Actually, that could mean more than one thing.
In the coming month:
a) you'll witness an onslaught of lovey dovey Facebook statuses, photos, Vines, etc. on your Timeline
b) you'll witness an onslaught of breakup Facebook statuses, photos, Vines, etc. on your Timeline
c) you'll contribute to the onslaught of love-related messages
*and possibly be the victim of one of the above.
Ironically, January is the most common month for ending relationships. A survey of 1,881 people in Britain by vouchercloud.com revealed that roughly 20 percent of those who had a failed relationship broke up in January due to family and financial pressures ("January is the breakup month," 2014). And for at least the past five years, January has been dubbed National Breakup Month (Specter, 2008).
Surprisingly, there isn't much research on how viewing VDAs affects people outside of the relationship. The closest thing to an empirical study is a 2013 survey by match.com (Scrimgeour, 2013), which found that almost half of the people surveyed were annoyed by such posts. Although I don't trust the validity of a match.com survey (which, by the way, was named the "LoveGeist Report"), I am willing to vouch for that point. Constant VDAs are annoying, and people should just stop.
There is much more research on how social networking affects the couple themselves. Most of this research has explored the relationship between viewing a partner's activities online, jealousy and satisfaction. One study by Utz and Beaukeboom (2011) found that overall, you are more likely to feel happy than jealous when viewing your partner's activities on a social networking site. There's a difference between low self-esteem and high self-esteem lovers, though. As a whole, those with low self-esteem tend to react more jealously to their partner's actions on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, the need to be popular in low self-esteem people predicts how jealous they will be of their partner's activities on social networking sites; the stronger the need to be popular, the more likely they are to be jealous if they, for instance, saw their beau in pictures with another person. The researchers also suggest that low self-esteem people compensate for self-esteem by making VDAs that portray a happy relationship. On the other hand, for high self-esteem people, the need to be popular is not as important as satisfaction in a relationship in determining jealousy; lower levels of relationship satisfaction predict higher levels of jealousy when monitoring their other half online.
A more recent dissertation provides insight into how Facebook usage, jealousy and surveillance behaviors evolve as a relationship grows. Farrugia (2013) in an online survey of 255 people found that couples who use Facebook regularly feel higher levels of jealousy for their partner. Furthermore, as couples progress in their relationship, they tend to engage in more surveillance behaviors such as checking their partner's profile. But they also spend less time on Facebook overall as the relationship deepens. Farrugia proposes that the increased access to information on social networking sites like Facebook may foster jealous feelings that threaten a relationship in the long run.
In short, it seems that monitoring your partner's behavior is a likely way to feel jealous of others in his or her life. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram simply make it more convenient for you to do so. And although this is by no means a comprehensive review of the literature , it makes me wonder - are low-self esteem couples using excessive VDAs to meet their need for popularity and overcome jealousy?
Good luck, and may you not be spammed with dramatic virtual love stories this month!
- Farrugia, R. C. (2013). Facebook and relationships: A study of how social media use is affecting long-term relationships. Theses. Paper 30. Retrieved from: http://scholarworks.rit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=theses
- January is the breakup month: Survey. (2014, January 17). The New Indian Express. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from http://www.newindianexpress.com/world/January-is-the-Breakup-Month-Survey/2014/01/17/article2004666.ece
- Scrimgeour, H. (2013, June 22). 10 rules for virtual displays of affection. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/technology/internet/10-rules-for-virtual-displays-of-affection-1.1535847#.UtwLlRDTnIU
- Specter, C. (2008, January 23). Huffington Post. Retrieved January 19, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/catherine-specter/january-is-national-break_b_82847.html
- Utz, S., & Beukeboom, C. J. (2011). The role of social network sites in romantic relationships: Effects on jealousy and relationship happiness. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 16, 511-527. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1083-6101.2011.01552.x/pdf