Ashley Uzer
April 30, 2019 4:18 pm
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If you ask the nearest millennial how social media has impacted their dating life, they might say that it has made dating much, much worse (or at least more difficult). Maybe Instagram has gotten you in the habit of stalking your college ex and wistfully imagining a future that could’ve been. Perhaps Tinder has made it far too easy for you to stray from relationships in hopes of matching with someone “better.”

Personally, I no longer use dating apps and I’ve never been the type to stalk ex-boyfriends or potential Tinder dates. However, social media has still caused me trouble in my dating life—mostly in the form of men being turned off, angry, or worried about me and/or our relationship based on my posts (not to mention the articles I regularly write/share about my personal life).

Some guys immediately decide I’m not the girl for them once they find my Twitter feed (which saves us both time). Others seem not to mind my internet persona…until our relationship starts getting more serious. Eventually, they may start wondering if my suggestive selfies signify that I’m trying to bait another bae, or that my favorited tweets imply that I’m looking for a sugar daddy.

But instead of interrogating me about every single thing I post (as previous ex-boyfriends have done), the guy I’ve been seeing for the past few months simply decided to unfollow me.

He no longer sees my tweets, and he’d actually never followed me on Instagram since he hardly uses it himself. Initially, I had mixed feelings about this (and sometimes, I still do), but it’s mostly been amazing.

Before I explain why you should consider eliminating social media in your own relationships, let me give you a little background on me and this dude. We’ll call him Jacques.

Ironically, we sort of met through Twitter (although he prefers to say we met through a mutual friend). Once upon a time, I posted a thirst trap, and a mutual friend retweeted it. Jacques saw the tweet and followed me. After “meticulously following my feed for months” (his words, not mine), he DM’d my friend and asked if she knew me personally, if she thought I’d be interested in him, etc. She messaged me, I followed him back, we started DM-ing, then texting, then FaceTiming. A few months later, we found ourselves in the same city and went on our first IRL date.

As soon as we started seeing each other, Twitter’s algorithm seemed to pick up on it—at least on his end. Suddenly, his feed was inundated with all of the tweets I liberally “liked.” Many of them fall into a category lots of dudes would describe as “angry, scheming feminist.” You can take a gander for yourself here.

He wouldn’t necessarily get upset at the tweets I liked, but if one popped up on his feed while we were hanging out, he’d ask me what “made me” like it—which usually left me blubbering a bit. He also expressed that he saw a disconnect between who I am IRL and who I am online.

This feedback is something I’ve gotten from a lot of guys, and it totally makes sense. While I don’t feel like I consciously try to embody a certain “persona” on social media, the fact is that we all have slightly different versions of ourselves depending on who we’re with. The version of me that comes through on social media is the bolder, bitchier, more daring version of myself. The hype-woman for my BFF when a guy treats her wrong and I have to remind her that men are trash and women rule the world.

Fast-forward four months. Jacques and I got in an argument that resulted in the silent treatment for a week. During that week, my dad lectured me about how I should “stop wasting time with guys that aren’t worthy.” I tweeted about agreeing with my dad, and Jacques unfollowed me.

When we eventually spoke again to hash things out, I told Jacques that I assumed we were “over” once he unfollowed me. He said he’d already gotten upset with my tweets, and the subtweet was the tipping point that made him realize it would be better to unfollow me rather than overthink or take personally every single thing on my social media.

I totally understood that. After all, I’d already been happy that he didn’t use Instagram much because I preferred that he wasn’t following me there. As someone who spends so much of her time on social media (building my own brand and running a few accounts for work), it was nice to feel like my relationship was separate from that.

If you and your boo don’t follow each other on social media, here’s why it’s kind of great.

1You get the benefits of dating someone without social media, and none of the downsides.

I say that I’d love to date someone who isn’t on social media, but in reality, it might not work so well for me. Many of my jokes would fall flat for a non-Twitter user, and there’s a good chance they wouldn’t be as informed on the news of the day. I imagine it’s sort of like how my parents discuss what they read in the newspaper over breakfast, while Jacques and I are more like, “Did you see the vegan cat feud that was going down on the timeline yesterday?”

