Anything to do with the heart is never easily classified as black & white. So when social media came round swinging that “how big’s ya dick?” attitude, bandying the love heart icon as emblematic of admiration, the modern dating landscape got bent over. Suddenly we’re struck with the awareness that the girl/guy you had two great dates with didn’t just fall off the face of the earth or lose his/her fingers in a freak masturbation incident. Social media proves that. Social media lets you know the reality; s/he’s still a fully functioning human able to build things, play sports and post on social media and you’ve just been ghosted. We’re also gifted with the function of being able to offend further (intentionally or not) by “leaving them on read” or with the classic combo(s): obsessively watching stories but not responding to texts or unfollowing and refollowing. Fun! Depending on your experiences social media is also a landmine of positive possibilities; new connections, visibility and the opportunity to meet new people, find new brands and learn things but with that comes the reality that your personal experiences are shaped by a sincere lack of certainty.
Even though we are slowly becoming accustomed to the ‘sounds like, feels like, smells like’ behaviours of dating in the era of social media the whole thing is still classified (in anthropological terms at least) as unchartered territory. There’s no Encyclopaedic volume dedicated to the art of understanding the emotional intention behind emoji responses. Yet.
It’s worth remembering that social media is essentially a personal marketing platform that presents you, artificially, in a way that isn’t reflective of (I)RL. It’s a carefully cultivated projection of your life, feelings and secrets presented in a more whimsical way. Deep. It’s no wonder we get confused. Most of us know of the huge marketing capability of social media, yet anyone with a scrape of intelligence (romanticism?) will also know that some of the best art mimics life. So, round we go, back to the initial clusterfuck of “What does this love heart icon mean anyway?”
If ever there was a time for me to throw up my hands and say “no fucking clue” then this is it. What I do know though is that an ex partner, lover, or ex-something-or-other-who-may-have-made-you-orgasm watching your story or liking your posts means absolutely sweet fuck all. Instagram capitalises on the fact that we’ve become visually greedy creatures and our voyeuristic tendencies demand to be fed. The chances are, that just like everyone else your ex (insert categorically wavering definition here) is absorbing some shiny new images to pass the time between ordering a coffee and receiving it. Maybe they’ll move their thumb 1.5 cm to send some googley eyes,100’s or fire your way. Quite frankly there couldn’t be anything deemed more ANTI-communicative than sending reactive emoji’s. There’s few hard and fast rules when it comes to rules of engagement on Instagram especially because it blurs the line between normal text and calling capacity. How do we rate them in acceptability in 2020? I don’t think the ex watching your story is holding on to hope that you’ll be together one day, or waiting for the moment to get back together.
Another hot topic of debate: should you unfollow an ex? I get absolutely slaughtered by my loved ones for not hitting unfollow. I’ve always taken the stance that knowledge is power, which to me, means if they’re about to get married, have a child or a sex change I would rather know and deal with it as fast as possible. Strike while the feels are still hot (or at least luke warm) is my answer. There’s no denying that there is something to be said for the “out of sight out of mind” strategy though as it seems to help your progress through visual denial. My cynicism around the block or delete philosophy hinges heavily on both the anxiety that “not knowing” can bring and of course the danger that the trusty old “let’s sweep it under the rug” mentality presents. Let’s be clear, with my concerns here. They’re not focused on negating the shock of seeing the ex love of your life happily married in their beige tinder box in 3 years time. Instead my concern is more the impact of what squashed feelings can have on you in years to come. In 6 years time when you’re sitting in the therapist chair trying to iron out your issues with commitment/cheating/possessiveness/jealousy/best friends of the opposite sex/home loans but don’t know where they could possibly stem from it becomes really frustrating that you need to dig so far into your emotional past to ensure your future relationships are successful, balanced and happy. Take it from me and deal with it all upfront. Yes, it can be messy and yes, there may be a few alcoholic beverages consumed out of coffee cups at inappropriate times in the name of healing (or masochism) but I believe that’s better than digging into dry baked earth trying to resurface rusty pipes.
Some juicy insights to end: The majority of you say that Instagram is not reflective of real feelings, yet with just a little bit of digging it was easy to dislodge little slices of raw emotion and authentic confusion attached to our otherwise nonchalant attitude towards our finger habits.
Interestingly enough I find my engagement habits with those people I really care about more demonstrative by my consistent lack of viewership. I’m guilty of not regularly watching social media updates of friends that I have consistent, usually in-depth communication with, particularly true if they use social media as a marketing platform for work. This is possibly more reflective of my communication style than anything.
In my case block or unfollow features are used infrequently, and honestly it usually demonstrates genuine hurt if I need to temporarily remove someone for a visual reprieve.
“Gatsbying” was my favourite lesson from this exercise. This is the tactic of creating/posting content intentionally in hope that it will grab the attention of your current partner, crush, lover or ex and unsurprisingly most of us admit to doing it. Just to make things further complicated the inverse Gatsbying effect has some feeling obliged NOT to post material that works with your brand (personal or other) because of the opinion of a lover or ex. I can relate to this as my love for Instagram stems more from creative output rather than consumption of content (though I do both obviously).