You can’t hashtag love

The challenge of loving offline in an online world.

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(Photo: iStock)

Of all the viral trends and challenges to sweep social media last year, there was only one that I was interested in. It wasn’t the ice bucket challenge (too cold), the Kylie Jenner lip challenge (too stupid) or the push-up challenge (shameful lack of arm strength). It was the “love your spouse” challenge. The premise was simple: post a photo that encapsulates your love for your husband or wife every day for a week and tag a friend at the end to continue the challenge. Being a newly married millennial, I liked the idea from the first time the hashtag #loveyourspouse appeared in my newsfeed and I immediately went through my iPhone photos, choosing seven fun photos of Dan and I.

For weeks, I watched my friends sharing photos and waited patiently for one of them to tag me so I could participate. Then, finally, my mother-in-law challenged me on Facebook.

At dinner that night, I brought up the photo I’d shared on social media. “I’m doing the ‘love your spouse’ challenge,” I told Dan proudly.

“What’s that?” he asked. “I post a photo of us every day to show that I love you,” I said, and we both stared at each other as we realised what I’d just said.

"Social media these days tends to know a lot about how much we love each other. But if the ones you’re posting about don’t know, then there’s a problem."

Was I really going to prove my love by posting a photo every day? The fact of the matter was that I couldn’t just hashtag love—I had to show it in a way that would mean something to my husband. I knew that social media meant nothing to him but my actions at home did. Posting photos of a perfect moment frozen in time wasn’t going to show my love. It was behind the scenes, in the moments where choosing to love your spouse is truly a challenge, that was going to mean the most to him.

Of course, the #loveyourspouse challenge is harmless compared to some of the more dangerous trends sweeping social media. It’s been “hashtagged” more than 100,000 times on Facebook and more than 30,000 times on Instagram, so it’s clearly a popular concept. The challenge can be very uplifting and affirming, and there’s nothing wrong with sharing a moment of pure joy.

Here’s the catch, however: social media these days tends to know a lot about how much we love each other. But if the ones you’re posting about don’t know, then there’s a problem. So my challenge to you is to find out, if you don’t know already, the ways in which your husband, wife, child, mum, dad, grandparent or friend feels loved—and then make a conscious effort to let them know. Maybe it’s telling them through kind words how much you appreciate them. Maybe it’s that chore that you despise but you know by doing it they’d be really grateful. Or maybe Facebook really is the key to their hearts, and a sharing a sweet photo would make their day. Whatever it is, make it your own personal challenge.

The first photo I posted in the “love your spouse” challenge was also my last, though I do occasionally post a sparkly selfie of us accompanied by a flowing tribute to this wonderful man I married. But my everyday #loveyourspouse challenge will continue, offline, for as long as we both shall live.

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