Don’t judge a relationship by its launch

Soft launch your new relationship by posting a subtle picture with your bae. Photo courtesy of Mayur Gala.


Social media carries a lot of weight in modern-day relationships. Couples should profess their love for one another in plain view of their followers. However, this has to be executed with careful consideration; you need to know what type of launch is best for you. I’ll lead you through the two ways you can introduce your relationship to the world — the soft launch and the hard launch. One of the two is sure to fit your relationship just right.

As a relatively uninteresting, very un-famous social media influencer, the most jaw-dropping move I can make on Instagram is a hard launch. A hard launch is sure to get my followers in a tizzy. It’s an attention grab that nobody will soon forget and a bold move for which I will earn plenty of likes and comments.

A hard launch is a “significant other reveal” for social media. Why introduce bae to grandma at Thanksgiving when you should really focus on introducing them to your faithful followers on all social media platforms?

So a hard launch is a picture of you and your significant other doing something couply posted to a social media platform — probably Instagram — for all to see. 

The content of the post varies, but I’ll provide some examples of excellent hard launches. A post with your significant other on a date all dressed up and ready to devour $100 steaks could be a great hard launch. Another acceptable hard launch is a photo of you and bae in matching holiday pajamas with your family dog. Nothing screams relationship louder than matching pajamas on Instagram. Even just a picture of you planting a big ol’ smooch on your partner’s cheek is obvious enough for your followers to get the memo: you’re dating.

But of course, we need a type of launch for the shyer couples out there — the ones who are hesitant to share their personal lives as extravagantly as a practitioner of the hard launch does. A hard launch’s opposite is a soft launch. The soft launch is no jaw-dropper. It is smooth and subtle, and it is created only for the most attentive followers to uncover. 

Perhaps I go on a coffee date with my current love interest. In this case, I would soft launch them by posting an artsy picture of their latte in hand to my Instagram story. I would crop out their face, of course, and leave them untagged in the picture. Subtle, tasteful and artful, the soft launch lets the followers know you’re seeing someone without letting them know who that person is. 

People often make the mistake of calling a soft launch a hard launch. After all, the lines blur when we turn to specific examples. Can you post your plus one to a formal dance without hard launching them? Is a BeReal a soft launch or a hard launch? Which launch is better?

I am here to answer all your burning questions. But most of all, I am here to tell you that not every launch is a hard one. Folks often have misconceptions about what qualifies as a hard launch. According to sophomore psychology major Naiya Rooks, a hard launch on Instagram has some very cut-and-dry rules.

“[A hard launch is] the first post on Instagram, [the significant other is] on the first slide, and it’s very clear what’s going on,” Rooks said. 

This is the only acceptable hard launch method. Anything else is too subtle to be deemed a true “hard launch.” A true hard launch must be intentional and obvious.

You can imagine my frustration, then, when I see a picture of a friend and their formal dance date on the third slide of an Instagram post, and the comment section is filled with friends saying “hard launch!!” That is not a hard launch. The date is buried too far into the post. Plenty of people bring a date to a formal; that person isn’t necessarily a romantic interest. A love interest must be posted on the first slide and in a date-like context to be considered a hard launch, and a formal date doesn’t fit these criteria.

A true hard launch makes the viewer pause to bask in their astonishment. Senior marketing major Luigi Chirco has felt this astonishment before. He described the jarring feeling of discovering a hard launch on Instagram.

“I’m scrolling through a mixture of [posts of] memes and people I know and probably dreading doing the homework I need to do, when all of a sudden, boom … I get hit with ‘here’s my significant other,’” Chirco said.

This “boom” is a trademark characteristic of the hard launch. It’s sudden, and you never quite feel prepared to see it. 

A soft launch, however, doesn’t ring the same alarm that a hard launch does. The subtlety of the soft launch means the viewer is receiving the information slowly. You can’t really draw any accurate conclusions about a relationship from a soft launch, so it isn’t as alarming. The posts are too uncertain or too subtle to be notable. 

Rooks considers the soft launch to be a sneaky version of the hard launch, but she prefers it because it creates suspense that the hard launch cannot.

“I think the suspense is really just the best part,” Rooks said. “Don’t be too much of an open book.”

On a platform like social media that skips face-to-face interactions, it can be easy to judge others. With so much judgment and so many eyes watching on social media, sometimes it’s a relief to fly under the radar. Maintaining an air of mystery with a soft launch can really serve as a form of protection from that judgement. 

This brings me to my most important point of all. Sometimes it isn’t a launch, and that’s okay. Sometimes, the nature of someone’s relationship just isn’t our business.

The whole idea of social media launching is just introducing someone you care about to the people you know. It’s an efficient introduction because the interaction is almost entirely one-way. The poster gets to introduce their significant other to the people they know without juggling the typically awkward questions and banter that come with a formal in-person introduction. Hard launching is nothing more than an announcement, and we should receive it as such. It doesn’t always need to be a dramatic affair.

Bush agrees that our reactions surrounding these launches can be excessive at times.

“I don’t think a soft launch or a hard launch is deep at all,” Bush said. “You can think of it as a big step in a relationship, but also, since it’s such a stupid concept, it’s not really that big of a deal.”

It is important to introduce your significant other to friends, but if launching is too big of a deal for you, know that you can always just keep it old-fashioned with an in-person introduction. 

I still think launching is a convenient means of introduction, and I want to educate my readers on the art of a successful launch. But launching is not everything in a relationship. Launch if you want, and refuse if you don’t. Your relationship is your own, and we can promote that by actively refusing to judge the launches of others.


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