Don't Tag...You're Not It
Justin counsels a letter writer whose dating app date untagged himself in a couples photo on Instagram.
Q. I’m a gay man and I’ve recently been seeing a guy I met off a dating app. We’ve been out four or five times. The other day we were out at a bar and took a picture together. I put it up on Instagram, and he immediately untagged himself. That kind of hurt. I thought this was going somewhere, but he obviously doesn’t want to be associated with me publicly? What do I do here?
Jason, 29, Washington D.C.
A. I thought about how to answer this question for a long time…not because I think the guy you’re dating is in the wrong, but because I wasn’t sure how to tell you that you’re “making a mountain out of a molehill.” You can’t assume he doesn’t want to be associated with you publicly when you were together at a bar. Being seen with him in the flesh is about as public as you can get.
The immediacy of him un-tagging himself is probably what hurt your feelings. I imagine you were excited about sharing the picture, which was quickly overshadowed by disappointment and confusion. If he had asked you to un-tag him directly, would you be just as upset? Probably, but there would have been an opportunity for him to provide an explanation.
Have you given any thought as to why he un-tagged himself? I can think of more than a dozen reasons, including work related issues, comfort with his sexuality, family concerns, dating other people, and many more. He may have even thought he didn’t look good. I’m not trying to make excuses for him, but I want you to think about reasons that have nothing to do with you. Keep in mind, he didn’t ask you to delete the picture. That’s a very different question and answer.
Have you asked him directly why he un-tagged himself? If not, you should. You’ve been on nearly half a dozen dates, which should be enough time for you to feel comfortable asking questions and sharing your feelings. This is an opportunity for you to learn how he handles tough conversations. You’ll also see what he’ll say and do to make you feel better. And if you don’t like it…“Boy, bye.”
By the way, I know I’m supposed to be answering your question and I’ve already asked you two, but I have one more for you: why did you post the picture in the first place? I’m sure you had a good reason, but posting a picture online can sometimes come across as a “relationship announcement.” That may have scared him. It’s hard to know when it’s appropriate to post the first picture when you’re in a new relationship.
Lastly, pictures posted on Instagram don’t define a relationship. The time you spend together is what will ultimately shape the relationship you want to have.
Justin Jean Breton is a marketing professional living in New York City. When he’s not listening to Britney Spears, he’s eating, drinking or traveling with his boyfriend of nearly four years. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @justinbreton. Send Justin questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.