Since before the dawn of the “it’s complicated” button, Millennials have been sharing details of their romantic ups and downs with one another online. As they age up, high-school breakup status messages morph into Facebook wedding albums and mysterious “is now single” alerts. Though the milestones may change, the public airing of relationship details remains a norm for many. But what happens when you fall in love, meet, and live out your relationship online for everyone to see— and you happen to become famous online for it? Living ever-fluidly both online and off, some Millennial couples are gaining huge followings, posting the intimate details of their young love on networks for the enjoyment of thousands of strangers.
It is important to keep in mind that the vast majority of Millennial couples are not living out their relationships on social networks in the same “internet famous” way. (We don’t want to be responsible for a “Look what all the crazy Millennials are doing now!” scare.) But increasingly we are seeing a trend where some “average” couples gain a huge following online, just by sharing their story on networks, in real time.
Savannah Montano and Jared Yarnall, or “Javannah,” are teenagers from South Florida who are “internet famous” as one of Tumblr’s most loved couples. Savannah’s Tumblr, May-13th, is named for the day of Javannah’s first kiss. The couple started posting pictures and videos of themselves of them kissing, snuggling, playing, etc. and began to gain a following. Part of their popularity is due to the fact that they are adorable looking—but Savannah’s prolific social media life has pushed their fame across the internet. Their joint Facebook has 340,000 Likes, their Twitter has 320,695 followers, the last Javannah video posted to YouTube has reached over 1.5 million views. This online activity does not include their fan pages, of which there are many. Javannahforever, a Tumblr and Instagram chronicling the couple reportedly has over 50 thousand followers. Savannah shares all of their relationship’s intimate details (texts, make-out sessions, and break-ups) across every online stage and attracts a global audience (including followers in Brazil and Lithuania) that loves the couple as much as they, supposedly, love each other.
But Javannah is by no means the only couple gaining fame online for being young and in love. Laith and Christina met through Tumblr and fell in love, beginning their relationship before meeting one another. But unlike Catfish tales, the couple Skyped, met, and stayed in love; becoming famous on Tumblr in 2011 for their romance (and subsequent break-up). Lucy and Kaelyn are a long distance same-sex couple who also met on Tumblr, and chronicle their ongoing relationship on multiple networks. In an interview with the Hairpin, Lucy shed some light on the couple’s decision to share their story with the internet: “It was literally overnight, people started watching it, and I thought, we could make something out of this. We could help other people. We got messages from people saying, ‘Just watching your video helped me accept who I am.’ I had no idea that we could have that impact.”
Some couples’ public eye romance catches on unintentionally because of their natural inclination to share their experiences online with friends and gaining fans in an organic way. But there are intentional internet famous couples as well. Timothy Goodman and Jessica Walsh (both designers in NYC) recently embarked on an intentional digital romance. Tim, a commitment-phobe and serial dater, and Jessica, a hopeless romantic on the quest for Mr. Right, both have a trail of failed love sagas and flings as the eternally single members of their friend group. Their project, 40 Days of Dating, chronicles their decision to date one another for forty days straight to hopefully find some answers about love and more importantly about themselves. Rules include: going on dates three times each week, seeing a couples therapist once a week, not seeing, dating, or hooking up with anyone else during the 40 days, and documenting everything on the site, including a daily questionnaire.
Watching a couple you don’t know live out their relationship online might be a product of the digital world, but the allure might be rooted in something less modern. Becoming invested in a stranger’s relationship is a consumer behavior that creates investment in novels, movies, and television. The openness of modern communication just alters that investment so that fictional couples become real ones. Even this is not a new phenomena—public fascination and intense emotion over celebrity couples is as old as Hollywood. But as fame becomes more democratized, it only makes sense that the world of relationship fandom would become democratized as well. Welcome to the new love story.