Like many women my age, I’m at that awkward stage in life where everyone I know is getting hitched… and I’m not. (Cue “Canon in D.”) Before the internet, engagement announcements traveled—tactfully—by word of mouth, a formal notification via snail mail, or as a black and white photo in the local newspaper. But when social media was introduced, so was the idea that we must gush about our lives, accomplishments, and every other meaningless detail in between. Facebook taught us that if our virtual lives don’t appear perfect on our profiles, then our lives (in reality) are lacking.
Status updates have become a never-ending game of “Who’s Brag is it Anyway?” where each contestant construes their story, embellishing it to rise above the last person’s post in their news feed. I’d like to know: What is this doing to our perception of life? How does it skew our idea of the way things really are?
Don’t get me wrong, I am overjoyed for those of you getting married. I love weddings! I have a deep passion for them and all that they encompass. After all, I’m a wedding photographer. But each time I see a relationship status change to “engaged” followed by the generic update “I get to marry my best friend,” I think back to the first time I saw this. It devastated me. Today, I still ache, because I know many other single young ladies have felt this pain as well.
Engagements Caught Like Wildfire
I was in college when it happened—just newly 21 when the engaged status epidemic began. It was a spring morning in April when status updates began to flood my Facebook newsfeed. I wanted to be happy for my friends, I did. But instead anxiety swept over me so quickly that my body shook as I walked to class.
Frantic and breathless, I called my mother. Like a girl, I began to cry as fear swept through my soul. Why was I nowhere near close to getting married? How did all of these couples fast track their love lives? I was in a four-year relationship with no promise of a future. Would I be single forever? Thirty was just nine years away and my “life plan” said I’d have two kids before then. How did I fall so far behind?
Upon talking to my best friend a week ago, this same fear reemerged. While we’ve grown smarter (and accepted we are still nowhere near marriage), the underlying concern still eats at us. The thought constantly lingers in the air—the idea that we just might be outside of the “norm.”
She admitted, “I don’t want to get married right now. I don’t at all.” Phew, I thought. That makes two of us. I’m just not ready. But her confidence was quickly followed by doubt. “But… am I supposed to be? Because everyone else is. Did I miss something,?” she said. “When did 23 become 33?”
I think this is a common question that many single women our age ask themselves. When is the right time? Is it wrong that I haven’t found “the one”? Did I fall off life’s perfect timeline?
The answer (in my opinion) is no and I believe the root of the problem stems from our addiction to social media. The constant posts about relationships and marriage make many singletons feel inadequate. With every update comes a fraction of unspoken pressure to do the same. My concern is that many women are hopping on the bandwagon too soon… in order to fit in.
A Marriage or a Wedding?
For those of you feeling pressured by what you see on social media, I dare you to dig deep. I dare you to analyze your true intentions. Why are you so gung-ho to get married?
While in conversation about my “love timeline,” a mother of five offered her perspective on marriage today. “So many girls want a wedding, but they forget about the marriage part. They forget that at the end of the day, your focus is the groom. The wedding only lasts for a day.”
And so I ask you, is it a marriage that you long for right now? Or are you caught in what you think will be fairytale wedding planning where your biggest concern is the color of your bridesmaids’ dresses and the reception menu? Are you ready to dedicate your life to another person? Or do you simply dream of what you can contribute to Pinterest and brag about on Facebook?
The beauty of social media platforms is that they have allowed us to keep in touch with distant friends and family. But when we share every detail of our lives, we often get caught up in the stats. We must remember that the number of likes we receive on an engagement status is not indicative to the strength of our future marriage.
For Those Who Aren’t Ready
So, for those of you holding off on marriage right now, this one is for you. My aim isn’t to bash those of you who are engaged or happily married. Your journey is your own and I’m sincerely happy for you. This message is meant to comfort the women out there who aren’t ready just yet. That is okay. There is no timer limiting the number of years you have before you have to take the leap.
Stop looking to Facebook for social cues—or any cues at all—on what’s “right” for your life; no one can determine that except you and your own heart. Be happy for those who have found love, but don’t let their good fortune diminish your own happiness. When the time is right, you’ll have great things of your own to brag about on social media. Until then, just breathe.