It has to be said: dating is weird right now. As someone who re-entered the scene after the end of a seven-year relationship this past summer, I can say with full conviction that it is the wild, wild West out here. In particular, the social media etiquette surrounding a new relationship is enough to make even Emily Post’s meticulous head spin. What does it even mean to soft launch a relationship on Instagram? And how does that differ from a hard launch? Does it matter?
Factor in nearly three years of on-again, off-again lockdowns and social distancing and it’s no wonder that people are eager to get back into the dating scene and showcase their newfound love on IG or TikTok. Hey, when you’re happy, it only makes sense to want to share those feelings with the world. But it’s fair to consider when a coy post or two (or a conspicuous couple selfie if that’s more your speed) leans more towards performative rather than being truly authentic to you and your relationship.
As I headed into cuffing season with a new man in my life, I polled my friends (who range from happily married to blissfully unattached) to learn more about the “rules” behind a soft launching or hard launching a partner on social media. But despite their best intentions, the answers were mixed and I felt no closer to understanding how to announce my new relationship without feeling... blatantly obnoxious. More to the point, I worried that I was simply overthinking everything altogether. Living In The Age Of A Hard Launch Vs. Soft Launch
So, you’ve got the green light from your sweetie to post (and maybe tag, gasp!) them on your social channels — turns out there’s something of a modern code of conduct around that as well. “I can see why people would want to ‘soft launch’ their relationship on social media,” says Long. “In the early stage of a relationship, you are not entirely sure of how your relationship is going to go, so it is less vulnerable to hint at your relationship than it is to fully share it.” She goes on to explain that the connotation of a soft launch might be that you want to suggest that you’re seeing someone, whereas a ‘hard launch’ might have a different level of status associated with a partner. “[A hard launch] sends a message to others that both of you are now taken, if your relationship is monogamous.”
Obviously, there is a bit more drama to a soft launch, which even the experts can admit to enjoying. “As a social media consumer, I love the mystery behind the relationship soft launch,” says modern dating coach Alexis Germany. “If it’s done well, it’s fun to discuss and wonder when we will get the full reveal.” She does add, however, that soft launching can be a way of not fully committing.
There is more of a sense of safety when it comes to keeping your new boo slightly hidden. Says Cipriani, “I personally think soft launching is people’s way of protecting their heart while at the same time wanting to tell the world that they are seeing someone. I think hard launching is when people finally feel safe and secure in their relationship and are ready to make things official. We do a lot of things online for comments, attention, and likes.” It’s important to examine if sharing that photo or video is more for your personal brand as opposed to celebrating your relationship. Still, “if soft launching makes you happy go for it,” adds Ciprini. “If hard launching brings you joy, I also fully support it.”
To Launch On Social Media Or Not At All?
The rules surrounding these different types of social media reveals can feel arbitrary in the grander scheme of your new relationship, but Germany explains that it does prompt a valuable conversation to have when you’re dating someone new. “I don’t think there needs to be a rule set in stone about when to reveal your relationship on social media,” she says, “but not being on the same page with your partner can lead to resentment and other issues down the line.”
But if someone shies away from sharing anything online? That can have certain connotations in our digital-native world as well. “It’s important to be comfortable with sharing your relationship with the world,” says Germany. “If someone has social media and refuses to share their relationship at all and keep everything private, there is a problem. It invites mistrust and can even cause insecurity in your partner.”