Social media pressures couples to get engaged young
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 23:10
Getting engaged means much more than it did a decade ago with the rise of social media, according to experts.
When a relationship status changes from "in a relationship" to "engaged" on Facebook, the new bride-to-be can now begin actually using her "wedding board" on Pinterest, posting to HowHeAsked.com and uploading pictures to Instagram of the shiny new rock that now holds a residency on her left hand.
LaChrystal Ricke, Ph.D., assistant professor of mass communication, said she thinks social media, television and peer pressure affects students’ decisions to get married at earlier ages.
“I think that social media, coupled with what has been popularized on television through shows about weddings and specials about weddings, can make students focus on the fun part of the wedding and planning and not on the actualities of what marriage should be about,” Ricke said. “Also, if people are seeing their friends get engaged and married, that may put some social pressure on them to think that this is the correct move for them as well.”
Ricke said it is easy to forget what weddings are supposed to symbolize in a society where marriage is easily disposable.
“I think there is a lot of excitement that surrounds an engagement and a wedding that can sometimes leave people forgetting what the long-term point of the wedding is about,” Ricke said. “I do think that some people can get caught up in the thought of weddings and marriages without thinking as much about the life-long commitment.”
Junior psychology major Carissa Wolfe said she believes the exposure to social media at a young age influences the desire to get married at a younger age.
"Kids are getting on social media at younger ages now," Wolfe said. "Especially on Pinterest, they see love quotes and pretty wedding dresses so they think that getting married at a young age is the social norm for being happy."
Ricke said that divorce is more easily accepted in students who come from divorced households. National trends show that one in every two marriages in the United States will end in divorce, according to the CDC’s National Vital Statistics System. It also shows that marriage rates have continually declined for the last 20 years.
“I think it is somewhat difficult to change this mindset especially when we see so much in the media of super short marriages of famous people,” Ricke said. “This can lead individuals to believe that this is commonplace. However, there is really a lot more at the root of this, for example if they come from a family where divorce has occurred, they may be more likely to feel that it is more acceptable.”
As someone who was married later in life, Ricke said she couldn’t fathom getting married any earlier.
“I think the benefits of waiting is the ability to explore who you are as a person and really knowing yourself as an individual before knowing yourself as a spouse,” Ricke said.
In addition to social media endorsing a wedding-crazed society, she said, television and other sources of communication are culprits as well. TLC (The Learning Channel) has an entire day devoted just to weddings with shows like "Say Yes to the Dress," "Four Weddings" and "Something Borrowed, Something New." Not to mention WE's (Women's Entertainment) show "Bridezillas" that uses the bride-to-be status as an excuse for acting completely irrational.
Ricke said the challenge is that many viewers confuse these shows with reality. These shows focus on the extravagant wedding planning and not on the purpose, or the financial realities.
According to Ricke, the best way to combat social and media pressure to get married is by having a good support system.
“Relying on parents, families and religious entities to make sure that marriage is the right decision and that the commitment behind it is what all parties are interested in,” Ricke said.
Ricke said although marrying at a young age can make surviving marriage more difficult, it can work with commitment.
“I have friends who married young and are still married to their high school sweethearts. They had kids young and really enjoyed it,” Ricke said. “Marriages take work—every day. So, the pros and cons related to marrying young also have to do with whether or not both parties realize and are committed to the work that it takes to making a marriage successful.”