What I learned dating someone who doesn’t use social media

This is Andrew. He’ll probably hate that I’m putting his name and picture in this post, but it’s something he’s gotten used to.

Andrew sits with a flight of beer in front of him, waving. I am taking the photo as a selfie holding a beer.
Isn’t he cute?

Andrew is one of those “older millennials” in a weird spot — he distinctly remembers a time without the internet, and qualified for Facebook when you were required to have a .edu address. I did not. I’m squarely a millennial. I remember getting a computer in the house when I was young, and can recognize the AOL dial-up noise from the first fuzzy beep.

I also have found a career in social media. I have expertise in digital and social media marketing, as well as social media strategy. Andrew has many more responsibilities in his job, influencing widespread change plus managing a lot of projects. I speak to many people I don’t know through the internet, he has a successful career based on personal relationships. We live in two very different professional worlds, but hey, opposites attract, right?

It was stupid, as many fights are. It was about Facebook. It was somewhere around our 8 month anniversary that I got irrationally upset.

Me: Can you just accept my in a relationship request, please?

Him: Accept what?

Me: On Facebook. I wanted to be listed as in a relationship with you, but you have to accept it. I sent it a while ago.

Him: I don’t even know how to do that.

Let’s pause here. Andrew has a Facebook profile. And I use the word “has” loosely. It has two pictures and no posts. I know that may be hard to grasp for some millennials out there, and it was for me, but he just never got into it. And I know he’s not the only one.

Me: It’s in your notifications. Here. I’ll resend it.

Him: Do I really have to?

Me: Well, I would like you to.

Him: Does it mean that I love you less if I don’t?

Does it mean that I love you less if I don’t?

Wow. I never thought of it that way.

Me: No, I know you love me! I just really want you to do this. Can’t you just do it because I’m asking?

It went on, but I will spare you, reader. Because the point of this is not to pick apart our fight — it’s to share what I learned from it.

Why was I so hung up on this? I was giddy with excitement to share our Real Life relationship with the world. And I think I wanted that shot of dopamine thanks to reactions from friends…the ones who have known about this relationship for months anyway.

He accepted the request, the likes started racking up. I should feel something, right?

But I didn’t. Nothing changed.

Andrew was right. He doesn’t love me less, and being Facebook Official doesn’t make me love him more. Maybe if I post more pictures of us on Instagram? Or Tweet about our dinner dates?

The lessons he taught me without trying

I remember when Instagram started gaining popularity. I was one of those, so I just post pictures of my food on this? people. Then, I got an account. I posted weight loss photos, cat photos, and random photos from my life. When Andrew and I would head out on an adventure, I would be sure to take a selfie and post it. Slowly, that urge changed.

The idea of “Instagram vs. reality” now resonates with me so deeply. I won’t ever get tagged in a post he’s written on Facebook on our anniversary, with paragraphs on paragraphs about how important I am to him with a collage of photos of us, filtered and with added cartoon hearts. Instead, I’ll get a thoughtful gift. A card with meaningful words. We’ll spend time together. Does the missing post mean he loves me less? Absolutely not.

I don’t live a glamorous life. I don’t even have enough photos to make it appear as though I do on Instagram. But I love the experiences I have every day, whether I document them for the world or not.

I chose to disable push notifications on my phone; especially social media. Not only did this switch help me realize how much effort social media requires, but being with someone who isn’t focused on their digital persona made me more present in each moment. I’ve since sacrificed a visual record of every pizza I’ve ever eaten, but it was worth it to have a more meaningful experience with Andrew or even alone.

But I won’t let Andrew off easy. He takes pictures. Lots of them, and they’re really great! He’s captured many beautiful landscapes and dinner plates, but without the added pressure of making it “just right” for Instagram, or even taking the time to write up a description for Facebook. The photos are for him, or maybe to showcase to me later. I’m much better now at walking through life without thinking “what can I post about this experience?” and freely capturing memories however I desire.

Have you seen all the crap out there on social media? Man oh man! There’s a lot going on.

Some people are content with posting every moment of their day. I actively read a Twitter thread about someone going to a doctor’s appointment, going to the bathroom, discovering the toilet paper was out, and then the results of the appointment.

What makes us so compelled to share our lives this way?

I have not let go of social media. In fact, you probably landed on this blog post because you saw it on one of my profiles. I’ve just loosened my grip. I’ve learned how important the platforms can be for my career as a digital marketer but realized that, like Andrew, I can have a pretty swell life without broadcasting it to the world.

Where do we go from here?

We all use social media differently, and we all reap some subconscious reward from our online interactions in different ways. Some of us (✋🏻) seek validation, others look for a community.

I encourage you to try and be a little more like Andrew. Maybe take the time to consider why you are sharing the things you do. Is a social-media-free life the way to live? It could be for you, but maybe it’s not. We’re all living this life differently, and that means our online lives are different too.

Andrew and I are still in a relationship on Facebook, and he still has only two pictures. None are with me, but he still loves me just as much.

Author’s note: Thank you to Andrew, who has supported me endlessly. I appreciate your willingness to keep holding my hand as I drag you through new, uncomfortable things.

Another note: I realize this will not resonate with everyone. Andrew is a wonderful, unique human, but I acknowledge he is far from the only one who views social media this way.

Buffalo at heart. Voice of Jackie Watches Stuff Podcast. Cat’s nickname is Potato. Digital marketer. I run for beer and costumes.