Early this year, the concept of an offline boyfriend became popular on (not surprisingly) TikTok.
The trend, which saw women posting videos about the virtues of having a partner who isn’t active on social media, has gained over 84 billion views so far through the hashtag #OfflineBoyfriend.
Most of the conversations started after model Bella Hadid opened up about it in an interview with Vogue.
This video by I-d magazine is actually pretty enlightening, if you’re looking to find out more.
TikTok wasn’t the only place social media users gushed about having an offline partner. Twitter users, too, were passionate about the idea.
For avid social media users (Instagram is my absolute vice), looking someone up on a platform is commonplace.
After all, before going on a date, you want to make sure you get a better sense of who this person is.
Knowing people want to do this, dating apps like Tinder and Bumble have integrations that allow users a chance to link their social accounts and even Spotify.
In the past, when I was dating casually, this was important to me.
I, like most women, pride myself at having exceptional “research” skills. By research, I mean stalking. And by stalking I mean, finding out everything I can about this person I’m about to meet.
As long as they have an Internet presence, I had some information about it.
Life with an offline boyfriend
Recently, though, like the women on TikTok, I’ve started appreciating the idea of an offline boyfriend. There’s just something so attractive about a partner that doesn’t feel the need to post their entire life online and doesn’t care about pop culture all too much.
For almost a year now, I’ve been dating an offline boyfriend. *Mark knows almost nothing about social media. Instead, he uses Instagram to keep up with me and our friends.
Most of the time, Mark is on Reddit and other forums.
He has hobbies, too. He plays games, goes road cycling, and he loves watching videos on YouTube.
The one major time Mark used Instagram was when he posted a picture of our engagement on his Stories and saved it as a highlight. That’s right, guys, I didn’t even make it to the actual grid.
Because I’m always online, Mark has to remind me to get off my phone and be in the moment whenever we’re spending time together.
Sometimes, it’s really refreshing that he’s like that. I like that our dates consist of us talking and discussing interesting topics — after I’ve taken copious food pics, though.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with social media.
While Instagram is lovely, I’m fairly certain it’s part of the reason I struggle with self-esteem issues on occasions.
In my first relationship, my high school boyfriend often followed and liked pictures of attractive women, and at one point, porn stars.
While he didn’t inherently do something wrong, I hated how his actions made me feel.
Soon, I started comparing myself to these women he liked.
Plus, at the time, Instagram showed the activity of the people you followed, so I was embarrassed at the thought of others knowing what my boyfriend was liking and doing online.
I had also developed fears that he would cyber cheat on me.
Looking back at it, if my boyfriend was an offline partner, I might not have felt the way I did.
Impact on relationships
Other women I’ve spoken to felt the same way.
Recently, a colleague shared how her husband’s fascination with scantily-clad women dancing on TikTok caused a slight rift in their relationship.
As a former social media manager, my colleague knew the perils of spending way too much time online and the feelings of insecurity that often creep up.
"I didn’t want to tell him to stop following women on TikTok, but it was really breaking my heart that he was following over 2,000 random girls," my colleague explained.
"I’ve started to really hate TikTok," she said. As she told me this, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to my experience with my first boyfriend.
And my colleague wasn’t the only one.
My best friend, *Natalie, has had similar experiences with *Josh, the guy she’s dating.
Now that influencers can purchase ads to boost the popularity of their accounts, Natalie has been served ads of the influencers her partner has liked and followed.
Josh, who’s a Gen Zer, spends a lot of his time online doesn’t realise that the Instagram algorithm doesn’t just affect him, it can also affect Natalie because the two spend heaps of time together
“I don’t get why he was liking photos of this basic girl. Does he think she’s prettier than me? The more I interact with the post, the more I get sent her stupid ads, too,” said Natalie.
But, what’s so appealing about an offline boyfriend? In the past, I’ve written about soft launching, and why posting about a relationship or a new partner so openly is such a huge risk.
If you’ve been observant enough about these anecdotal incidents above, you’ll realise that each of us have had negative experiences with our partners using social media.
In her interview with I-d, Dr Lexx Brown-James, a sex therapist, supports this view.
"I think a lot of people have sadly been hurt through social media," she said. "I also, sadly, think there is an idea that if a potential partner is offline, there is a belief (although false) that there is less risk of boundaries being violated or insecurities being triggered."
Fortunately for both my colleague and Natalie, their partners agreed to stop liking photos and following these women almost immediately.
"Sometimes I wish I didn’t care what he did online and didn’t find these things triggering," said Natalie after she had her conversation with Josh.
Despite their own experiences, both Natalie and my colleague love their partners to bits and love the fact that both their partners are quite aware of the ongoings in pop culture and the social media sphere.
That being said, having an offline boyfriend or husband isn’t always for everyone.
For some, a partner not on social media can seem more suspicious, and in the past, I used to feel the same way.
After all, I was always plugged in and loved shared memes and funny videos on Instagram.
Offline or online? Which side are you on?
A Millennial's Dating Diary series explores real-life interactions and the hurdles of dating in Southeast Asia. The series features the dating stories and misadventures of Arika – a 26-year-old, straight female marketing manager with a penchant for over drinking — and fellow millennials.