Like it or not, social media is thoroughly woven into the fabric of modern life — even if you choose to avoid using social media yourself, it’s a part of our shared social experiences. As with all advances in technology, it makes some things richer and at the same time, more complicated — including, likely, your love life. What does it mean for dating that you can now express interest in someone with a heart-eyes emoji commented on their selfie, or realize from a Facebook post that your crush is finally single?
Getting hot and heavy with a date’s social media
♥ Vetting a date via social media
Speaking with someone in person is still usually the best way to get a sense of whether someone might be a good fit for you. But for many of us, it’s a natural urge to also get a vibe check of their online presence, either ahead of a first date or right after one. It’s best to take this with a grain of salt — after all, our online presences are curated intentionally as a specific version of ourselves, so anything that you react strongly to likely isn’t the full picture. However, there are some things you might see on a social media screening that let you know about a major red flag up front — a partner or kids they didn’t tell you about, political beliefs or ideological views you find abhorrent, etc.
♥ Finding dates on social media — and curating yourself for them
Figuring out where to meet people is challenging for all of us (that’s why so many turn to matchmaking!). Some people find that social media, especially Instagram, can be a more accessible way to meet someone than either dating apps or hitting the bars. The algorithm tends to lead us to people it thinks we’d want to follow, which are often people we have an acquaintance in common with or share interests with. These aren’t bad options for a dating pool — for better or for worse, plenty of relationships have begun via a series of cryptic emoji replies to someone’s Instagram stories.
However, speaking of social media being curated to suggest a specific version of ourselves, some of us can find it hard to be “authentic” in these spaces, and bringing the potential of dating into it just makes it harder. If you’re someone who finds yourself putting on a performance when there’s someone you’re interested in nearby, you may find the same issue coming up on social media. It’s fine to be mindful of potential dates finding your social media presence intriguing, but don’t let it become the fuel for maintaining an online persona that’s exhausting without even showing who you really are.
♥ When to exchange social media follows
What about when you’re actually successfully dating someone? If you’ve been out with someone a few times and it’s going well, you may be thinking about what steps it’s appropriate to take next and what’s moving too fast. One of those steps might be following each other on social media (especially if you have private/locked accounts). How do you know when it’s time? There’s no hard and fast answer; it feels safe to say that the first date is too soon, while a couple of months in is fine. It’s helpful to think about what a worst case scenario of this choice might be — if you and this date fizzle out after seeing each other once or twice and then never speak again, what will it feel like to be following them (and vice versa)? Do you want to see updates on their diet and summer trips, or be faced with the decision to unfollow them? If you post about being laid off, do you want them to see it?
Managing social media while in a relationship
♥ When — and how — to post someone
Once you’re in the swing of an established relationship, social media often becomes part of the hum in the background — you’re both sharing your outfits, your pets, your favorite memes, and so on and so forth. One question that does sometimes come up, however, specific to relationships is the idea of someone “posting you” as their partner — how often your partner makes you visible on their social media platforms, whether that’s posting photos of you or mentioning you explicitly as their romantic partner.
The motivation behind this anxiety could be a fear of being cheated on and wanting your partner to be visibly “taken,” or just an anxiety about your importance in your partner’s life. There isn’t a right or wrong approach to this; if this describes you, you aren’t crazy for wanting it, and at the same time, there isn’t necessarily anything harmful or suspicious about your partner’s reticence, especially if they aren’t a very active social media user or feel anxious about sharing their personal life online. The important thing is to directly communicate and hear each other out about the reasons that these questions matter to each of you, and commit to addressing the emotional needs and wants at the root of the conversation.
♥ When social media becomes a problem
The other time social media may take a front seat in your relationship in a problematic way is if it becomes an avenue for abusive or controlling behaviors, on the part of either you or a partner. For many of us in modern times, social media is another layer of public life — and controlling a partner’s ability to access public life and trying to keep them under control at home, in the private sphere, is a classic pattern of abuse.
This may manifest as trying to control what someone posts online, arguing that photos posted are in inappropriately revealing outfits or are somehow invitations to other suitors; demanding access to your social media passwords or ability to read all your messages and DMs; or even wanting you to stop using social media altogether entirely at their behest. If these patterns are visible in your relationship in any direction, it’s important to address issues of control immediately; while social media may be a place where these issues become visible, the core of the issue is within the power dynamics of your relationship.
Social media as the third wheel to your breakup
♥ To post or not to post about a breakup
We love to post to social media during the best of times — holidays, birthdays, vacations, career milestones, etc. It’s harder to know what to do with difficult things, like a breakup.
Some people choose to post a breakup announcement of sorts, sharing the fact that it’s happened — more often when the breakup has been relatively amicable such that they still communicate enough with the ex to plan the announcement. This can be an appealing option in the sense that it feels like getting it over with, but may also open up more inquiries and conversations than you wanted to deal with during a delicate period of your life.
For some of us, it may also be tempting to use social media as a place to vent about our breakup feelings, whether that’s updates on how badly we’re feeling or descriptions of how our ex wronged us. While this can feel like a pressure release valve in the moment, it’s likely to cause you more problems in the long term, whether that’s a conflict with your now-ex or a change in how others see you based on your online behavior — remember that social media is often evaluated by potential employers as well as friends. If you feel strongly that you need somewhere to vent, consider at least using a private or closed account, or even making a new account or list with only a very small number of closest friends and loved ones, for this type of content.
♥ Managing unhealthy behaviors related to your ex’s social media
Depending on the breakup and how you process difficult feelings, you may have a hard time making a clean break — and if you don’t have continued access to your now-ex, you may be finding yourself fixating on their social media. What are they doing? Are they as sad as you are? Are they making you out to be the bad guy? Are they dating anyone new? These are normal questions to have, but continuously refreshing their social media or analyzing the minutiae of their comments is only going to make the painful post-breakup period last longer, as you focus on this external task and avoid dealing with your own feelings. Figure out what it would take, including blocking them or having a friend take over your social media or passwords for you, to step away from this habit and move on.