Back in the day, being ‘Facebook official’ was a badge of honour; it was the flashing billboard that you were off the market. And, of course, your new beau was tagged for all your friends to assess (and hopefully be envious of). Announcing your relationship online was an exciting milestone in young love, but it came with the drawback of the ‘single’ or ‘it’s complicated’ statuses when the other shoe inevitably dropped.
Now, in a world where we date more openly and casually, we’ve strayed from virtually shouting our love from the rooftops. Instead, we tend to share our cute brunches and dates with obscured, shadowy snaps of our partner de jour, often with only their hand available to see.
Becoming online official has taken given way to a much more subtle dating trend. Cue: soft launching.
What is soft launching?
Soft launching is like hinting that you may be occupied by a new SO but aren’t quite ready to announce it to the world. Maybe you haven’t decided if you’re serious yet and want to keep things on the DL in case you get the ick, or perhaps you just prefer to keep yourdatinglife private.
Soft launching is often marked by photos with your beau’s body just barely in the frame. If you’re at a restaurant, usually the only indication of your ambiguous relationship would be their elbows on the table or a snap with their head cropped out of shot. Of course, you’d tag the location, but their personal handle would be left out of the picture.
Soft launching could even involve uploading a photo of yourself and crediting your potential future partner as the photographer. The point is to let people know you’re immersed in the dating process but maybe haven’t quite made that serious leap. It’s the perfect way of saying ‘watch this space.’
Unlike other dating trends, soft launching is largely beneficial
Soft launching is the perfect representation of that in-between, ‘exclusive’ phase we’ve introduced to dating. It’s subtle, sensible and we have to agree that keeping your relationship offline eases some of the pressure. More and more, we are realising that while life is fleeting, the things we put on the internet are permanent, and recklessly posting photos of someone we’re dating could potentially be rather embarrassing if things don’t work out. Nobody likes to sift back through their feeds to delete the evidence of failed romance and bittersweet memories.
It may seem non-commital and cold-footed, but soft launching can also be a great way to test the waters and gauge the feedback of our parents and peers, whose opinions matter whether we want them to or not. The obscured images trigger your friends to flood your with questions, and if they disapprove of your new potential partner, you have the defence of claiming that you aren’t that serious about them anyway.
It’s all about your intentions
However, some believe that soft launching caters to the more vapid desires of online personas by generating mystique around our lives to gain validation from friends and followers. Match.com’s dating expert Hayley Quinn explained to Tyla that the trend could even be used as a sly weapon against exes:
Lots of people use their social media accounts to get validation about their life in the form of likes. It could be posting a picture showing you’re at the super cool festival, on an exotic holiday or that you’ve recently gone exclusive with someone.
Hayley went on: ‘Teasing this information builds curiosity with your friends and followers, and may even create envy in an ex who suddenly realises you’re no longer single. The ‘are they/ aren’t they’ question mark makes for great content that keeps people guessing and makes your lifestyle look even more enviable.’