Social media use is really just self-surveillance, but that aside, it’s part of our lives now and for the foreseeable future. Because of how entangled it is with our existences, it inevitably comes up when you’re dating someone—unless you and your partner(s) are totally off the grid, somehow.
I’ll always embarrassingly remember having an argument as a teenager with a (now ex) significant other when he didn’t want to change his relationship status on Facebook immediately after becoming official IRL. But today it’s become a bit different. We have Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Snapchat to worry about.
So, we talked to a matchmaker, a social media coach, and two regular people about their personal relationship-social media boundaries to figure out what the proper etiquette is these days for different platforms.
If you’re one of those people who still uses this as your primary social network (say hi to your mom for me), here are some guidelines.
First of all, being official on Facebook really isn’t that big of a deal now.
Emily Holmes Hahn, founder and CEO of LastFirst, bespoke matchmaking club, agrees it really isn’t that deep anymore. But, she said, “If it’s important to you, then sit down with your partner and express this when the time is right.”
“In general, I would say it’s appropriate to officialize on Facebook when you believe you have reached a stable point in the relationship, so at least six months,” Holmes Hahn explained.
Don’t post about your relationship if you’re worried it will lead to having to keep up a charade.
It is nothing but exhausting and depressing to try to make your relationship seem peachy online when it is falling apart.
Conor, 27, who sparingly uses social media with the exception of an Instagram for his art, said the idea of keeping up appearances has led to him deciding to keep his relationship off Facebook.
“Posting on Facebook or whatever about my relationship seems kind of pointless because I have to maintain an air of everything is great in my life and nothing will ever go wrong,” he said.
And, for fuck’s sake, do not scroll back years through someone’s photos to like a vacation pic of them in a bikini.
Plainly said, this is extraordinarily creepy and unlikely to yield favourable results.
Get a partner’s permission before posting photos or videos of them on your IG.
“I would say that in most cases throughout your relationship, the other person should be aware that you are posting a picture of them,” Holmes Hahn said.
Don’t go on liking sprees.
Jennifer M. Joseph, a Toronto-based social media coach and manager, said liking a bunch of someone’s photos at once to try to get their attention is weird unless you’re going to do some follow-up by messaging that person. “It just looks creepy, and they might block you,” Joseph explained.
People have autonomy over what they do with their bodies. Yes, this includes thirst traps.
If you don’t want to date someone who posts them, that’s your decision. But asking someone to not post hot selfies anymore if that’s what they want to do is probably not cool. If it really bothers you that much, have a conversation about it before getting involved.
Carson, 24, is an avid user of Instagram. She says she uses social media to “express” herself.
“A lot of the time I post scantily clad pictures on my Instagram and use the captions to talk about emotion, art, love, or activism,” she explained. “My partner is extremely supportive of this, and if he wasn't, he wouldn't be my partner.”
While it may be a good way to air out your asshole boyfriend for body-shaming you to viral support, tweeting unnecessarily about your relationship just invites people to give you unsolicited relationship advice.
If you’ve ever used this platform, you know almost everyone on it has an opinion—even if they don’t need to, they really and truly think they do. So if you don’t want their opinion on your relationship, just don’t talk about it. With public tweets, you also have to realize that it’s easy to send a link of the impulsive shit you said to a group chat so people can make fun of you in secret. All that said, save it for a pen-and-paper diary instead of the public digital one.
If you’re going to put something to this effect in your bio on Twitter or Instagram, “my heart belongs to @____ 9/9/17,” be aware that you’re just recreating the issue surrounding Facebook official relationship status.
While you don’t have to worry so much about triggering a notification when/if you change this personal detail, all of this just seems pretty likely to end in awkwardness if you don’t stay with someone your entire life.
If someone uses their Twitter primarily for their professional life, it might not be the best way to flirt with them.
If you’re trying to get a date with a woman by connecting with her on a career-oriented social media platform specifically, you might be a supremely sexist asshole. Think for a second about the issues women have historically had in the workforce—the wage gap, sexual harassment, etc.—and if you really want to be that dude. Considering the optics, I’m guessing that’s a no.
If you’re a power couple, there’s no problem with connecting with your significant other on this network.
Just realize that if you forget to remove an ex as a connection after your power couple phase, they might show up in your feed with a fancy new job and make you feel like shit. Upon messy breakup that leaves no possibility of friendship, disconnect.
Instagram stories replaced Snapchat for some, with the exception of filter options. But, here’s a few guidelines anyway.
Don’t send unsolicited dick pics.
This is an evergreen rule for every social media platform and, as it happens, every form of communication. But, since I’ve never gotten more unsolicited dick pics than when I first started my Snapchat, we will talk about it here.
Sending a photo or video DM on Snapchat before so much as a simple “hey” might cause someone to never open your snap if they don’t know you IRL. (Hint: they may be concerned that it’s a dick pic, and you know what, it probably is one.) If you don’t want to feel the shame of seeing that someone never opened your snap, act like a respectable human being by responding benignly to their stories before initiating other forms of Snapchat contact.
Do not add people from a parachute/creep account.
You really aren’t fooling anyone with an account name like hey29389, for the record.
And just like Instagram, don’t put a partner’s face and/or body in your snaps without their consent.
A Note on DMs
Don’t leave people on read if you give a fuck about them at all.
Joseph said that leaving people on read after you’ve started a conversation with them in DMs is rude. If you are genuinely interested in or involved with someone, she suggests moving conversations to text and taking DMs out of the equation.
Understand the gravity and potential repercussions of sending a thirsty DM.
“That’s sorta crossing a weird boundary,” Connor said. “Sliding into someone’s DMs is taboo as fuck to me.”
Connor has the right idea. Don’t recklessly send thirsty DMs to people you don’t know or barely know. Sometimes it might work out, but other times you will get screenshot and perhaps even publicly shamed. Weigh your options carefully.
But, attractive people get thirsty DMs. Get over it.
“As a woman who posts my body online, I get DMs from strangers all the time trying to flirt with me, sell me weed, send me pictures of their dicks,” Carson explained.
“I'm not responding to many of these, with the exception of trolling dudes for sending me dick pics if I'm feeling saucy,” she said. “My partner isn't judgmental of the messages I get, nor should he be.”
This article originally appeared on VICE CA.