How To Soft-Launch Your Relationship On Social Media

In the digital age, it's hard to figure out how to disclose a budding relationship. While Facebook allows people to change their relationship status, as more people move away from that platform and toward Instagram, the reveal of who you're dating is one based on photos. This has led to what's called a "soft-launch."

Urban Dictionary defines the soft-launch as "a photo preview of a talking stage before it becomes an official relationship on social media ie, taking photos of their dinner plate and their hands, half their face or their shoes as to allude there's someone special in your life." It's slick, it drops the right number of clues, and it's basically a practice round for the hard-launch should your relationship evolve into something serious and committed. 

"[A soft-launch is] a subtle way to show the world that you are no longer single or that you're currently immersed in the dating process with someone," dating and relationship expert Sarah Louise Ryan tells Refinery29. "It's almost a way to test the waters with that person too, about how you both would like to manage the snapshot of your relationship that shows up on social media."

Because the soft-launch is an art, doing it requires finesse and the ability to be stealthy with a bit of intrigue tossed in, so your friends and followers on social media are forced to inquire about this mystery person.

Choose your photos and tags wisely

When it comes to the soft-launch, it's all about the photos and a specific tagging technique. "For the girls: she will post a picture of him at a restaurant, his face will not be in it, she will tag the restaurant but not tag him. For the guys: it will only be a photo of himself and he will tag her as the photographer either in the description or the photo," digital marketing specialist Jenna Fisher explained in a viral TikTok.

For the perfect example of a soft-launch, all we have to do is turn to, of all people, Kourtney Kardashian. Back in February 2021, Kardashian posted a photo of her hand interlocked with a man's heavily tattooed hand (via Instagram). The man in question, who we now know was Travis Barker, wasn't tagged. Not long after that, the hard-launch was the official reveal.

Although the soft-launch may seem silly or even a tad immature, it's a form of self-preservation. "There can be a lot of social embarrassment for bringing up someone all the time if it doesn't work out," Jared Freid, co-host of Betches' "U Up?" podcast tells EliteDaily. "It is vulnerable to put yourself out there. You're making sure to do this little by little so there's less to clean up if things go bad."

Soft-launch photos are best kept to Instagram Stories. Since those stories only last 24 hours, some people might never see them and they're so short-lived, it doesn't feel like too much of a commitment.

Tag them directly

Once you're sure things are getting legit and you've dangled this person in front of your followers for however long with your soft-launch, then the next step is — are you ready? — tagging their handle if you're on Instagram or their profile if your soft-launch is on Facebook. Tagging allows for a little more exposure while still keeping it low-key (via PopSugar). For all anyone knows, the person you've tagged could be someone you met in a pottery class that you get coffee with sometimes. The mystery is still alive and well, but more has been sprinkled into the equation.

When you're ready, the final step of the soft-launch is posting a direct photo of the person you're dating. No more photos of hands, two glasses of wine on the table, their profile against the night sky, or their shoes next to yours on a sidewalk. Now it's time to go big or go home. In other words, it's time for the reveal or, as it's also known, going "Instagram official." 

But — and this is a very important detail — in order for Instagram official to be real, not only do you have to post a photo of the person you're dating, but they have to post a photo of you so that it doesn't look one-sided (via Cosmopolitan). Now you have successfully soft-launched your relationship, taken it step-by-step, and reached "official" status. Nice job! Give yourself a round of applause. You did well, Padawan.