New Stories

Binging and Purging in Relationships: How Pop Culture and Social Media Influence Relationships

by Christy Walters and Michelle Boring

This article is part two of a two-part series. Please see “Lookin’ for a Good Time” for the first installment.


In our last piece, we discussed the difference between hooking up and dating, and how we, as a college demographic, view relationships.

What influences these views, though?

The two most obvious influences are pop culture and social media. Together, they impact every aspect of our lives—what we wear, what we say, what we listen to, what we watch.

85 percent of participants from our poll said pop culture does influence the way they view relationships.


The grocery store tabloids promote hook-up culture.

Kim and Kanye, Robin and Paula, Justin and Selena, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. As one responder said, “celebrities are serial daters.” If you want to quote Katy Perry, then they fight and break up, kiss and make up. Repeatedly.

45 percent of participants said they wouldn’t engage in a F.W.B. relationship, but 26 percent believe it would be a great idea. Is this because movies have given us a romanticized view of this practice? Doesn’t the relationship always start out that way, but eventually one or both of the parties falls in love? BAM. Instant fairytale ending. Awwww. How romantic.

24 percent of participants think that eventually someone will develop feelings. What’s so romantic about being in love with someone that isn’t in love with you?

The answer? Nothing. Of course, we’re sure somewhere out there, someone did get the happy ending. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t happen. There aren’t writers scripting our lives. That guy doesn’t always run into Grand Central Station and start a flash mob. It doesn’t always end with a passionate kiss.

Sometimes, instead of starting as friends, it starts too young. Look at shows like “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” Maybe these shows started out with good intentions—trying to capture the struggles of a teenage mother—but instead, these shows made teenagers think that if they start early, they can get famous with a television show.

These shows and celebrities show how hookup culture has become commonplace. Do we even think about it anymore?

Look at Leah from “Teen Mom 2.” She married her twin daughters’ father, Cory, cheated on him, divorced him, and then she married a new guy, had a baby, and possibly cheated on her second husband too. What a role model, huh? It’s terrifying to think that this is the kind of person that young girls are looking at and being influenced by.

Now let’s talk about Lil’ Wayne. Not only is he an advocate for weed and other drugs but he has been arrested and jailed. To add to his already stellar reputation, he has four children to four different women. His first child was born when he was 15. He married the first baby’s mother and divorced her two years later. The male role model isn’t much better, is it?

Granted, we do have some great role models out there, but they don’t get as much publicity. Even still, many celebrity relationships end in divorce. Though there isn’t an actual statistic about the divorce rate for Hollywood couples, the question always seems to be, “How long will this last?”

20 percent of those polled mentioned that they think pop culture is the reason that divorce rates in the U.S. are around 53 percent.

One responder said, “We have this glamorous view of relationships. We are always expecting instant gratification. Nowadays, it’s like once people leave the honeymoon stage, it all falls apart. You get to know who someone truly is. We want people to be our fantasies, and when they’re not, we’re filled with disappointment. On the contrary, girls will stay with guys in hopes of changing them. Once again, I blame pop culture for creating the “once asshole now sensitive flower” stereotype in all the shitty teen movies; it gives young women false senses of reality. We have grown up in a pop-culture wasteland, so it makes sense that these behaviors are now running rampant.”

Another responder said, “Pop culture has redefined what a relationship is. We base our needs and ideals on tweets and pictures of these beautiful couples—but there is no insight. With #wcw (woman crush Wednesday) and #mcm (man crush Monday) the world has become jaded on what a relationship actually is.”

It’s not just pop culture influencing us; it’s social media, too. In fact, 87 percent of participants said social media impacts their view of relationships.

One responder said, “You can literally find out if they have a freaking hangnail via social media.” Which is true. We put it all out there.

39 percent of people said it was easier to find someone with social media. These social networks keep us linked to everyone, everywhere, all the time. It’s easier to go online and use a site to find someone than to meet someone through work, school, or bars. Have you ever “Facebook crept” on someone? All our information is on these sites, and people use those stats and figures to get to know us instead of actually asking us about our lives—it depersonalizes us.

its complicated


We vomit our personal information and thoughts into the webiverse because our generation thinks that if we don’t have it documented in our timeline or on our twitter feed, then it didn’t happen. We aren’t real. Our relationships aren’t real unless they are “Facebook official.” Before, guys would give girls their rings or their letterman jackets to show they were going steady. Now, it’s a few quick clicks to get a status that people can like. #itscomplicated.

A responder said, “Social media has made everyone’s relationships open to the public, by that person’s choice, of course. Because you can make your relationship ‘Facebook official’ by changing your relationship status.”

Relationships are less private. A responder said, “People post to their significant-other’s wall in constant forms of affection. It makes it obvious to the rest of the people on Facebook if you are in a relationship.”

“Significant others often become paranoid because of interactions they see their boyfriend/girlfriend having through social media. For example, looking to see who your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s Snapchat best friends are or who constantly likes his or her Instagram posts,” said another.

Should we go on? We don’t think we have to. You get it, right? Social media takes relationships that were once private and allows the world, or at least our friends, access to everything we do.

So, pop culture and social media do affect our relationships. We can all agree on that, can’t we? Social media came out when we were teenagers, at the peak of our awkwardness and at the beginning of our interest in the opposite sex. Pop culture is around us all the time now because of technological advances. We’re the first generation to make it through the onslaught of power couples and “Facebook official” relationships, and it’s obvious that these things have changed our generation from the previous ones. The question is: what’s going to happen to the next generation? How invaded will their relationships become?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: