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    4 MIN READ



    Oh, he’s hot, double-tap and give him a red love heart.
    Don’t like his next post though, that would be way too keen.

    A naked girl on your feed. Double-tap, red love heart.
    You don’t want to be one of those guys who don’t support her right to be naked wherever, whenever.
    But also, let’s face it: she looks hot.

    Oooh, an ex on Instagram. Stalk his profile but delete your search history.
    You don’t want your partner to see that you still care and whatever you do, don’t accidentally like his post –
    he might think you still want him.

    A DM from a hot girl.
    Make sure you reply but don’t be too forward in case your girlfriend sees it but act keen enough that she keeps messaging you.
    Make sure you turn off your notifications too, your girlfriend might get upset over nothing.
    I mean, you haven’t actually done anything wrong, right?

    It’s a new age of dating and navigating the uncharted social media matrix while in a relationship can be tough. Long gone are the days of simple, face-to-face adultery. Social media exploded onto the scene and we are out here untangling what it means to be a respectful partner on the internet. Look, I’m not religious but the Bible did lay down a couple of ground rules for monogamous relationships, which made old-fashioned dating pretty straightforward. It basically told us not to cheat, unless you want to be considered a dirty little sinner and wind up in hell. Kinky, I know, but also definitely instils a little fear for the future of your soul. Unfortunately, God or Jesus (or anyone else in the bible for that matter), said nothing about sliding into someone’s DMs or liking everything they’ve ever posted.

    As young people who have never experienced a love devoid of social media’s involvement, it is understandable that we are struggling to define the rules. I’ve heard of couples reading each other’s messages in secret. I’ve heard of them swapping passwords and doing it together. I’ve even heard of social media ending relationships. Each scenario sounds a little extreme to me – not to mention a huge breach of privacy. Understandably with no clear outline for appropriate behaviour, we are left to act emotionally, throwing all rationality in the bin.

    It would be ignorant to pretend that it doesn’t affect our relationships. The atrocities that ambivalent flirting through a double-tap, a subsequent red love heart and a (harmlessly) harmful DM can cause, are extensive. There is a whole spectrum of issues that can arise for couples regarding Instagram habits. From liking posts to DMs, to not posting pictures of your partner, to well… your usage in general. I mean, I personally can’t stand people sitting on Instagram at the dinner table. It’s rude, there’s no justification for it: it’s just plain rude. But again, it’s not in the rule book, so the other person isn’t to know I feel this way and I can’t confidently complain.

    Every betrothed person with an Instagram account has navigated some version of this new-age dilemma. I distinctly remember an incident with a friend who had been dating her partner for a year before she made her debut on his grid. It was a celebratory snap of their one-year anniversary and the caption simply consisted of a rainbow emoji. Not exactly shouting from the rooftops, “I’m in love and in a serious relationship!” To top it off, her debut would remain just that – a debut and a debut only – despite a long and happy relationship.

    There is only one thing shadier than having a rumoured girlfriend and that’s being the rumoured girlfriend. To put this into the context of ‘real life’ dating, if you dated someone who wouldn’t hold your hand in public, wouldn’t kiss you in front of their friends and often walked behind you, a few alarm bells would be ringing. However, understandably, there has been a recent shift as people begin to pull back on sharing every detail of their personal lives. All of us have suffered the indignity of our followers getting a front-row seat for the screening of our humiliating personal affairs, so maybe keeping our partners to ourselves is a means for self-preservation?

    While discussing the issue with my girlfriends, on one of those nights that consist of way too much wine and a whole lot of oversharing, it was brought to my attention that there exists a polarity between what men consider to be ‘girlfriend hot’ and ‘porn hot’. Some of you may know what I’m talking about: when the lovely little Instagram algorithm brings to your attention that your partner is liking photos of a girl that couldn’t look more different to what you do. I mean, you may as well be night and her day. Meet his porn hot! Men finding their porn fix on Instagram doesn’t necessarily mean they want to date them and there may be something almost erotic in the ‘dirty secret’ aspect of it, but for some women, it creates a feeling of deception.

    Studies have shown that there is a ‘porn gap’ between men and women in relationships. The porn gap study found that men and women have a similar consumption of porn when single, however, in a relationship men consume porn significantly more than women. It can be argued that long before social media, it was acceptable to look as long as you didn’t touch. Porn was once justified as a safe outlet for the insatiable sexual appetite of men. I can’t say I agree with this idea: that women don’t have a similar appetite for pleasure. But I also can’t say that looking is cause for concern. If we are happy with our partners watching porn and if we ourselves watch porn, shouldn’t this apply to social media too? Or is it the fact that none of us actually know the porn stars we fantasize over, and it’s this simple fact that removes the potential for suspicion and jealousy? Social media has bridged the gap between time and space, meaning we often meet the people that we follow.

    So, how do we navigate this unfamiliar terrain? Do we put our partners’ internet idling through a forensic investigation, taking samples and observing them under a microscope? Or do we leave the detective work to the professionals and enjoy love through ignorant eyes? Perhaps a more important question – which may be answered differently depending on the individual – is: does choosing to be ignorant make you less inclined to suspicion? If the answer is yes, then you might benefit from not following them at all, enjoying a relationship without ever knowing what the women they like to ‘look at’ look like. If the answer is no, you might benefit from a more transparent approach. But I do think it’s important to create some rules and mitigate the damage by easing our paranoid brains. After all, the internet in all of its jealousy-inducing glory is here to stay.

    In the early days of a new relationship, couples happily discuss boundaries pertaining to face-to-face interactions, so why not do the same for our online interactions?