Meet Claire Meyer and Alan Linic. Claire and Alan are improv actors who live in Chicago. They've been dating since March.
Meet Claire and Alan in a fight.
This past August, the couple (pictured above) created a Twitter where they record each and every dispute, fight, or argument they have, no matter how petty or how profound.
What do these two scenarios have in common? They both involve using social media to document relationship quibbles — because a key part of relationships is fighting over things one of you doesn't remember.
On Monday, I sent out this form to my followers on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus asking millennials for their take on this apparent trend. I asked, "Have you ever gone back to Twitter, Facebook, Gmail, or any other online interactions you've had with your significant other to prove a point in an argument or fight you're having?" Out of the 62 responses from people aged 18 to 35, 31 responded "Yes"; most of them used Facebook (25) or Gchat (19) to make their respective cases.
Since this is not scientific study by any means, merely a rough anthropology, the numbers only tell some of the story. Still, those who answered the optional question, about when and why they used the internet to resolve a fight, had very interesting anecdotes to share.
User A: "To prove times he had been rude, or started an argument for something insignificant."
User B: "-Proof of ignoring (exact times messages were ignored)
-Proof of lies (FB shows location)
-Proof of my own insecurities (FB photos)
-Fights on gchat, fights on FB message"
User C: "Saying argument or a fight is actually a stretch in this case, since I've never actually had anything resembling a fight with this person, but I've gone back to old e-mails or chat transcripts to point it out to him when I thought he was contradicting himself."
User D: "I think it was he said something online and different in real life so I checked our old Facebook chat logs. I don't think it was ever anything serious."
User E: "Ex claimed I was cheating/planning to cheat on him with someone I talked to exclusively online. Showed transcripts to prove we were just friends — but they were still "flirtatious" so he never believed me."
User F: "I go back & read emails & conversations after breakups to look for signs of trouble or areas of disagreement. It helps me figure out why things didn't work."
So, in case you were wondering, some people will use old logs or records of what you've said in a relationship. In the cloud, nothing gets erased.
But does documenting every minor slight make it any easier to resolve our romantic disputes? Some of the above examples — particularly User E's — show that even online "proof" can't help a relationship that's gone down the drain.
If you'll allow me, I'll take a little trip down my own memory lane to further my point.
A few years ago, I once had a "thing" with somebody. (I still don't know what to call it, so let's just call it that.) It started out wonderfully ... and then slowly, it slipped into a steaming pile of shit.
He became distant and moody, impulsively saying offensive and hurtful things to me under the guise of teasing. That I must have AIDS. That he wouldn't go down on me because he was "afraid of catching herpes." That I must have slept with half the campus. And so many more awful jokes that it would take hours to list them all. I tried to laugh comments like these off, but the truth is, they had me spinning in self-hate for months. I didn't understand why he had been so mean to me, and at such random moments. The jokes were a symptom, not the disease, demonstrating that the relationship had taken an emotionally unhealthy turn.
Months after the "thing" had gone to pieces after I called him out for things I'd heard him say but he denied, I wrote about it for my campus newspaper.
He read my article.
To say his reaction wasn't pleasant would be an understatement. He was so adept at gaslighting that for months I felt guilty for "what I'd done to him," thought I was crazy, a bitch.
One day, when mulling over what I'd done put me close to having a panic attack, I snapped. I started digging through my Facebook chats with him — which was no easy task, considering we had close to over 6,000 lines of Facebook chat lines. I decided to use a phrase to search for what I was looking for, evidence that he'd made all those awful comments about me that I remember. I found it. There it was, highlighted in yellow.
I thought to myself, I win. I win. I'm not crazy. I win. He did make a joke about me having sex with people. About me sleeping around. He did. I win.
Proving I was right and he was wrong was the sweetest victory I'd felt in months. But in the next few hours, it dawned on me that nothing would change. Nothing. Whatever it was — that "thing" we'd had — it was over. Finito. Besides the fact that most of the things I knew he said to me had been IRL — the jokes about the STIs, for one — he could still easily say, "Look at the context this Facebook chat was in. It was a joke. I didn't mean it." And so what if he had accepted I was right? That yes, he had said awful things to me? Then what?
Nothing. I would not get back with the person who had ruined my life for months.
In the words of Taylor Swift:
I didn't need to prove things to him to know I was right. Whatever he thought about me, or I thought about him, proof wasn't going to patch anything up.
Yes, we love to prove our points, even in our relationships. We get into arguments that are silly, and into arguments that are necessary. What Alan and Claire are doing with social media sounds like it works for them, but they already seem to have a healthy relationship going, while Rachel and her ex might benefit from analyzing the record of their break-up talk (which sounds like a train wreck, to be honest).
Having documentation of our interactions through social media can help us "prove our point" to our significant others, to our friends, or to our family, but the simple question of "who's right and who's wrong" will never, ever, ever keep people together.