The Relationship 'Soft Launch' Explained (And How It Differs From Hard Launching)

Relationship etiquette is constantly evolving online. Think back to the era of Facebook's relationship status feature, when people enthusiastically broadcast every stage of their relationship to their Facebook friends. It was a common and unchallenged practice that eventually fell out of favor with mainstream users in the mid 2010s, according to a study published by Elite Daily. Today, the art of launching your relationship on social media is not a one-post procedure. There are detailed levels of posting that lead up to a couple's official announcement.

This shift in how we share information about our relationships online has been a long time coming, especially since cultivating mystery has become a hurdle for generations who have grown up with social media. It's nearly impossible for them make mistakes privately while living in a culture that values oversharing online. For people, especially young people with large followings, relationship challenges are broadcast to hundreds of thousands of followers. It's no wonder why people have come up with alternatives to sharing their relationship status online.

Feeling the burnout from heavy social media use, people have developed a new way of sharing that they're in a relationship to their followers. At least, that's what the new relationship status trend is signaling. People who want to keep their relationship out of the spotlight and free from scrutiny, but don't want to hide the fact they're in a relationship have taken on a new approach to sharing their significant other online called "soft launching." 

Breaking down the types of 'launching'

For savvy social media users, the art of the "soft launch" is the preferred method for posting your relationship status online. A relationship expert at  Cosmopolitan has called this method a more calculated approach to telling the world that you're seeing someone, without revealing intimate details about the relationship. This differs from the practice of immediately updating changes to your relationship statuses online that was encouraged during the days of Facebook. Today, that practice would be considered hard launching and it's something that's best to be avoided in a new relationship since it's reserved exclusively for longterm commitment.

Popular TikTok user Jess Fisher shared how soft-launching works in a viral video. "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," she said. "For the guys, it will only be a photo of himself and he will tag her as the photographer, either in the description or in the photo." 

For modern couples, soft launching helps maintain a level of privacy in their relationship that the hard launch doesn't afford.

Is it important to share your relationship online?

What's the real difference between an Instagram official relationship and an offline relationship? Internet culture expert for The New York Times, Taylor Lorenz, stated in a Medium blog post that an Instagram official relationship has more social cache than one that simply exists in real life since the former publicly announces your relationship status to your friends and family. Consequently, it signals to them, and to your partner, that your relationship is serious and past the hanging out stage.

This procedure isn't pure vanity or simply adhering to social mores. Multiple research studies, including five that came out of the University of Kansas and Carnegie Mellon University, have proven that posting your significant other on Instagram is a beneficial practice that increases intimacy and makes your relationship stronger and healthier. So, whether you're open to sharing intimate details about your relationship online or want to maintain privacy in the soft launch phase, it's important to acknowledge your partner with a post.