Two questions plague today's cynical Internetizens upon discovering new terms for online phenomena: what is it this thing, and how much may I hate it? So much is new; so much is hate-worthy. Enter "relfie."
What is it?
A "relfie" is a "relationship selfie." (Not an engagement ring selfie.) It's a selfie that, according to the term-coiner at Science of Relationships, "includes a relationship partner or someone else you are close to (like a parent and child)."
Why do people do it?
To document their lives with others, but also to demonstrate satisfaction/commitment with that person on social media: Here we are, liking each other, being close, inhabiting a moment, with or without a duckface.
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Doesn't selfie already cover this particular aspect of self-documentation via image? Is this not already what selfie is used for? Isn't a selfie a picture you take of yourself, as well as any picture a person takes of herself with a group of others, a cat, a light pole, a ham, whatever the object or person in proximity may be?
When Ellen took a famous celebrity selfie of herself and other famous people, was it not still a selfie? She took the photo of herself, just with other people included. Still a selfie. If you cut a selfie, does it not bleed?
"Relfie" is unnecessary because we already have a word for this thing, and that word is selfie.
Relfie isn't hate-worthy, but it is redundant.
What you can hate are the people who use them too much, that is to say, happy couples who post a lot of selfies together. According to the same researchers who coined relfie, the whole point of doing so was to find out what the use of such hot pix indicates about the status of the relationship illustrated therein:
We also wanted to know how others react to that information. Specifically, in a forthcoming paper in the journal Personal Relationships, we tackled the following questions about posting about your relationship on Facebook:
▪ If you are satisfied with your relationship, can others tell based on what you've posted on Facebook?
▪ Do we like people who post about their relationships on Facebook?
I'll give you one guess.
In one study, they asked 200 people in relationships to answer questions about how satisfied and committed they were in their current pairing. Then a research team who did not know how the folks answered on questionnaires or the point of the study examined those FB pages and coded them based on how satisfied or committed they perceived the people in the relationships to be.
In short: What people said about their relationship was telegraphed by their status updates, selfies, relfies, ROFLs and ROFLcopters. If they were happy, people saw happy. Nice work, all!
In the second study, the researchers created fake profiles with three degrees of Happy Couple presence and let other researchers rate those profiles, pics, and updates based on satisfaction, commitment, and how much they liked the people in the profiles.
The status updates were things like:
"Pining away for Jordan…I just love you so much I can't stand it!" (high relationship disclosure, which involves sharing personal details about one's relationships)
"I love my girlfriend <3" (low relationship disclosure; about the relationship, but less personal)
"phoneless for a bit, email me!" (no relationship disclosure)
Since the first status update is one of the most vom-inducing things that's ever been uttered to humanity, it won't surprise you to learn that the researchers certainly noted the high levels of commitment and satisfaction in those piney updates, while also despising the writers of them (which, I guess, hilariously, would technically be their research colleagues, but you get the drift).
People hate overly happy, show-offy-about-their-happiness type-people. I've always known this, and you've always known it, because it is an immutable truth. Back when I ranted about the Unbaby Me app that blocked pictures of babies, I also mentioned that one other thing equally or more despicable than a steady stream of plates of food and craft beers are people who appear Too Happy on Social Media.
It is a scourge. You are doing happy wrong. Happy should be implied but never directly stated or demonstrated. It should be elusive, like wistfulness or resignation. Go forth and love, but keep it to yourself and shit. Yeesh.
If you are in a strong relationship, viewers can pick that up from your Facebook profile. However, there is some danger in getting too schmoopie about your relationship on Facebook; although your friends will think your relationship is going well, they will like you less.
And isn't that the whole point of social media? To be liked? Don't go to all that work to cultivate the exact balance of satisfaction and commitment with an air of genuine happiness, only to schmoop all over it in the end with excess. We're watching.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.