It’s no secret that social media can be rough on relationships. There are so many opportunities for potential conflict; sometimes, even a simple “like” (or lack thereof) can be enough to send you and your girlfriend spiraling into a pit of hurt feelings. But what if you just… opted out?
It’s often assumed that romantic partners will follow each other on social media. You like your girlfriend, so you should want to follow her online, right?
Well, not necessarily. Following a loved one is never a requirement, whether it’s a romantic partner, a family member, or a friend. Your social media usage is personal, and so is your relationship — blanket rules don’t apply.
Not following definitely has its upsides — it’s simpler and less stressful by a long shot. Dr. Tony Ortega, a Brooklyn psychologist who specializes in LGBTQ+ clients, tells GO that roughly half of his clients don’t follow their partners. “I stand by this practice, as it is super healthy for couples to have a life of their own outside of the relationship,” Ortega says.
But this can be tricky terrain. Unfollowing your girlfriend can definitely cause some confusion, so it’s important to think through this decision and get onto the same page with your boo.
If you feel like your relationship would be better off without the apps involved, here are a few situations where you might want to unfollow.
It’s a new relationship
Dr. Robin Hornstein, lesbian psychologist and owner of Hornstein Platt & Associates in Philadelphia, tells GO that, for some couples, adding each other on social media is “almost a rite of passage.” For others, “there is already a connection that was there before becoming a couple, and they leave it as it was.”
But if you’re not already following your new girlfriend on social media, you may want to pause before introducing it to the mix. Social media is ripe for misunderstandings; it’s hard not to take things out of context or misread intentions. That can be especially tricky with someone who you’re still getting to know as a person.
Plus, when you don’t quite feel secure in your relationship yet, it’s all too easy to obsess over your girlfriend’s posts and comments unnecessarily. “Social media has a way of creating drama where none is needed,” Hornstein says.
It’s fine not to follow each other right away — if only to stop yourself from checking her IG story every two minutes just because she hasn’t texted you back.
There are trust or insecurity issues
Social media can wreak havoc for any relationship where trust or insecurity is an ongoing issue. When you’re worried that your partner could secretly lust after (or even worse, cheat with) anyone they follow on Instagram, it’s tempting to fixate on every little thing you see. The likes! The emojis! The random girl who won’t stop commenting on her posts!
To make matters worse, social media platforms are literally designed to foster comparisons and compulsive behavior. “If we are not okay with who we are independent of the relationship, we will want to monitor what our partner is doing just in case,” Ortega explains.
But feelings aren’t facts, and constantly checking each other’s social media profiles doesn’t do anything to help build trust. You can always follow again later when your relationship is on more stable ground.
You want personal space
By default, social media apps force you to streamline all of your social connections into one outlet. Your posts may be seen by anyone from co-workers to random high school friends — and your girlfriend. (Hence the rise of the “finsta.”)
But you don’t have to settle for the default. If you feel like you’d be able to be more candid on social media if your girlfriend weren’t following you, know that it’s totally okay to create that boundary, even if it’s just for certain apps and not others. Privacy doesn’t always mean you have something to hide. Solo time and space are important, and social media can help fulfill that need.
“I think some people want to keep some things just for them — not unlike having a room in the house if you can afford it or a favorite coffee place to work alone,” Dr. Hornstein says. “Remember couples join space, time, friends, family, finances, etc. It is okay to pick a separate few things.”
You want to focus on IRL connection
If your partner posts on social media regularly, you may find yourself discovering all sorts of random new things about them indirectly — like that they had a bad day at work, or they’re thinking of dying their hair purple, or they just bought a new pair of pants. It can all feel a bit like information overload.
By contrast, Hornstein says that couples who don’t follow each other have stronger boundaries. Each person gets to choose to opt into sharing certain updates, and chatting IRL or one-on-one is far more personal than simply scrolling on by.
If you’re dating someone who’s super into social media or even an ~influencer~, social media can also feel like it gets in the way of having genuine experiences with each other.
“Since social media is literally run by likes, posts aren’t always authentic,” Dr. Ortega says. “If you have a partner that is on social media too much and/or is constantly preoccupied with what kind of posts will get the most likes, this will cause significant friction for the relationship such as breakdowns in communication, decreased quality time, and squabbles over very superficial things.”
Feel free to keep your girlfriend off your friends list if you want to focus on your IRL connection instead. You’re dating a person, not a persona.
You just don’t see the point
If you’re in a relationship with someone, you probably talk to them every day; you may even live together. In many cases, social media might just not have anything of value to add to your relationship. Memes and comments are fun and all, but if it all feels pretty pointless when your partner is sitting right there next to you, then you may not want to bother, and that’s FINE.
Whether you choose to follow each other or not, make sure to communicate about social media etiquette rather than relying on assumptions. It may seem trivial, but when one misfired “like” can lead to extreme hurt feelings, it’s worthwhile to talk to each other and figure out boundaries. Unfollowing means trusting your partner to clue you into any important information and to act appropriately (and to text you any hilarious posts that you REALLY need to see).
“As a general rule of thumb, whether partnered or single, we need to mindfully and intentionally use social media — not let it use us,” Ortega says. “Discuss how you would want to show up in social media, individually and as a couple. Communicate, communicate, communicate.”