I post a lot of photos of myself on the internet. I’ve been doing so regularly for at least a decade now, probably longer. After all, I was a kid during the Myspace era of “camera whores” and didn’t wait for Instagram to start posting selfies.
Posting photos of my boyfriend on Instagram, however, is a different story. While I did share an artsy photo of us not long after we met, you couldn’t even see his face in it. In fact, I waited a solid 18 months before posting a clear, lovey-dovey photo of us together. It was his birthday, and he loved it. But suddenly, a ton of people thought I was in a new relationship.
I waited so long for a few reasons. For one, I wanted to feel extremely grounded in our relationship before putting our business out there (or setting the stage for a public breakup). Second, should he be the one to initiate said breakup, I wanted to keep my pool of sexual and romantic options as open as possible. Third, even if we were meant to spend a long time together, I still wasn’t sure I was dead-set on a monogamous relationship and wondered how evidencing one great relationship might thwart my chances of starting others.
Here’s the thing, though: It drives me crazy that he doesn’t post photos of me on his social media channels. (Yes, I understand that this makes me a hypocrite.) I’ve nudged him and even threatened him about it, but he doesn’t think it’s a big deal because he knows my threats are a joke. And when I ask him why, he offers up just a single word: “Privacy.”
Could it really be that I’m dating the one millennial in the world who actually believes in, let alone values, the concept of privacy? Or is “privacy” simply a cover for shitty behavior? Certainly most women believe it’s the latter — at best, a sign of a lack of commitment, and at worst, a sign that you’re cheating. Because trust me, I’m not the only woman who feels this way. And so, as a public service, I took the liberty of breaking down why your partner probably thinks you’re suspicious for not posting photos of them on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter and the few legitimate (kinda at least) reasons/excuses that make such behavior semi-valid (if not completely valid)…
All the Suspicions
We think you’re dating someone else. Assumption number one: You’re a liar. “When I was in college, I was in a long-distance relationship. We were together for about two years around the time Instagram became a thing. He hated taking pics with me and never posted pics with me or mentioned me on social,” says Victoria, a woman in her 20s. “I later found out it was because he had another girlfriend at his school who loved to post pics with him and would send her friends to harass me on Twitter and Instagram.”
We think you’re trying to date someone else. Liking other people’s photos and even commenting on their thirst traps is one thing, but when you don’t document your relationship on your social media accounts while doing so, it sends the impression that you’re enjoying your current relationship while putting feelers out for your next one. “I had a boyfriend who I initially thought only posted pics of random shit — animals and himself doing dumb stuff — until we broke up and several months later he posted pics with his new girlfriend,” says Jess, another female twentysomething. “So I guess it didn’t bother me at the time — I assumed it just ‘wasn’t his thing,’ which was fine. But then seeing posts with/of the new girlfriend felt kind of shitty.”
We think you’re ashamed of us. You know that cliche about Instagram being nothing more than a highlight reel? Your partner, understandably, wants to feel like a highlight. Okay, let’s be real, they want to be more than a highlight. Personally at least, I want to be the subject of multiple goddess adoration posts where my boyfriend publicly declares the ways in which I’ve balanced his chakras with my own sexual powers.
It’s embarrassing to admit wanting public validation from the person with whom you’re already the most intimate with, but a little ego boost from your partner boasting about you on social media can feel really good. “I’m trying to be a little less activated by this kinda stuff, but I always have a complicated outlook because I’ve had experiences in the past with partners unwilling to go public because I’m trans,” explains twentysomething Lux. “Often it’s framed as wanting to protect me from harmful comments from their friends and family, but it’s hard not to feel like they’re using that as an out to avoid going to bat for me and having those conversations.
“It’s especially complicated when it’s a trans guy who passes more comfortably than me because it makes me feel like I’m asking him to put himself back in a position where he’s at risk of scrutiny or criticism by associating with another, more visible trans person.”
We think you don’t want your ex to see it. In hopes that they’ll eventually want to get back together with you, of course. In this situation, the desire to be represented on social media comes from a place of wanting evidence. Namely, we want evidence that you’re with us, not your ex, and posting photos of us is the best evidence to your ex (and us) that you’ve happily moved on.
Now, that said, if your partner says he doesn’t want to post you yet out of a sign of respect for his ex (especially a recent one), keep in mind that’s not actually an awful thing. Respecting your ex is chill. Just make sure that excuse doesn’t last beyond a reasonable amount of time — ideally one you mutually agree upon when this situation first arises.
All the Quasi-Valid Excuses
You’re insecure about your looks. This one is simple: Some people aren’t into their own looks enough to regularly disseminate images of themselves into the world for anyone to access. “My dude is in full on denial about his aging/hair loss and doesn’t love having his picture taken in general so we don’t take a lot of pictures together,” explains Lizzy. “And so, his IG is mostly memes and pictures of my cat, and I’m okay with it.”
You’re using Instagram as a professional tool. My friend Elena, another woman in her 20s, says her boyfriend posted her a bit at the start of their relationship, but he stopped after about a year. “My boyfriend is a professional skater,” she says. “I was upset when he first stopped posting me, but I asked him about it and he said he doesn’t want his dude friends lurking on my Instagram. If he didn’t have a huge following of thirsty skater boys, I’d feel some type of way about it, like he’s trying to hide me. So while I told him that he should show me off, not keep me under a rock, I get it.”
You’re avoiding sharing information about your relationships and sexuality with your family. “My boyfriend has a very tenuous relationship with his shitty, homophobic dad, and it’s easier for him to not post couple photos on Facebook than to have to deal with the constant disappointment in how much his dad sucks. It doesn’t bother me. If anything, I feel bad that it’s something he has to deal with at all,” says Steven from Canada.
Adds Jason, “It can be difficult for queer or same-sex couples. My current boyfriend is friends with his homophobic grandmother on Facebook, and if she were to see a tagged photo of the two of us together, his family could lose their inheritance. It obviously opens up a debate about accepting the blood money of intolerant people, but I respect his requests to keep our relationship off the ‘Gram. The good news is that they don’t know about me, so I’m allowed to post the occasional story of him eating ice cream in cute overalls.”
You don’t use social media. This, obviously, is the most understandable rationale. “We’ve been together eight years, and he’s never been on any social media,” says thirtysomething Rose. “I think it can make it easier because it reduces the expectation to show how great your relationship is. My relationship is great, but it’s mine and I want to keep it that way!”
Meanwhile, Christian adds, “Some people like privacy. I know I had one or two pictures of my ex and they were hella cryptic. I just don’t feel like documenting my love life for others to see when I get internal validation of my relationships from myself only. But I understand, some people want their partners to rep them. In that case, maybe you’re not compatible if you want social media to also mirror your relationship.”
For Those Who Don’t Give A Shit in the First Place
“I’d love it if my partner didn’t post me on Instagram because I think privacy is sexy. The idea that we share something outside of social media is special to me. Maybe that’s because I have an active social media life,” my friend Niko, a genderqueer guy in his 20s, tells me. “It’s also tricky when you’re not monogamous, because people might see us together on social media and think we aren’t open to dating. People should shoot their shot.”
“I like having our relationship more to ourselves,” adds my friend Andrea. “It’s special taking pictures of us doing shit and not sharing them with the world! Besides, I’m convinced that the couples that are always posting about their significant other aren’t in healthy relationships.”
I guess, in the end, I should just focus on getting my boyfriend to take photos of me.