A picture of two stick figures holding hands went viral on Twitter last year. The figure on the left was labeled “extremely online” and the one on the right was “no social media, happy”. In the caption, which reads: “the perfect couple,” almost 89,000 people liked it. It is easy to identify the ‘no social media partner’. Instagram posts won’t have been made since 2018. If you try to explain what ‘goblin mode’ means to them, their innocent eyes will glaze over. It is unlikely that they will know who Francis Bourgeois is. If they do venture online, they’ll look up YouTube videos about rock climbing.
It won’t be aimlessly scrolling through Twitter or TikTok until their thumb aches. Take Bella Hadid’s boyfriend Marc Kalman or Ariana Grande’s husband Dalton Gomez as examples. He has an offline boyfriend as well. Despite having an Instagram account, he never posts on it since it’s private and locked.
His only other public profile is on Facebook,” he adds. In contrast, Sean describes himself as “as online as it is possible to be” and spends a lot of time on Twitter. Rose, 34, also has a similar dynamic in her relationship. It is only for reading the news and chatting with friends that her partner uses the Internet.
Apart from a long-dormant Facebook account that he doesn’t really use, and I think he has LinkedIn, she says. “He doesn’t engage with social media at all.” Similarly, Rose’s relationship with social media differs greatly from her partner’s. Because of her job, she often uses Twitter and Instagram to promote her work, and she “checks social media a lot throughout the day.”
Is there a reason why offline partners are so appealing? There’s something fundamentally embarrassing about being online. Imagine your partner attempting to film a TikTok, uploading an Instagram story on a night out, or earnestly DMing a celebrity. Our desire to be surrounded by offline people is unsurprising in an age when social media can ruin relationships.
Look at West Elm Caleb, Couch Guy, or even Kanye West, who has been live-tweeting his divorce from Kim Kardashian. Effy Stonem proved beyond doubt that there is nothing sexier than mystique, as society becomes more and more addicted to social media.
People who spend a lot of time online may also benefit from offline partners who are able to help them get back to reality. Rose and Sean agree that talking to their partners when they get sucked into Twitter spats is refreshing. Sean says that his boyfriend is not unsympathetic, he just doesn’t understand.
“He asks, ‘Who is this person, do you know them?’ I don’t know them. Choosing not to seek validation from strangers on the internet certainly exudes a powerfully sexy and confident vibe.
According to Sean, “I associate [being offline] with a certain kind of masculinity that I find appealing – like a lack of vanity.” It’s true that online users tend to fall victim to ‘main character syndrome’ or declare themselves empaths. I find this annoying at best. At worst, it’s narcissistic.
Professor Alex Jones specializes in the psychology of attractiveness at Swansea University. We infer a lot about someone from their social media presence – or lack thereof – when dating. Signaling you don’t use social media could fit into that category, indicating your independence and outlook,” he says. Again, depending on the person looking, this could be an attractive trait.”
Everyone will look for different things in a partner, it goes without saying. It’s okay to have an offline partner or an online partner – there’s no one-size-fits-all rule. Dr. Jones states, “it depends on the person and their personality, interests, and motives”. The world is becoming more surveilled, so it’s wise to make a conscious effort to keep certain things private, beginning with your relationship.