Rosie Green: ‘Why Instagram has to be consensual’

Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)

‘Every Sunday I wake up feeling a little bit sick,’ laughs the boyfriend.

He is talking about the fear of reading about the progress of his relationship in this magazine alongside a couple of million others.

Louise Samuelsen

While I can see how this might be a little nausea-inducing, I reason that although the extent to which our relationship is out there might be unusual, the advent of the internet and social media means every new partnership has to deal with the conundrum about whether and when to go public.

He looks quizzically at me (at least I hope it’s quizzically) and I explain that now, thanks to Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, we all have the ability to ‘announce’ a relationship to a wider audience than just the people we hang out with day to day.

Post a picture on the online platform of your choice and your extended social circle (including exes, frenemies, schoolmates and work colleagues) can see that you are coupled up.

In fact, in 2021 an Instagram post of the two of you, or changing your Facebook status to ‘in a relationship’ is surely a more significant milestone than taking your new boyfriend to meet the parents for the first time.

These days the relationship timeline goes like this: a bit of online stalking (is three pages in on Google too much?), first date, first kiss, becoming ‘exclusive’ and agreeing on boyfriend/girlfriend status, then finally taking a suitably flattering picture of the two of you and posting it online for everyone to see. It’s a big deal.

My teenagers tell me if you are still a little unsure of the longevity of your love, you may decide on a ‘soft launch’. This means tagging your SO (significant other) in a picture without showing them. Or using an image where they are silhouetted or obscured.

When I was last romantically available, way back in the early 1990s, social media wasn’t a thing. Back then you couldn’t scroll through a potential suitor’s social history to analyse their exes, learn their views on Brexit or check their extremely dubious university fashion choices.

Nope, back when I met my ex-husband you had to take a man on face value, make a decision as to their desirability based upon their record collection, the way their arms filled a T-shirt, their use of cutlery or the lustrousness of their curtain haircut. (My criteria are rather different these days, except for the arms, but that’s a whole other column.)

Now I’ve found that Instagram and its ilk are major players in the dating game. Since my marriage split it’s been an endless source of potential suitors.

Men sliding into my DMs (for the uninitiated: messaging me
directly through the Instagram app) and enquiring as to my availability. Sometimes not all that politely. From the lazy (‘hey lady’) to the cheesy (‘is your name Google cos you’ve got everything I’m searching for’) to the bizarre (‘can I interest you in meeting to discuss my logistics company’) to the unsettling (‘how high is your sex drive?’).

Plus, once you are in a relationship, social media provides ample flirting opportunities. For instance, your beau might respond to a picture you post by typing in the fire emoji to signify your hotness.

However, for me, social media has helped kill a previous relationship. It was a serious source of contention, with that partner seeing my slowness to showcase us as a lack of commitment. To him a public declaration would signal a next-level seriousness about our relationship and show the world I was off the market.

Thankfully, my new boyfriend is social media ambivalent. He isn’t nagging to be tagged. In fact, the very opposite. His online presence is limited to professional credentials and sporting achievements. He wants to stay private. He’s got no interest in being an ‘Insta couple’. For him, a filter is for coffee and feed is what you do to dinner guests. Which suits me just fine.