THE BLOG

Love in the Time of Instagram

03/11/2015 11:53 am ET | Updated May 11, 2015

I know what several of my friends did this weekend despite being in a different city. I know what some of them ate for breakfast this morning. I know that some are all about that "#gymlife," and some are more about the "#studygrind."

And truthfully, for all the complaining about how irrelevant those posts are, I actually do enjoy them. I like seeing what my friends, relatives and favorite celebrities are up to today.

The "pics or it didn't happen" mentality is more pervasive than it's ever been. Why else are we documenting our lives in such detail through Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook?

The line between a digital life and a real one is tricky, and becoming increasingly blurred. Sometimes, the value of an experience is determined by how it will play out on social media, rather than the experience itself.

I know you've probably read a few dozen fear-mongering articles about millennials and how their obsession with social media is ruining society -- that's not what this is about.

There's nothing wrong with documenting your existence. Anyone who thinks this is a new phenomenon should open a history book.

Since the earliest days of Mesopotamia, people have been finding ways to make an imprint in the world. Like the Mesopotamians, and every civilization since, we are leaving our mark -- for better or worse. Leaving your mark means that you have a tangible, fairly permanent record of your life today.

Fortunately and unfortunately, that means that a lot of other people also have a tangible and fairly permanent record of your life. It means that the people who care about you can see and experience life events along with you, even when they're geographically distant.

But, it also means that your very conservative aunt can comment on the photo of you in a bikini with a bible quote about modesty.

It means that special someone you're in a relationship with can show their appreciation for you by posting a picture of the two of you, or sending you a Snapchat that says "Miss you!" But, that tangible and fairly permanent record can also work against you, if your scorned ex-lover feels vengeful.

Suddenly, your record can include something that was private and intimate, that you didn't choose to share.

Take the recent instance of an SDSU student who posted nude photos of his ex-girlfriend on Instagram without her permission. Or the San Diego man who was recently found guilty of operating a revenge porn site, and then charging the victims hundreds of dollars to remove the photos.

Some commenters on the first story remarked that anyone who shares nude photos is an idiot and gets what they deserve. That's victim-blaming and it's untrue.

The person who shares the photos with a significant other isn't an idiot; he or she was likely in a relationship where they trusted the other party. But things change, and people change. Without getting too dramatic, sometimes people betray your trust in an irrevocable way.

Does that mean you should never trust again?

Of course not.

Just because people get in car crashes or drown in the ocean doesn't mean you'll stop driving or swimming altogether (I hope). If sending provocative pictures is your thing, then I admire your confidence and encourage you to keep doing you. But like with everything, there are possible negative consequences to be aware of. Besides being aware of the consequences, it's also helpful to be aware of the resources.

Should you find yourself in the situation where someone has shared private photos without your consent, you can take action. Here is information on what constitutes a "revenge porn" crime in different states. You should preserve the image by screenshotting or making a PDF of the image so it can be used for evidence. You should find a lawyer willing to take your case (some do pro bono work) and file a police report. And you should also write a letter to the person who posted the photo, which your lawyer may be able to help you with. It should request a settlement that has the person take down the content and never post it anywhere again. It should also give you copyright to the photo, so that the owners of any website would have to take it down.

Love in the age of Instagram or social media isn't worse or better than love in past years. It's different, and it comes with different risks and benefits. Just because our grandparents didn't have to worry about photos being posted online doesn't mean they didn't have their own generational and relationship struggles.

Despite all the worry that social media is damaging our real life relationships -- it's making them stronger in many other ways.