The dating world before social media was in many ways both wonderful and terrible, but it was definitely less confusing. Rather than worry about whether or not he’ll call you on Friday like he said he would, you get to fret over unopened Snapchats or weirdly timed Instagram DMs. There are hundreds of different platforms all primed and ready for you to feel publicly rejected or loved — it all depends on what he posts.
If he takes constant selfies, he’ll love himself more than you. Guys who are obsessed with their appearances are anything but shy about it. His feed is blowin’ up with more photos of his face than you need to see. If you’re a couple, there’s a good chance no one would know it judging by his social media. For every photo of you and him, there are at least 10 of just him. Only date this guy if you’re cool with your relationship not making it as a top-five priority.
If he’s arguing with people on Facebook, he likes chaos more than comfort. Stirring up the pot is fun every once in a while, but if he’s always getting into some Facebook comment debate about politics or the latest Star Wars movie, it’s because he likes the challenge. If it’s every now and then, it’s a good thing. Having a guy who pushes your limits can make you a better person. If it’s every single day of his effin’ life — to the point where he has to take a social media sabbatical — then he’s not comfortable enough to enjoy the steady stability a healthy relationship can bring.
If he’s blowing up your profile, he’ll probably be super clingy. Is he the first one to like everything? Like even the tag you left of your friend under that meme about cellulite? There’s a line where social media support goes from cute to creepy and being super fast at interacting with your posts, he’s definitely crossed it.
If he’s posting weird stuff, he’s just straight-up weird. While there’s always a dance we do when trying to add someone we like on social media without coming off as too forward, it is important to check out their pages before you get too serious. His online presence is his own personal representation of himself to the world. This is how he wants to come across, so make sure it doesn’t make you cringe.
If he’s always on the newest social media platform, he might be too concerned with what other people think. Social media is fun but real life is more fun. If the guy you’re seeing has to post a tweet every two hours and can’t wait for the newest Snapchat update, he isn’t just super techy, he’s super insecure. People fall into the traps of online profiles because it gives them a sense of control over how people see them. You’re better off waiting for someone who doesn’t really care.
If he’s constantly promoting his brand, he only wants to date you because you’ll help his image. Way too many people are focused on getting Insta-famous. Racking up the likes is serving as a means of self-esteem, and your guy might be too obsessed with living an unrealistic life. It’s quite possible that you just fit an idea of the kind of girlfriend he sees online and could post cute photos with. But remember that you’re more than just a photo accessory.
If he’s liking tons of random girls’ photos, he’s gonna keep his options open. Even after you’re exclusive, this guy’s phone is always blowing up with notifications from other girls. It’s one thing if it’s his friends, and they actually hang out, but it’s another thing if it’s just random girls on Instagram who live two cities away and only like to take photos in lacy underwear. It’s worth constantly stalking his likes to learn that this guy probably isn’t going to change. As couples therapist, Theresa Herring, LFT, points out: “Social media has made cheating more accessible. What starts off as a harmless communication can spiral into a full-on emotional and/or physical affair.”
If he never posts photos with other girls, he’ll probably never post one with you. If your obviously thorough search of his Facebook history shows no sign of an ex-girlfriend, when you know he’s had three, don’t get your hopes up for a cute date night photo. This guy isn’t into online PDA, and the most you’ll get out of him is a tagged pic. It’s not to say he won’t be a good boyfriend, just probably not the type to show you off.
If he constantly posts photos of you two, he’s trying to prove something. Maybe it’s revenge on an ex or the high school gym coach who thought he was gay. Either way, an overwhelming amount of online PDA early on in a relationship is a bad sign. It’s one thing to be excited about a new boo; it’s a whole other to feel the need to shove it in everyone’s faces. Why does he feel the need to brag so much?
If he displays normal social media behaviors, he’ll probably be a normal boyfriend. He changes his profile picture every now and then. He tags you in random videos that remind him of your dog. He likes your posts enough to where you know he’s checking up on you, but not watching your every move. If you’re unsure if your guy is displaying normal behaviors or not, a big hint is that you’re wondering about it at all. Because if it was just the normal guy routine, you wouldn’t have to worry.
You might think you know how to interpret his social media posts to gain insight into your relationship, but what do the ways you both use the likes of Instagram and Facebook mean for your relationships in general, not just romantically?
Too much focus on what’s happening online hampers your social intelligence. When many or most of your interactions take place in the digital world, it makes it that much harder to really read and connect with people in person. “Research shows that, on average, we spend two or more hours a day on social media,” says expert and author Leslie Shore. She warns that fostering relationships online can hurt our relationships offline. “Those who have limited experience in reading people do not have the same level of social intelligence [that] previous generations possess. If this becomes the new normal, building strong, deep relationships will take more time and will be more difficult to maintain.”
Social media distracts us from the people we care about. We’re all guilty of being addicted to our phones, but there comes a point when our obsession with technology is no longer a laughing matter. “The holds our devices have on us is invisible until someone actively calls [it] to our attention,” says Shore. “It is almost impossible to create or enhance relationships when social media is, in the first place, taking our time and attention away from who is in front of us.”
It can take the place of real, meaningful communication. Given that we can connect so easily with people via a quick Instagram DM or Facebook wall post, we often default to those options rather than actually reaching out and making a connection. Shore advises that we use our phones to actually call people and make plans to meet up in person instead. “Stay truly connected to those who matter,” she says. “Don’t wish your family a happy birthday on Facebook—pick up the phone or make the trip to see them. Instead of sending invites, thank you cards, and holiday cards online, send your loved ones something they can keep forever.”
You end up trying to live up to an unattainable ideal. Just as influencers and celebrities can affect our self-esteem and body image, so too can seeing what seem like the “perfect” couples flaunting their amazing lives on social media. “Men and women are constantly being shown images of what the ‘ideal’ relationship looks like, and this can put a lot of strain on relationships that don’t live up to the ridiculous standards set by celebrity couples,” says Jonathan Bennett, relationship expert, life coach, and certified counselor. This can cause unnecessary tension in your relationship and make you feel upset or even resentful when your partner fails to live up to what you’re seeing online.
Of course, it’s not all bad. With up to 74% of the population using at least one social media app and 48% of Americans having tried online dating, there’s a whole wide world full of people you meet on the internet that you likely would never have come across in real life. This is especially important for people in marginalized groups or who are isolated for whatever reason. “It’s truly amazing that those who are challenged with social anxiety, geographic isolation, fears, insecurities, physical issues, and myriad other real struggles, can now find connection and relationships,” explains Don Grant, Ph.D., chairman of the American Psychological Association’s Device Management & Intelligence Committee. “Social media can remove authentic barriers and allow people to connect.”
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