Would You Break Up if Your Partner Won’t Post You on Instagram?

Research shows that a growing number of Gen Z want the people they date to post them on social media. What happens if they don’t?
A young Indian couple taking a selfie on Marine Drive in Mumbai
Indranil Mukherjee. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

“I don’t want you to post me on Instagram,” I said to my partner a few months after getting together. “I want you to want to post me on Instagram. There’s a difference.” He looked at me with the confused gaze of a man who hadn’t posted online even once in the past eight years. I’m an extremely online person who managed to fall for a guy who didn’t even know how to share a post to his Instagram story, and in the early days of our relationship his steadfast offline-ness was one of the most annoying aspects of my life.


Technology has forever changed the delicate landscape of relationships for Gen Z. From online dating, ghosting, ‘phubbing’, soft launching and thirst trapping to the gripping act of a celebrity deleting all their photos with their spouse as the first sign of a divorce announcement – the beginnings and ends of our relationships nowadays are often heralded with digital acts. But for Gen Z, a generation whose everyday existence is inseparable from the internet, the time spent in a relationship is equally affected. Bumble’s Love Unfiltered Report 2023, which examines how Indians between the ages of 18 and 26 approach romance, found that 27% of the over 1,000 respondents want someone they are dating to post about them on social media.

So what happens when they… don’t?

“During the initial stages of our relationship, it was established she didn’t care if I posted about her or not but she would deactivate her Instagram account every time I posted my friends,” a 21-year-old student from New Delhi, Aditya, tells me. “She felt insecure that I was having ‘more’ fun with my friends. I tried to balance and post her every time I posted about my friends, but it felt extremely artificial to me.” Aditya, who requested to go by his first-name only to protect the identity of his ex, isn’t the only person for whom erratic online behaviour led to a break up. Priya Chaudhary, a 27-year-old social media manager from NCR, says her ex-boyfriend's refusal to post anything about her despite posting other people signalled a lack of care. “His reasons sounded like excuses… It bothered me because it felt like I wasn’t as important as these other people he posted, and I felt that if the roles were reversed and it bothered my partner, I would have posted just to ensure that they don’t feel that way.”


Research suggests that social media exacerbates existing differences between couples – and why wouldn’t it? What we do on the internet is a digital translation of our social behaviour and we now rely on it to find, form, and maintain relationships. Gen Z is digitally unique – we are a ‘cusp’ generation. Most of us haven’t been born into technology like Gen Alpha, which means that there are still people who, despite having the privilege of internet access, choose not to share their life online. So what happens when people who are in otherwise happy relationships simply have different levels of comfort with social media?

In the past few years, ‘offline partner’ entered our digital lexicon as several celebrity ‘it girls’ started dating men with zero social media presence. Someone who can tune out the noise and live in the present moment? The idea sounds very healthy, but does it remedy an unmet desire of PDA?

“I am active online but my partner isn’t and, while I posted with him, he didn’t repost or post with me for a long time. I was disappointed and brought it up so he asked me, ‘Would you be okay if I do something I am not comfortable doing just to make you happy?’ That is when I realised that we aren’t all equally adept online and it may not be that important,” says Taru, 26, a New Delhi-based PR professional, explaining how communication resolved her relationship conflict. “I’ve heard stories where people almost coax their partner into posting them… I feel I am in a healthy relationship overall and I’d choose this everyday over him posting me but not being comfortable.”


Talking to a third party can also help acknowledge the efforts your partner does put in. As Jaipur-based Nikita Sharma, 24, spoke to me about her seven-year relationship with an ‘offline partner,’ she found some clarity. “Writing this response made me realise that it's okay if someone does not want to be active on social media but sometimes we are so much drawn towards seeking attention from our partners publicly that we tend to overlook everything that happens off social media,” she says in a message.