When you don’t follow each other, you can still discuss social media culture, but you don’t get any of the downsides (that mostly involve jealousy). No more, “Hey, who’s @CreepyStalker045? He commented ‘nice bobs’ on your last three Instagram photos. Did you ever go out with him?” Even those of us who aren’t the jealous type might be tempted to check the likes on our boo’s latest post. But if we don’t follow them, it’s out of sight, out of mind.

This also relies on trust and maturity. Jacques and I have public profiles, so we could still check up on each other’s feeds if we wanted to—but we don’t. I would be more likely to if I came across his posts regularly.

2You can tell them about your day before they can watch it on your Instagram Story.

For me, text messages in a relationship ultimately consist of the mundane, “What are you up to?” or “How’s your day?” Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, but when I’m not doing much—or when my boo has already seen a play by play of my day on social media—it’s hard for me to say anything more than, “Nothing really. Hbu?” This resulted in me no longer feeling the joy I once experienced whenever I’d get a text from my boo.

Obviously, you can put less pressure on texts by simply communicating in another way or less often during the day, but I’ve found that not following each other on social media helps me in this realm. We have more to talk about because he hasn’t seen everything already.

3Your feelings don’t get hurt if your boo doesn’t engage with your latest post.

I know, I know, this sounds ridiculous, but don’t act like you’ve never been there. Whether it was a really hot pic of your #gainz or a new article you published, you were excited about something and they “ignored” it. It’s easy to feel discouraged, bummed, or even angry with your SO if they don’t engage with your post.

You and I both know this response is unnecessary, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. We can’t expect our boo to be on social media all the time (even if we are). We also can’t assume that our boo is the type who wants to express feelings via online comment (and honestly, the private feedback is probably way better). But if you’ve dated someone who posts #wcw and shouts their love from the digital rooftops, you might feel like your current partner doesn’t care as much if they don’t brag about you on social media. By unfollowing each other, you get to share your good news with them more personally and relish their immediate IRL reactions. The internal anxiety over whether they’re going to RT your post is gone because they likely won’t even see it.

4You can’t subtweet, and thus are forced to communicate better.

This all started was because, when I felt hurt, I immaturely decided to subtweet Jacques (although I truthfully didn’t see it as a subtweet at the time). None of us are mind readers, and all of us can get easily offended by things we see on social media, even if they’re not meant to hurt us.

When you no longer have the option to subtweet/sub-Insta, you’re forced to actually tell your SO what’s bugging you. Of course, you might still struggle to communicate, clam up, and inadvertently give the silent treatment. But with practice and some guidance from a healthy partner who urges you to speak up about how you want to be treated, you might get there eventually.

Personally, I’m awful at speaking up about minor things that bug me in relationships. Then they add up and cause me break things off seemingly out of nowhere. Now, instead of passive aggressively tweeting something like, “Nothing’s worse than a guy who doesn’t say ‘thank you’,” I’m more likely to muster up some courage and tell Jacques straight up, “Hey, when you forget to say ‘thank you,’ I feel like I’m not appreciated.”

Communication in relationships is hard, and that’s one of the top reasons relationships fail. But when you unfollow each other on social media, it becomes slightly easier.

It’s one thing to find someone whose real-life personality we like. It’s another to find someone whose social media personality we can tolerate.

We try to be the sexiest, smartest, wokest, and coolest version of ourselves on social media; but on the other side of the screen, we just end up looking like the thirstiest, douchiest, most braggadocious versions of ourselves. Often, trying to be “relatable” on social media will still look like we’re trying too hard to be the Amy Schumer of our friend group.

To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever dated a guy whose social media presence I didn’t find embarrassing in some way.

The only difference is that I post more personal stuff more regularly than my partners,  so any embarrassment they feel about it ends up front and center in our conversations. Meanwhile, I can ignore the cringe-worthy mansplain-y tweet or poorly-angled selfie of them and their boys at a football game.

This feeling doesn’t only happen in dating, either. Hayley Phelan’s piece for The Cut, “When You Love Your Friend But You Hate Her Social Media Presence,” is also extremely relatable. (If you’re my friend and think I’m embarrassing on social media, it’s okay, I don’t blame you.)

And if you’re a dude who thought I was “bae material” until you saw my bikini selfie-filled Instagram feed? Definitely don’t DM me, but maybe ask yourself if your future girlfriend’s social media presence is really that important to your relationship, or if you can simply hit the “unfollow” button.

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