There are a few rules in society that everyone implicitly knows: don’t cut in line, say “bless you” when someone sneezes, and don’t use a credit card to pay for a pack of gum when there’s a long line at CVS. (And yes, I know about the automated checkout line, but I don’t want to use it, OK? And that is my right as an American.)
Yet no such rulebook exists for social media etiquette, particularly following a breakup — a glaring deficit that pop superstar Ariana Grande and SNL‘s Pete Davidson are currently making abundantly clear.
After multiple news outlets reported that Grande and Davidson, both 24, had started dating, it seemed that both celebrities put their current careers on hiatus to focus on a new joint project: Letting the World Know They Are Doing It. In fact, Davidson’s most recent post showed off his two new Ariana Grande-inspired tattoos (her initials and the bunny ears she wore on her Dangerous Woman album cover).
Ariana Grande’s boyfriend Pete Davidson has gotten tattooed her initials and her iconic ‘Dangerous Woman’ bunny ears. pic.twitter.com/i9cJSNbTs9
In itself, this is fine. Davidson and Grande are young, hot, talented, and in their early 20s. Yes, they’re behaving like they’ve just discovered plutonium in each other’s genitals, but that’s totally OK.
What is arguably not OK, however, is that both Grande and Davidson were very recently in relationships with other people: Grande with rapper Mac Miller, and Davidson with actress/writer Cazzie David, daughter of comedian Larry David. David and Davidson appeared in a photo on the former’s Instagram as recently as May 3; Grande and Miller were last spotted together at Coachella in April, with the former announcing their split in an Instagram story on May 10. So if the public record is anything to go by, both parties waited a mere few weeks after their breakups to debut their new relationships on social media.
While Davidson’s ex has responded to the social media barrage with commendable grace (“been in Africa what did I miss?” she posted over the weekend), we thought this would be a good opportunity to outline responsible post-breakup social media etiquette. So we talked to experts to get their input on when — and how — it’s appropriate to trot out your new sex partner on Instagram after a breakup.
the chamber of secrets has been opened …
A post shared by Pete Davidson (@petedavidson) on
1) Unfollow your ex.
Unless you are in one of those magical unicorn relationships where the breakup is 100% amicable, it’s probably a good idea for you and your ex to take a social media vacation from each other — and that entails hitting the dreaded “unfollow” button. This temporary but necessary step will allow you to wander blithely through the world pretending that your ex no longer exists, when in fact she is likely posting vacation selfies with a guy who looks like a richer and more well-groomed version of Channing Tatum.
“As a general rule, I believe you should unfollow/unfriend your ex on social media,” dating coach Francesca Hogi told MensHealth.com. . “If necessary, block them so you’re not lurking on their page…otherwise it’s too easy to obsess over your ex and not move on with your life. It’s also too easy to put on a show for them to let them know or believe you’re over the relationship.”
If you really want, you can send a a polite lil’ message to your ex delineating the reasons why you’ve unfollowed her, but keep in mind that she is 10000% going to read it to her friends over brunch.So unless you want your DM to be pulled apart and parsed and analyzed like it’s an ancient religious text being pored over by beard-stroking elderly scholars, a clean break is the way to go.
If you truly cannot bring yourself to unfollow, Instagram announced it was testing out a “mute” feature in May that allows you to filter out accounts you follow without actually blocking them. But honestly, unfollowing someone isn’t an inalterable event that will change the course of your life, Quantum Leap-style. It’s something grownups do when they want to take a break from other grownups, and hey, if you guys start chatting again (or if you get back together), you can always follow each other back.
2) It’s OK to like your new partner’s posts.
People like to make a big deal about the implications of liking someone else’s Instagram post, but it’s ultimately a pretty innocuous act. If sliding into someone’s DMs is the prototypical expression of sexual interest, then liking someone’s Instagram is like waving at your coworker from across the cafeteria. You see them, you acknowledge that they’re there, and you communicate that you like them enough to not actively ignore them or regurgitate your salad in their presence.
If you’re seeing someone else post-breakup and you’re trying to keep it quiet, feel free to like their Instagram or Facebook posts. Yes, your mutual friends will see that you liked it; yes, your like will carry more weight if it’s in response to a bikini photo as opposed to, say, an impassioned Facebook diatribe about the Iran nuclear deal. But unless you’re a world-famous pop starlet who has penned a top 10 ode to vaginal pain, your social media activity is probably not under constant media scrutiny. So go right ahead and smash that like button.
3) …but you shouldn’t like your ex’s stuff.
Not that you should be seeing it, anyway (see #1).
4) Wait a few months before posting about your new relationship.
So you’ve started dating someone else. Congratulations! It’s great that you’ve recovered from your breakup so quickly, and that you’ve found a way to process your grief (i.e., burying your penis in another lady on the reg).
But Hogi says that for the sake of your former partner’s feelings, it’s best to keep it quiet, at least on social media. “Breaking up is hard enough without having photographic evidence of how quickly your ex has moved on without you,” she says.
Granted, there is no law specifying that you should not post Instagrams of you and your new girlfriend dressed as Slytherins immediately after a breakup. (Why two people would ever self-identify as Slytherins, and what that says about the future of their relationship, is a topic for another post.) Nor is there a hard timeline for when it’s OK to introduce a new relationship on social media.
But Hogi says that generally speaking, couples should take some time, “at least a few months in most cases — to make sure the two of you are sure about being together and being so public.” Before that, they should have a discussion about the nature of their relationship: “Are they exclusive? Is it OK for them to date other people? Once that has been agreed upon and they both are comfortable with going public on social media (which is different for some than going public IRL), that’s when it’s appropriate.”
Shannon Smith, a dating expert at Plenty of Fish, agrees. “If you’re going to [be] social media official, ask yourself if you see this relationship lasting,” she tells MensHealth.com. “It’s pretty mortifying to post a couple-y photo with a new partner, only to have to scrub your profiles of any sign of them a few weeks down the road.”
Above all else, conduct yourself on social media the same way you would’ve during your relationship with your ex. At one point, you cared about this person enough to build a life with them; that respect should live on following the breakup, regardless of how much the relationship may have soured. Spare them the indignity of waking up to a text with a screengrab of you and your two tattoos of your hot new ponytailed girlfriend.
Or, maybe, you could just not plaster your relationship over social media at all. Either one, really.
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