As soon as social media came onto the scene, relationships got more complicated. If you're lucky, your guy's technological actions just reinforce how drunk in love you two are. On the other hand, navigating the digital landscape in a relationship offers up more than a few booby traps.
"Social media is a great way to maintain a sense of connection, but each person comes into a relationship with different needs for contact, commitment, and intimacy," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. "That's where things can go wrong." Here, Greer decodes what a few men's social media moves say about their bonds.
"When we were first dating, my boyfriend wouldn't respond to me on Facebook messenger for a long time, even though I could see he'd read what I'd sent him. It was so annoying, although now that we've officially been together for about a year, he usually responds immediately. One time, I got drunk after we were exclusive and was like, 'Dude, taking forever to respond was awful!' He just shrugged. Typical." --Jules C.
Let's just get this out of the way: read receipts are the devil's playthings. There's nothing like that sinking feeling when you realize he's seen whatever witty comeback you came up with and is going to take what feels like actual decades to respond. The good news here is that his change in response time shows how secure he feels in the relationship now as opposed to in the beginning. "When you're not exclusive, the criteria for contact is vague," says Greer. "He may have been pacing himself and not wanting to seem over-invested or scare her away." Waiting to respond to a message is a common early-dating tactic, so the fact that he replies ASAP now is a sign he can fully be himself.
"My boyfriend's Twitter and Instagram accounts are overwhelmingly professional. He doesn't use social media as a sounding board about his life or our relationship, usually just for news or his job." --Emily J.
This guy is all for a clear demarcation between his personal and professional lives, while lots of people mix the two on social media. "A lot of times, men use social media more for business and practical reasons," says Greer. "He wants to keep it functional and probably avoid any relationship issues that could come up if he shared more in that way." Sure, you might wonder why he doesn't digitally gush over you the way other guys seem to, but a lack of lovey-dovey statuses can actually be proof of how strong your bond is. "When people are constantly bragging about their relationship, it can actually be a giveaway that it isn't going very well," says Greer. "Otherwise, why would you need to toot your own horn so much?"
"I love social media, but my boyfriend refuses to participate. He doesn't have Twitter or Instagram, has a Facebook but doesn't use it, and doesn't like when I post pictures of us on social media. He says he doesn't like his privacy being invaded. He's even already told me I won't be able to put our kids' pictures online. He doesn't want his image—or our kids'—to be owned by anyone except us." —Sara A.
Sounds like he's a holdover from the old-school type who doesn't see the hype behind being able to post any and everything you think or do for all the world to see. But what if, like this couple, you fall on opposite sides of the social media spectrum? "Beyond privacy concerns, he may be more comfortable maintaining a certain level of intimacy rather than putting everything out there," says Greer. "It used to be that people would just share photos with family and friends, so he may see social media as taking away from that." If you're in a similar situation, the fix is easy: Get his input on who should have access to the photos of the two of you or of your kids that you post online. That way you still get to share, and he'll feel like his privacy is being protected.
"This is so pathetic, but I do notice when he doesn't like or forgets to like my Instagrams. It annoys me because he makes an effort with my friends and will be like, 'Oh, did you see so-and-so's picture of the beach?' And I want to be like, 'Yeah, well did you see mine?!' It's ridiculous and I know it, and I love him anyway." —Liz T.
Not only is this man comfortable in his relationship, but he loves his girlfriend enough to try to connect with her friends. "This is an extension of what you see a lot, when after some time in a relationship, a couple will become much more relaxed with each other but go out of their way to impress each other's friends or family," says Greer. He's no longer in the early stage where he feels like he absolutely has to win his girlfriend over because he knows they're committed. Now it's about getting the people she loves most on his side. All good things!
"My boyfriend is obsessed with Twitter! He's on it all day, every day. He needs it for his job, but it really bothers me sometimes because I feel like he isn't fully present when we're trying to spend time together." —Brianna J.
One of the tough things about social media is how easily it can start to invade your private time, thanks to its accessibility. "Many people are constantly on Twitter or other forms of social media because of work, but it can be disruptive and make the other person feel like they're not fully connecting," says Greer. To avoid this kind of situation driving a wedge between you two, come up with little blocks of time when neither of you can be on your phones, period. "Tell him something like, 'I support that you need to pay attention to Twitter because of work, but is it possible to do it before we start eating, then hold off until after we're done with dinner? I love spending that uninterrupted time with you,'" says Greer.
"Sometimes, my boyfriend will like photos our mutual girl friends put up—and I assume the same goes for friends of his who I don't know. Thankfully, I've never seen it happen on anything like a bikini selfie, more like selfies where someone looks pretty or a photo where they're doing something cool. Is it weird that I'm not concerned? I'd never worry about him cheating." —Kimberly C.
The way you interpret this depends entirely on who the women are and how the rest of the relationship is. "Are you friendly with them, or do you at least know of them?" asks Greer. "Or is it just one particular woman you're threatened by, or noticing he's only liking seductive photos?" Beyond that, if you're getting enough attention in your relationship and he's not just using his likes for one supermodel-hot girl you've never met, this isn't anything to worry about. If you're feeling jealous, the issue might be that you're not getting enough attention from him in general. "At that point, you would need to talk about what you would like more of in the relationship, like spending time together, rather than trying to control his behavior," says Greer. "It's not about telling him what to do but letting him know how he could make you feel more secure."