It isn’t every day that you get to invent a cool new word. But that is exactly what we at Science Of Relationships did by coining the term “relfie” in an article about how people present their relationships on Facebook. (Also see our post in response to the misreporting of this work by multiple media outlets.)
As something new and cool related to the Internet, Jezebel.com wrote about our new invention. Jezebel doesn't hate it (“Relfie isn't hate-worthy”), but do think it is redundant with a selfie.
As the originators of the term, we politely disagree.
How Are Relfies Different from Selfies?
When a person takes a selfie, they are the star of show. Sure, there can be other things in the picture (a cool place you’re visiting, something you’ve accomplished, or basically anything that emphasized your general awesomeness). According to self-verification theory1, we want other people to see us as we see ourselves. If you consider yourself adventurous, you’re more likely to take a selfie of you cliff-diving versus knitting.
With a relfie, it is less about the “me” and more about the “we.” That is, you take a relfie to emphasize your connection with other people in a way that makes your relationship the picture’s main focus. In relationship science we call your connection with your partner “inclusion of other in the self,” which occurs when partners blend their identities or senses of who they are and merge with each other.2 As a result, partners feel more like a couple and less like two distinct individuals. When partners share high levels of inclusion, they not only feel close, but also act close by doing things together.
With a selfie, it’s all about you. With a relfie, it’s all about your relationship.
Now that you know what makes a relfie distinct from a selfie, here are eight reasons, backed by science, why relfies are important for your relationships.
#1 Couples who relfie together stay together. Couples who have more of a “we” identity (i.e., have high inclusion of other in the self) tend to have higher relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and commitment.3
#2 When others see your relfie, they see you as having a BETTER romantic relationship.4 No relfie? People might perceive less of a connection between you and your partner.
#3 Do you have a hot partner? Then being in a relfie with your hot partner will make you look more attractive. After all, if you’re with an attractive partner, you must be doing something right.5
#4 People take relfies when they are happy and having fun. Emphasizing the good times in relationships benefits your relationships by increasing emotional intimacy, trust, and satisfaction.6
#5 Taking a relfie with a group of your friends? That’ll make you appear more attractive as well, thanks to the “Cheerleader Effect”7
#6 Couples who feel closer to each other are more likely to display things (i.e., items in their house, or perhaps relfies on Twitter) that let the world know they are a couple.8
#7 Did you and your partner do something new, interesting, and/or challenging? Not only is that a prime relfie opportunity (think: skydiving relfie, surfing lessons relfie, tried a new restaurant relfie), but research shows that these types of experiences help you grow as a person and improve the quality of your relationships.9
#8 Finally, although we’ve focused mostly on relfies that involve romantic partners, let’s not forget about those relfies that highlight other key aspects of your self-identity, including relfies involving friends and family members. Our personal relationships, broadly speaking, are critical features of our existence, and the more connections we perceive we have with other people, the longer we live and love.10
Relfies are not selfies. In fact, not only are these terms not the same, relfies are much more positive. Whereas selfies may suggest a certain level of narcissism, self-absorption or cry for attention, a relfie may simply say that you value the relationship you share with the other(s) pictured.
Want to share your relfie with the world? Share it on our official relfie website: www.relfie.us
If you’d like to learn more about our book, please click here (or download it here). Interested in learning more about relationships? Click here for other topics on Science of Relationships. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get our articles delivered directly to your NewsFeed.
1Swann, W. B., Jr. (1983). Self-verification: Bringing social reality into harmony with the self. In J. Suls & A. G. Greenwald (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on the self (Vol. 2, pp. 33–66), Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
2Aron, A., Aron, E. N., Tudor, M., & Nelson, G. (1991). Close relationships as including other in the self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60(2), 241-253. doi:10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124
3Aron, A., Aron, E. N., & Smollan, D. (1992). Inclusion of Other in the Self Scale and the structure of interpersonal closeness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(4), 596-612. doi:10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1996
4Emery, L. F., Muise, A., & Alpert, E., & Le, B. (in press). Do we look happy? Perceptions of romantic relationship quality on Facebook. Personal Relationships..
5Sigall, H., & Landy, D. (1973). Radiating beauty: Effects of having a physically attractive partner on person perception. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 28(2), 218-224. doi: 10.1037/h0035740
6Gable, S. L., Reis, H. T., Impett, E. A., & Asher, E. R. (2004). What do you do when things go right? The intrapersonal and interpersonal benefits of sharing positive events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(2), 228-245. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.52
7Walker, D. & Vul, E. (2014). Hierarchical encoding makes individuals in a group seem more attractive. Psychological Science, 25(1), 230-235.
8Lohmann, A., Arriaga, X. B., & Goodfriend, W. (2003). Close relationships and placemaking: Do objects in a couple's home reflect couplehood?. Personal Relationships, 10(3), 437-449. doi:10.1111/1475-6811.00058
9Aron, A., Norman, C. C., Aron, E. N., McKenna, C., & Heyman, R. E. (2000). Couples' shared participation in novel and arousing activities and experienced relationship quality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 273-284.
10Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. B., & Layton, J. B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine, 7(7), 1-20.
Dr. Gary Lewandowski - Science of Relationships articles | Website
Dr. Lewandowski's research explores the self’s role in romantic relationships focusing on attraction, relationship initiation, love, infidelity, relationship maintenance, and break-up. Recognized as one of the Princeton Review’s Top 300 Professors, he has also authored dozens of publications for both academic and non-academic audiences.