As a social practice, the concept of marriage varies from community to community and over time periods, making it the most unequivocally discussed subject in social sciences. Globally, societies have witnessed the changing perspectives of marriage corroborating the fact that underlying reasons and motivations for tying the knot are evolutionary. Whether it is done for social, political, economic or for personal reasons, the institution of marriage is symptomatic of the accompanying trends in a society.
Cultural change, rather acculturation, high achieving backgrounds, late marriages and ironically digital media drastically influence the intention of getting married and associated marital expectations. Nevertheless, marriage is considered as one of the significant sources people derive their happiness from. And as per Happiness Economics, happy people exhibit productive economic behavior.
Since money does not buy happiness as per John Robbins, so probably, “Taking Hundred Photos, Deleting Ninety Nine, Keeping one, sharing with other Ninety Nine and Getting one Thousand Likes” could be the primary driver of happiness. Is this something that we can really count on? Let’s find this out!
With 60% of the world’s population already holding digital citizenship coupled with easy accessibility of smart phones and tablets, the world is witnessing Major #Wedding Goals. As per Brides 2018 American Wedding Study, social media platforms have entered into every aspect of wedding.
Right from the moment a solitaire ring is put on upto the time a portmanteaux in the name of a hash tag of a couple goes viral, they have a hard time living upto these so-called uber digital expectations. The challenges come in as many different ways as there are picture perfect poses to be faked. These unrealistic goals take the couple away from the fundamental pillars of marriage and make the idea of getting married a herculean “TASK”.
The idealistic portrayal of perfect bride, celebrity inspired wedding gowns are complicating modern matrimony beyond imagination. So, logically there is no surprise in wedding costs getting doubled in the past five years as per the National Wedding Survey 2019 in Britain.
As per the same survey, the primary driver of these costs is the Instagram fever that is pressurizing people to fake it until they make it. As a corollary, the institution of marriage is seen from the perspective of competition and those who have @makeup by--------, @hair by--------, @photography by-----------, @wedding outfit----------,@wedding cake by-----------are said to have more fine instagramable pictures and are deemed to have more social status as well as approval.
Since, virtual world is a world of non-representational perfection, there is no room for looking imperfect. As a result, this competitive pressure keeps on lingering over their heads till the time all this due diligence pays off in the form of as many likes and comments as the digital universe could possibly offer them.
And if it goes topsy-turvy, there is frustration, disappointment and a negative influence on mental well-being. At the worst it may also mean less commitment to the current relationship and lower expectations of relationship success.
The bone of contention here is not about the online entrepreneurs who as a part of their digital marketing post pictures of their clients. The issue is broader and works at societal level and has to do with having a balanced concept of life where education and parenting can play a pivotal role.
The concept presented here is not that of rich and poor divide, which anyway has been there for centuries and will be for eternity to exist. The point is that the expectations that are driving people crazy due to this “stuff overload” will not end but will continue to grow and get more complex due to the ever increasing intrusion of internet in the normal discourse of human life with every passing second.
So, the question is not only of affording and not affording, it is about developing an attitude towards marriage & life which is far from being “happy” and “contended” in a relationship. The standards are centered on how to get social approval from a crowd whom a person might not even know. This is taxing people psychologically as they have a hard time proving that their lifestyle fits into a specific category.
Taking evidence from Bonnie Adrian’s Media Saturated Contemporary Life, this influence has a trickledown effect and at the same time affecting not only those of marriageable age but conditioning the mentality of younger generation right from the moment they get a digital widget in their hands.
Due to this, the concept of life in general and marriage in particular is wrongly getting influenced which has undoubtedly become evident from the number of suicidal attempts being witnessed worldwide owing to pity online “stuff”.
In U.S alone 13% of teenage deaths are attributed to suicide resulting from social media induced depression. This may also apply to a married couple or those planning to get married, who in their pursuit of being ahead of the competition, fail to reach there.
This might seem to be a cursory problem but deep inside it is creating a void where people are forgetting the importance of true emotions and trust in a relationship---which undoubtedly forms the cornerstone of a successful marriage.
This pursuit of distinctive and the so-called “perfect day” marriages is breeding a society filled with digital media instigated consumerism. Therefore, we as a society are falling into a vicious cycle where people are over busy with reflexive and conspicuous over consumption.
So shall we disconnect from social media? While the access of technology is emancipatory, its use is optional! Therefore its influence is contingent upon how well it is used and what is derived from it. And this definitely warrants an attitude change on the part of everyone in the society. We as individuals at our own places can start developing minimalism orientation. And those who already have this orientation can spread this paradigm through the same social media forums.
So, every one of us can become a social media influencer and use the platform to propagate the importance of being grateful, contended and happy with less. As they say “comparison is the thief of joy” so let us not get over shadowed by the noise generated from data explosion over these platforms whenever any important decision has to be taken including that of marriage.
Therefore, if we are not coming up to the utopian expectations of social media, it does not make our self-concept worth less in our real life.
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Author is a Senior Research Fellow (SRF), Department of Management Studies, University of Kashmir