Should You Care What Your Boyfriend Likes On Instagram? And Other Dating Problems That Didn’t Previously Exist

Victoria Stokes figures out how to survive these techy times with your heart relatively unscathed

Couple on phone

Back in my parents’ day dating was a lot simpler. The year was 1970 and my dad was playing bass guitar with his band to a packed dance hall when he locked eyes with my mother across the room. They chatted during the interval, arranged a time and a place to meet up during the week, and that was that. They didn’t exchange phone numbers, just names, and a string of dates later they were consciously coupled. This September they’re celebrating 45 years of marriage.

It’s a far cry from the complex and emotionally wrought dating game that we’re familiar with playing today. Factor in all the back and forth messaging, the pre-date social media stalk, the countless opportunities there are to cheat thanks to dating apps and all the added anxieties that come with dating in a digital age, and you’ve got an experience that’s more complicated than it ever was – and meeting someone is just half the battle.

Call it the paradox of choice, but thanks to the availability of dates we’re much more inclined to drop a potential partner instead of giving them a chance, and we’re also super reluctant to take our interactions offline, something psychotherapist and author of #Love: 21st Century Relationships Trish Murphy says leaves us little chance of finding lasting love.

Technology isn’t going anywhere, so how can we make sure it will help not hinder your love life?

“People can suffer from too much choice and struggle to make a decision about who to choose or worse, they constantly think that there could be more interesting dates online,” she surmises. Once you have settled on a match, taking the conversation off line and into real life can prove equally difficult. “Socially anxious people can struggle to make the transition,” Trish explains, and weeks of messaging can build up a false sense of intimacy that the potential couple aren’t able to replicate in reality. What results is days or even weeks of wasted time spent analysing how quickly he’s read your text, the speed he replies to it and what he’s actually written in his carefully crafted response, something our parents would have never had to worry about.

Of course, the complications don’t end once you’re coupled up and the digital era can give rise to issues of jealousy inside a relationship. Take Debbie, 27, who says she felt constantly paranoid about her ex boyfriend’s behaviour on social media. “I became a little obsessed with who he was following and what he was liking on Instagram,” she explains. “He followed loads of fitness accounts that featured girls in bikinis or figure-hugging gym clothes. Most of these were international accounts and the women were people he’d never meet in real life, but I grew more concerned when he started following similar accounts that were more local.”

They split up four years ago but it still feels like she’s around

For Rachel, 29, it’s not fitness influencers that are the problem, but her fella’s ex. “They split up four years ago but it still feels like she’s around because she’s always liking his pics and occasionally tagging him in memes,” she explains. “I’ve asked him about it and he says it’s nothing to worry about, but I hate that there’s still a link there between them and with easy access to her profile, I can’t help compare myself to her.”

Debbie and Rachel’s experiences certainly aren’t isolated ones, and keeping tabs on a partner’s social media interactions is something many women feverishly admit to. Sadly, their fears aren’t always unfounded with recent research suggesting that some one in three men on dating apps like Tinder are already married. In pre-Tinder times you only had to worry about your other half hooking up with someone down the road or at work, not every woman with a dating profile within a 50km radius. But technology isn’t going anywhere, in fact, digital capabilities are only going to get more advanced, so how best to ensure it helps not hinders your love life?

Usually with experience, our judgement gets better when online dating

“Limit the number of profiles you’re looking at if your goal is to meet someone online,” suggests Trish. “And make sure you organise a face to face meeting sooner rather than later.” Fortunately, with time our sifting skills tend to improve. “Usually with experience, our judgement gets better when online dating,” says Trish. “Look for obvious lies and when organising to meet up, choose somewhere close to where the potential partner lives. This will weed out the already marrieds as they will not want to be seen in their local area.”

And if you’re in a relationship and feeling jealous of who your fella is interacting with? Address what’s going on with you in terms of self esteem first, advises Trish. “Jealousy is always about not feeling good enough,” she explains. “If you are the person suffering from jealousy, then you need to look for the solution within yourself rather than making the other person responsible for how you feel. Your self-worth is your own responsibility and if your partner is not good for you then you need to tackle this and challenge their behaviour,” she clarifies.

Of course, it’s not all bad. Anyone who’s ever caught themselves staring goofily at a flirty text on their phone knows that sometimes the digital side of things can make dating all the more exciting. The days of giddily waiting for a call on the landline may be gone, but that doesn’t mean dating as a millennial can’t be just as fun.

This article first appeared in STELLAR’s October issue. Our November issue is on shelves now! 

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