Actor Matthew McConaughey and model Camila Alves were married on Saturday. While the couple held an intimate ceremony,inviting only family and friends and whispering their vows to each other instead of announcing them, celebrity gossip sites have reported almost every other detail about the wedding, from the guests to the food.
Celebrity relationships have always been highly scrutinized, especially the high-profile breakups that occur so often. Media bias towards negativity and our obsession with breakups aside, it seems that star-studded marriages fail more often than ours. Why do they fall apart? I have this theory about celebrity relationships and beyond: The more public your relationship is, the weaker it is already, or eventually becomes. In the same way that sharing too much about our relationships on Facebook causes problems, A-lister marriages fail because they are inherently more public than they should be.
Publicizing relationships on social media networks is not only weird, but also leads to relationship problems. I’m not talking about the periodic cute wall post or photo, but rather the hourly status-updates and <3333-babe-xoxo-es all over their walls. Celebrity relationships represent an exaggerated version of this.
Too much social media presence reinforces insecurity. In general, when we update on social media, we share ourselves with an audience of friends who are constantly watching. Thus, we share our relationships to show others what we’re doing. While we naturally want to share the happiest parts of our lives with friends and family, it seems that we start wanting to prove something if we keep drawing our friends’ attention to ourselves.
Notice how online displays of romance are only adorable. While some updates are genuinely celebratory, often we project a shinier, happier version of our relationships to compensate for something unhappier underneath. No relationship is perfect, so those who constantly live-stream romantic bliss are being dishonest, or repressing something behind all the selfies. Moreover, putting a relationship online pressures us to live up to the idealized version, which hurts our real-life relationship and distorts the way we perceive relationships as perfectible.
More simply, extreme online sharing takes away from the intimacy and privacy that characterizes the strongest relationships. Publicity undermines everything that makes relationships work: the intimacy and honesty that can be achieved only when the relationship is kept between each other, where trust and privacy allow us to become vulnerable enough to share more of ourselves with one person than with anyone else.
For celebrities, it’s worse. The infinite limelight makes couples more insecure and puts more pressure on them to be perfect. Then when trouble hits, they have no privacy to work on their relationship on their own. Every detail is splashed on the covers of tabloid magazines, digging their personal wounds even wider and making impossible any reconciliation.
Ironically, PDA may be a different story. Cooing at each other in front of friends is the same as Facebook loving, but PDA around total strangers is still private in a way. While there may be reasons to or not to PDA, there’s no sense that PDA-ers are showing or proving anything to an audience. In fact, the teenagers licking each other senseless in the park probably feel more alone than ever. While we consciously perform for an all-eyes audience on Facebook and celebrities feel the camera always watching, the indifference of strangers can make us feel just as alone as an empty room.
Whether on Facebook or People Magazine covers, publicity for an audience is the anti-relationship. I hope that McConaughey and Alves continue to have a wonderful relationship, but we should take other celebrity marriage failures as a way to reexamine our own relationships.