In the realm of celebrity romance, the union of Kiara Advani and Sidharth Malhotra earlier this year was not just a marriage; it became an Instagram phenomenon, an epitome of Bollywood elegance, and India’s most adored post. However, beneath the glittering façade of their dreamy wedding photos lay a profound contemplation shared by the couple.
Advani’s candid confession during an interview with Film Companion, highlighting Malhotra’s profoundly private nature, and their discussions regarding the sharing of their personal moments online, illuminate a contemporary conundrum faced by couples in today’s hyper-connected world.
While Advani’s inclination toward privacy is evident when she states, “Even I do not want to go into too many pictures,” it becomes apparent from her remark, “Sid is a bit too private,” and his retort, “I am private, not shy,” on Koffee with Karan, that Malhotra values his personal space and may even be more private than his spouse.
In an era where boundaries blur and sharing our lives online sparks debates about the balance between the personal and the public, we are compelled to ask: How do two individuals with divergent attitudes toward privacy find common ground, especially when announcing and displaying relationships online has become the norm? Can varying preferences for privacy influence the dynamics of a relationship?
Sharing a personal account, an anonymous millennial, who happens to be more open on social media than their partner, reflects, “Initially, my partner’s reluctance to share our pictures, rooted in the ‘evil eye’ belief, bothered me. After numerous conflicts, I came to realize that painful past relationship experiences may have shaped their beliefs. It took four years of our marriage for me to understand that they prefer showing affection in person, not online.”
To comprehend the gravity of differing privacy preferences, we consulted Dr. Era Dutta (MD Psychiatry), a Consultant Psychiatrist, and the Founder of Mind Wellness. She elucidates, “Couples today diverge in their perspectives on privacy, a marked departure from the past when ideological disputes revolved around major life choices such as careers, living arrangements, and family values. Privacy, though a fundamental right, varies significantly in interpretation among individuals.”
Delving into the “nazar” phenomenon, she explains that in India, a culturally nuanced nation, “couples often express concerns about oversharing on social media due to their belief in the ‘evil eye.’ This belief is deeply rooted in our value system, emphasizing the virtue of not flaunting all that we possess online. This, coupled with an individual’s personality, significantly molds people’s preferences regarding online privacy.”
Viveca Chow, a New York City Lifestyle Expert, reflecting on her journey as an influencer, shares, “I have always been a public figure, starting as a Broadway performer at the age of 22. My storytelling skills translated into social media success. Yet, aligning with my partner’s contrasting viewpoint posed challenges. Social media is my love language; it’s how I express myself. Early on, his requests to not share our special moments on my platforms felt personal, given our 12-year relationship. Over time, I understood his preference for intimacy, even as he remains my strongest supporter behind the scenes.”
Dr. Dutta elucidates how a partner’s inclination for privacy is intricately linked to their fundamental personality traits: “There are five major personality characteristics: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). An extroverted partner might readily share online, while an introverted one may choose not to. Agreeable partners might compromise, even if uncertain. A highly neurotic partner could be apprehensive about sharing, unlike a more easygoing one.”
Another Gen X individual, who requested anonymity, shares that their preference for sharing online as a medium of self-expression has been a bone of contention in their marriage. Their partner attempted to dissuade them, possibly because they felt uncomfortable when others questioned them, saying, “It seems like your partner isn’t doing well since they posted ABC. Is everything alright?”
In light of the above personal account, psychologist and published researcher Tanya Vasunia asserts, “It’s essential to exercise caution about the messages you share, as some can inadvertently disclose a lot of information. This can indirectly invade your partner’s privacy. For example, seemingly innocuous social media posts about ‘it’s okay to be alone’ can lead people to A) make incorrect assumptions and B) intrude on their partner’s personal space. You might have been feeling alone in your relationship, but if your partner values privacy, they may not want that information to go public.”
As people take unwarranted liberties on social media, Vasunia emphasizes, “Seeking permission before posting pictures online is crucial—a universal principle that applies to couples and extends to sensitive groups like children or the elderly.”
Misunderstandings and emotional disconnection can easily arise when one partner shares everything online, while the other prefers privacy. These divergent preferences can also translate into significant conflicts, particularly concerning varying views on sharing details of one’s children’s lives online. Even prominent figures like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have made headlines for their disputes over how much of their children’s lives and details should be shared on social media. This issue not only affects the dynamics between partners but also has repercussions on parent-child relationships.
Dr. Dutta shares, “Mothers have confided in me about their children’s mood swings and fussiness, often tracing them back to disagreements between the parents. These disputes arise when one parent wants to create videos with the child for social media, while the child now desires their own phone and online presence. One partner might see this as harmless, while the other disagrees.”
To navigate these challenges, we sought advice from Pallavi Barnwal, an Intimacy Coach and the Founder of Get Intimacy, who recommends that couples engage in open conversations without using “but” but rather “and.” She states, “We often fall into the trap of saying ‘I understand you, but…,’ and when you use ‘but,’ you negate everything said before. What we need here is flexibility. Genuine intimacy thrives in vulnerability, and discussing why this matters to me or why it makes me uncomfortable goes a long way in understanding our differences.”
Barnwal further suggests that couples evaluate their personal boundaries, identifying areas where boundaries can be relaxed and strengthened. For example, sharing pictures while traveling might be acceptable for a private person, but bedroom photos might be off-limits. The key lies in finding a balance between non-negotiable disclosure and respectful display of intimacy.
For those aspiring to become influencers or public figures, Vasunia advises, “Engaging in open and proactive discussions within a safe space is crucial. This applies not only to influencers but also to non-influencers, with variations in the details but equal importance. Avoid putting your partner in a vulnerable position on a public platform, as it erodes trust and overall harmony. Remember, social media is a choice, so reciprocally support your partner’s