There once was a time where the rough patch in your relationship was not broadcasted to the world. Instead, it was probably relegated to a burned CD that you played until it scratched. As technology evolved, so did how we interact in our relationships. Burned CDs turned into playlists you could stream and share with anyone. But the music wasn’t all we could share. We shared our feelings too. We aimed to be “Facebook official,” divulging when we went from being “in a relationship” to when it got “complicated.” Oversharing became the new normal and for public figures, who had even less privacy than everyday people, that window of mystery began to shrink. The public breakup went from Nick Cannon quietly covering up the “Mariah” shrine he tattooed on his back to the trainwrecks many of us watched this week, including the breakup of hip-hop’s iciest couple Saweetie and Quavo to the embarrassing confession of infidelity by self-professed relationship guru Derrick Jaxn. Information that was once filtered to the public through photos from the paparazzi is now being told straight from the person’s mouth. The truth is, as much as people are too forthcoming with the details they decide to share, their audience are equally as guilty for getting caught up in the aftermath.
“When it comes to social media, being ‘taken’ is important to people in today’s society, which is why they brand themselves using their relationship status,” Arey Tamboura, a mental health counselor in New York, told VICE. According to Tamboura, audiences flock to this content, no matter if it’s negative or positive because we see some parts of ourselves in these situations. “They may see themselves as Derrick Jaxn’s wife, or as Quavo. The common themes in these stories are infidelity, self-esteem issues, identity issues, and displaced emotions. Generally speaking, more people experience any one theme or all at some point in their life, and with these stories, they make a connection.”
Last week, a clip from Revolt TV’s Respectfully Justin, hosted by former athlete-turned-meme-god Justin Laboy, went viral after Saweetie sat in the hot seat of his show. The clip in question shows the host treating a request for a threesome as a reward for good behavior. “Who is the dream girl to bring home to him to make all of y’all happy?” The question, however presumptuous, was no match for Saweetie’s clapback which completely turned the tables on Laboy’s intention. “I normally talk to men who are cultured, who have been around the world, who know a lot of people… but because he’s doing everything right I’m going to give him the honor of picking the nigga who we gonna have a threesome with.” It was an answer that not only made the show’s crowd erupt, but the internet too.
Two days later, Saweetie and Quavo announced their breakup on Twitter. “I’m single,” she wrote. “I’ve endured too much betrayal and hurt behind the scenes for a false narrative to be circulating that degrades my character. Presents don’t band aid scars and the love isn’t real when the intimacy is given to other women.” And in a rare moment of transparency, Quavo responded as well. “I had love for you and [I’m] disappointed you did all that,” he wrote. “You are not the woman I thought you were. I wish you nothing but the best.”
The exchange was enough to get people riled up. We tuned into their “how it started/how it’s going” origin story and the DM that started it all. We watched them treat each other to Bentley’s and Richard Mille’s for Christmas, and there was even that very sweet GQ couple’s quiz that they both aced. Fans may never know the truth of what really caused the break up. Some may read between the lines of Saweetie’s tweet and think Quavo cheated—an accusation they both denied last year. Others may think it has to do with the awkward energy between Justin Combs, who is an executive producer for Respectfully Justin, and Saweetie on the show, considering the two allegedly dated. As always, we will only know as much as they share—which tends to be a lot.
Though Derrick Jaxn and wife Da’naia Jackson don’t have the name recognition of Saweetie and Quavo, three million people watched Jaxn admit to cheating on his wife. “The truth is that Derrick Jaxn was involved with other women—outside the marriage,” he said in an Instagram video. “By involved, I want to be clear, I’m not talking about casually kicking it, or maybe a lunch… I’m talking about something as serious as sex to sexual flirtation.” Watching Jaxn, who wrote a book about “healing and healthy relationships,” deem these actions “inappropriate” in front of his wife felt like watching yet another Black woman be publicly embarrassed in the name of love. “I cannot build a platform preaching about certain things and then in my real life live contrary to that.” While that is true, it forces us to wonder the science behind what it really means to overshare every part of your relationship, even the unglamorous moments.
Something that seems as arbitrary as sharing a relationship status on Facebook actually tells us a lot more about who we are as people, and there are stats to back it up. In 2014, Facebook Data Science noticed that people engaged with their online communities 225 percent more when they were in relationships. If you’re wondering why that is, it’s because psychologically self-esteem is inextricably tied to our relationships. Add that with the ability to monetize on platforms like YouTube and Instagram and you have a recipe for #relationshipgoals—especially if your claim to fame is now your relationship’s darkest moment.
“Apology videos serve the purpose of regaining control,” Tamboura says. “Once the public deems you as someone that needs to be canceled, everything is out of your control, and the public holds the narrative. Some apology videos are perceived as manipulation tactics as well. It is necessary to turn their indiscretions into content because it keeps them relevant for even longer, and they make money from it. They need the apology videos, not for closure, but to maintain their brands as a public figure.”
We are now at the point where people’s intimate relationships are fodder for timelines and group chats, and I myself have had a tough time tuning out from the discourse. Our collective interest borders the line of voyeurism, which could explain the success of films like A Marriage Story and Malcolm & Marie. It’s tough to say who is to blame for the circus these conversations evoke, but one thing is for certain—one doesn’t exist without the other.
Kristin Corry is a Senior Staff Writer for VICE.
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