The Impact of Social Media PDA on Relationships

Happy Couple Looking at Phone Together - Likes Social Media

Public displays of affection, better known as PDA, is a divisive issue. You’re either pro or anti-PDA—there’s really no middle ground. Now, there are degrees of PDA, and they range from mild to full-on nauseating.

Mild PDA:

  • Hand holding
  • Hugs
  • Chaste kisses (closed mouth pecks, absolutely no mouth-opening or tongue involved)
  • Arm around the shoulder
  • Lap sitting

Full-On PDA:

  • Making out
  • Aggressive making out (yes, there is a difference)
  • Lap sitting with any kind of movement (you know what we mean)
  • Feeding each other in a public setting

Now that we have that settled and you’re either unbothered or ready to lose your lunch at the thought of witnessing the full-on category, there’s a new kind of PDA we need to discuss—social media PDA.

Yes, it’s a thing. It’s how couples express affection on online platforms. Instead of just showing your love to those in your immediate vicinity, social media public displays of affection (SM-PDA, yes, we made that up) are becoming a common way for couples to boast about being loved up to the world—and broadcasting it to a much bigger audience.

It was bound to happen, as a majority of the population is on social media and in romantic relationships! We’ll call it a natural progression—instead of kissing your BAE in public, you snap a pic of it and post it to your preferred platform, be it Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, or any other app of the moment.

And while it seems like a harmless choice between couples, it does have an impact on personal relationships. We are going to explore the pros and cons of social media PDAs in romantic relationships.

But what exactly does Social Media PDA entail, and how does it manifest in the digital realm? Let’s find out!

Definition of SM-PDA

Social media PDA is simply the public display of affection between people on social media platforms—and it’s not just posting pics of a happy couple together. It also includes writing love-dovey captions and commenting affectionately on each other’s posts. Whether it’s words or emojis, like the fire or heart eyes emoji on your babe’s thirst trap selfie, that’s SM-PDA.

Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter) are the most popular online spaces where this phenomenon is exhibited—each one offers a different medium for couples to express their affection, whether through pics, status updates, or posts (formerly called tweets).

Expression Forms

SM-PDA runs the gamut of posts and sentiments. The majority include sharing cute photos of each other or together, writing gooey, gushing captions under said photo, mentioning each other in IG stories, sharing relationship milestones like anniversaries, and having full-blown affectionate conversations in the comments for all who follow to see.

Visibility Graph


Unlike traditional PDA, SM-PDA is way more visible—depending on your platform presence, it transmits to a much bigger audience, which can include friends, family, acquaintances, and even random strangers (aka the general public), depending on the privacy settings of the accounts.

Frequency Graph


The frequency of SM-PDA varies from couple to couple—some may indulge in it regularly, while others choose to keep their online interactions to a minimum. It’s a personal choice, and it depends on the people involved—if you aren’t a regular PDA-er, chances are pretty good you won’t engage in a ton (or any) SM-PDA.

Digital Footprint Graph

Digital Footprint

Here’s where it gets dicey—SM-PDA leaves a digital footprint—the internet is forever. While kissing at a restaurant won’t live online forever, a video or pic of you smooching your significant other can; even if you delete it, it’s still floating around somewhere in cyberspace. But if that doesn’t bother you, it can be an online photo album timeline that tells the story of your romance!

Perception Graph


The public perception of SM-PDA can vary widely among the people who see it, as we laid out up top. While some may see it as an adorable expression of love, others see it as too much or inauthentic and will give a groan or an eye-roll.

Why Couples SM-PDA: And Should They?

You are now schooled in what social media PDA is, but why do romantic partners do it—and should they?

  • Virtual Validation: SM-PDA often comes with that sweet, sweet rush of validation when likes, comments, and shares begin to pour in. Who doesn’t love that?
  • Keeping Up Appearances: The pressure to portray a picture-perfect relationship online can sometimes result in couples posting affectionate images and messages, even when things may not be as rosy behind the screen.
  • Creating Memories: Social media platforms are basically digital scrapbooks where couples can look back on these moments.
  • Comparison Trap: Witnessing other couples’ online PDAs can cause unfavorable comparisons, potentially sparking feelings of inadequacy or dissatisfaction.
  • Privacy Invasion: While sharing affectionate moments online, the line between personal and public can get blurred, leading to possible privacy invasions.
  • Building Digital Connection: Sometimes, engaging in online PDA can help maintain a connection, especially in long-distance relationships.
  • Misinterpretation: SM-PDA can sometimes be misinterpreted by the public or even by the partner, leading to misunderstandings.
  • Impression Management: Social media PDA allows couples to manage how others perceive their relationships, which can be both empowering and harmful.
  • Authenticity Check: Couples need to be mindful of the authenticity of their SM-PDA—it should be a genuine expression of love rather than a fake portrayal of clicks and likes.
  • External Influences: The feedback or criticism from the online community can impact how couples perceive their own relationships.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re pro or anti social media PDA, it has become a huge part of how couples show their love for each other. It’s a new way to share your love with the world, and it has its good and not-so-good sides.

So, if and when partaking in this form of PDA, it’s important for couples to be genuine and careful when they show off their love digitally—make sure it brings you closer instead of causing problems!

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.