Dear Researcher, 

I’ve observed that my friends and I use social media in quite different ways. While some of us look virtually distant and prefer little to no online engagement, others of us overshare in an attempt to get ongoing validation. It made me wonder: Is our behavior on social media influenced by our past relationships? What impact does our past relationship have on our future online?


Curious in Cyberspace

Dear Curious in Cyberspace,

Your sharp eye has noticed the complex dance of digital interactions, a dance that our previous relationships’ ingrained habits designed. To understand the patterns of our online activity, let’s explore the research on attachment theory!

The Memory Play: In a fascinating study by Simpson, Rholes, and Winterheld (2010), couples were observed having conversations on conflict within their relationship. While participants recounted their behavior later, an interesting twist emerged: those with anxious attachment styles recalled their behavior in a more positive light while they were under stress, indicating a propensity to present a more positive picture of their supportiveness. This twist also applies to social media, where oversharing by anxiously attached people may be used as a coping mechanism for their fears, as they seek approval from a virtual version of a perfect relationship.

The Aloof Online Persona: Meet the mysterious friend that appears almost ghostly on social media and gives away very little about their love life. To shed light on this behavior, Young, Kolubinski, and Frings (2020) used social media channels to recruit 124 participants who answered survey questions about their use of social media, attachment style, and mental health. Survey data suggests that people who are avoidantly attached use social media to satisfy a need for connection without having to expose themselves emotionally. They interact just enough to satiate their craving for connection without becoming overly intimate.

Jealousy in the Digital Arena: Sullivan (2021) investigated the maze of online jealousy by polling 841 people and finding a clear correlation between increased jealousy of online interactions and anxious attachment. People’s attitudes toward online communication either increased or decreased the strength of these feelings, showing how the digital stage may become a battlefield for those with this form of attachment.

So, Curious in Cyberspace, our attachment styles do have a significant impact on our actions while interacting with others online! Every online activity, such as likes and posts, shapes our own digital dance by reflecting our distinct past. Recall that even while our attachment style sets the beat, we are still the dancers, able to purposefully navigate the internet and look for genuine connections. Cheers to dancing to the beat of genuine connection and navigating the broad digital realm with awareness and intention.

To digital love and beyond,



Simpson, J. A., Rholes, W. S., & Winterheld, H. A. (2010). Attachment working models twist memories of relationship events. Psychological science21(2), 252–259.

Sullivan K. T. (2021). Attachment Style and Jealousy in the Digital Age: Do Attitudes About Online Communication Matter?. Frontiers in psychology12, 678542.

Young, L., Kolubinski, D. C., & Frings, D. (2020). Attachment style moderates the relationship between social media use and user mental health and wellbeing. Heliyon6(6), e04056.

7 Replies to “Dear Curious in Cyberspace: The Choreography of Digital Affection

  1. First of all, I wanted to say that I love the layout and creativity within this post. It is clear, concise, and separated into sections that are easy to understand. I also find it incredibly interesting that people interact differently online based on their attachment styles. I also think this study is incredibly relevant, especially for people our age. I will for sure be paying more attention to friend’s behavior online and whether it is indicative of their attachment styles in real life.

  2. I really enjoyed your post, Madison! I love how you tied in the dance analogy we talked about last class in reference to the Clark article. I also think this topic connects to the Forest and Wood article on Facebook and self-esteem. It would be an interesting follow up to the Forest and Wood article to explore how someone’s attachment style interacts with their self-esteem, possibly having an effect on self-disclosure and subsequent responsiveness online. Perhaps people with particular attachment styles are more likely to post more positively (and less negatively) on social media, yielding to more responsiveness from peers, independent of their self-esteem.

  3. I really love the creative style you wrote this in as well as the really interesting points you made about attachment on social media! The statements you made about social media enhancing insecure attachments by allowing anxious individuals to overshare and allowing avoidant individuals to establish connections yet retract when desired was very interesting. It made me wonder if a study could examine if any intervention methods could be introduced into social media to do the opposite and work to promote secure attachment.

  4. I really enjoyed your format and creativity in this post- it was a fun article to read. The Sullivan (2021) study is fascinating to me. It makes sense how social media truly can be a ‘battlefield’ for emotions such as anxiety and jealousy. Since social media is so big today, I’m wondering what the best ways are to help someone in this situation get through these difficult circumstances.

  5. It is fascinating to think of social media as a digital stage where our past relationships perform a silent ballet, influencing our every move and interaction. Not only that, but understanding how our attachment styles choreograph our online behavior adds a new layer of depth to our digital experiences.

  6. Cool study you brought in – “Survey data suggests that people who are avoidantly attached use social media to satisfy a need for connection without having to expose themselves emotionally.” I’d like to see research on what effect this kind of behavior has on real-life relationships and intimacy, because it intuitively seems that this type of social media use would have negative consequences (e.g. more difficult to express emotions to others).

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