are interested in seeing who is dating whom because it feels like they’re getting a “peek behind the curtain” into others’ private lives. But she says it is rarely the full picture. 

“It’s unrealistic that every couple that’s posting every single day is in love and there’s no issues all the time,” Wood says. 

Dr. Niloo Dardashti, an adult and couples psychologist of Manhattan Psychology Group, says when people post on social media they are rarely sharing the “bad things that happen in their relationships,” which she says can make for a “dangerous” perception of perfection.

“People compare their own lives and their own relationships that are very imperfect, like most people’s are, and think that something is wrong,” Dardashti says. 

Keeping up Instagram appearances creates friction

Wood says constantly having your relationship on display can create friction.

“You have to essentially live up to your own brand that you created for your relationship so when things are going bad, times where you aren’t happy and things aren’t peachy keen and lovey dovey you’re thinking this is not normal,” Wood says.

Lopez and Affleck called off their engagement in 2004 (before social media became what it is today), and they previously attributed the split to public pressures. 

“I think Jen and I made a mistake in that we fell in love, we were excited and maybe too accessible,” Affleck said at the time. 

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How to fix relationship issues that stem from social media 

When social media starts to create issues within a relationship, Dardashti suggests couples take the online feeds out of the equation. 

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“I typically advise people to give themselves a time limit to be on social media everyday because it can become somewhat addictive,” Dardashti says. 

She also recommends couples take what they see on social media with a grain of salt: “If you’re going to be on social media remember to put on that lens of ‘this is just one part of their life, this is not their everyday.'” 

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