The Soho Sex Column: Is showing your relationship on IG a sign of strength or insecurity?

The Soho Sex Column: Is showing your relationship on IG a sign of strength or insecurity? | Soho House

Our resident sexpert Olivia Petter is here to answer members’ questions. This week, what’s the deal with those couples who leave nothing to the imagination on social media?

Friday 15 July   By Olivia Petter   Illustration by Kika Klat

Let me begin with a confession: I hate Instagram.
I hate the way it thinks it knows what I want to see. I hate how it shows me what people I don’t know had for breakfast. And I hate that it always knows who I fancy because their names are always at the top of the list of people who’ve viewed my Stories. 

Also, I hate how much time everyone spends on it. And how people obsess over who has liked their posts and how many followers they have. Frankly, I just hate that it exists. Oh wait. I just got a DM from a guy I used to date: it’s a flame emoji to a selfie I posted. And I have hit 6,000 followers. Ignore me: I love this.

Today, most people I know have a complicated relationship with social media. It’s something that, for whatever reason, people pretend to hate. Like we’re ashamed to admit that we enjoy the validation and so criticising it has become something to feel smug about. One of the things people seem to criticise the most, though, is #CoupleGoals posts. 

You know the ones. Matching pyjamas on a Sunday morning. Nauseatingly earnest captions underneath sunset snogs. And unnecessarily candid birthday tributes in honour of ‘this one’. I used to enjoy hating said posts, too. In fact, there’s an entire chapter in my book, Millennial Love, dedicated to slagging them off. 

As your question suggests, I thought that posts like this were a sign of insecurity. Why, if someone is genuinely happy, would they feel the need to brag about their relationship online? Surely, it’s a sign they’re looking for validation their partner isn’t giving them? And isn’t that, well, a little bit pathetic?

But in the process of finishing that chapter, something happened. I broke up with my boyfriend (the same one I recently broke up with again – I know). And suddenly I found myself looking at these posts a little differently. The birthday tributes infiltrating my feed didn’t seem quite so saccharine; they were just sweet. And the sunset snogs didn’t make me cringe; they warmed my heart. These people didn’t seem insecure at all – they just seemed happy.

Obviously, there’s a line with all of this stuff. And if you’re posting these sorts of photos every day you should probably have a stern word with yourself. But once in a while, I don’t think it’s anything anyone should be looking down on.  

We’re only human. It can be lovely to share special moments you’ve had with your partner with others, and to see other people do the same. And what with everything that’s going on in the world, God knows we could all do with seeing a bit more happiness. 

That’s not to say posting #CoupleGoals photos can’t ever be a sign of insecurity; it can. But I find that more often it’s a sign of strength. And the insecure people are the ones that are judging. 

Ultimately, when you break it down, what’s worse? Being insecure and bitter? Or happy and earnest? As I get older, I’m learning that the latter is always the better choice. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll have someone to be nauseatingly earnest on Instagram with. You might, too.

Quick-fire questions

Can you have a good relationship without sex? 
That depends. If you identify as asexual, then yes, having a good relationship without sex is often a pretty key part of the package. But if you’re not, it’s slightly trickier. Most of us are sexual beings – if your partner has a lower sex drive than you, that might indicate a crucial incompatibility. Talk to them about it before you do anything drastic.

How can I rebuild my confidence after a long time away from dating?
This is a tough one that I’m trying to navigate as we speak, having not really dated anyone for the better part of four years. The short answer is time. Some tips to help you get there: surround yourself with friends who love you; eat healthy, delicious meals; and move your body regularly. Most importantly, cut toxic people out of your life – you do not have time for them right now.

Got a question for Olivia? Please email All submissions will remain anonymous. 
Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate
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