I’m not advocating for every extremely-online partner to compromise or settle for no posting – I’m not Sima aunty and this isn’t Indian Matchmaking. Extreme stubbornness to stay offline with no room for negotiation can be a red flag too. Rochi Zalani, 24, a writer from Bangalore, experienced this. “In my last relationship, my partner didn't want to accept our relationship publically even after five plus years. I remember I once commented on all his old YT videos just to be cute and supportive, and he deleted them all because someone might encounter the pattern and discover our relationship. Broke my heart,” she tells me. “In my current relationship, there's no social media ‘guideline’ and I love it. I share photos with him and he reshares them, I comment on his pictures and he loves it. The behaviour carries outside of social media too: he accepts me publically, and doesn't want to hide our relationship under a rug. Makes me feel more confident in his commitment and good about myself in general.” 


When handled with care, online-offline relationships can not only be fulfilling but also very entertaining. I have a good laugh every time I get a DM in the middle of the night with a question (“Can you explain what ‘that girl’ means?”) or a flex (“Learnt a new word: eepy!”). And every time an offline partner posts you, you know they put in effort. According to Bumble’s report, 31% of Indian Gen Z respondents also want to take part in social media trends with their partner, emulating what they consider #couplegoals. “Recently when the ‘With You’ trend was going on, he learnt how to edit a reel and made one for me,” Taru says. “But he didn’t post it. So I do see his effort, which is what matters.”

Even influencers, whose lives are curated for public consumption, must navigate digital boundaries. Ritvi Shah, a 23-year-old content creator based in Mumbai who also has a joint Instagram account with her partner Sarthak, says it’s important to understand how your partner likes to express themselves. “... It’s not that Sarthak doesn’t like to post about us. It’s simply that his immediate reflex is to express gratitude in person rather than posting about it,” she explains. “I wouldn’t call it a ‘compromise’ but it’s more of an understanding that he has his way of showing gratitude and I have mine. As long as we don’t stop doing the little things for each other, offline or online.” Sarthak, Ritvi says, has never made her feel like her job is an imposition. “Even though what I do is exactly the opposite of his personal work, he takes so much interest in it, whether it be taking my pictures, filming, setting up for a shoot,” she shares. 


But Ritvi recommends taking what you see online with a pinch of salt. “Just because we don’t post our relationship struggles doesn’t mean they don't exist.” There are Reddit threads dedicated to analysing celebrity relationships – like Kusha Kapila’s recent divorce or Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner’s separation – because people are always shocked at the breakdown of a pair that seemed perfectly happy online.

“Earlier, we compared our relationship with what we thought others had, but now we see that on social media – and the highlights shown on social media are thought of as reality, making the comparison worse,” says Drishti Jaisingh, Rehabilitation Council of India Clinical Psychologist and couple’s therapist. “... ‘X does it, why can't my partner?’ is something I often hear in sessions.”

It can be easy to dismiss the desire to be posted by a partner as ‘performative,’ were it not for the fact that we are, ultimately, performing for ourselves – trying to look happy while also trying to be happy, online or offline. While it is tempting to think of such relationship problems as something new created by the recent all-pervasiveness of social media in our lives, if you peel a few layers back, you realise that the core issues are the same ones that we’ve been dealing with for decades – insecurity, unequal love, and the self-doubt we face when we choose to be truly vulnerable in front of our partners.

Instagram or Twitter don’t invent new relationship worries – they complicate the ones we already have. “Remind yourselves that the strength and trust in the real relationship is more important than social media,” advises Ruchi Ruuh, Bumble India’s Relationship Expert. “Both partners should reach a consensus on how and what they want to achieve through social media.”

This consensus will look different for every relationship. For my partner and I, it looks a little like this: he shares radically new perspectives from beyond my algorithmic echo chamber, logs in biweekly to a Twitter account made only to like all my Tweets, and proudly shares my work every time I get published. On my part, I take active consent every time I post him, and we frequently reaffirm our mutual desire to not ‘content-ify’ ourselves.

What you want to post or want the other to want to post is an easier conversation to have when you both know that what you actually really want is for both of you to be happy.

Follow Ria Chopra on Twitter and Instagram.