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‘Soft launch September’ is the dating trend all about romance without consequences

So you’re on your dream trip to Greece and you’ve just checked into your hotel overlooking the Acropolis of Athens. It’s only fair that you click a meta mirror selfie to update your Instagram followers at this point. But wait, is that a third leg I see popping into the frame from a dim-lit corner? You then click a blurry snap of you petting stray cats as the rite of passage in Santorini. Hold up, is that an under-moisturised elbow on the table again? “Girl, just who are you on this trip with?” reads an urgent reply to your Story.

Your Instagram goes on to feature a suspicious second set of luggage as the mystery companion is seen dining across the table and even flexing cringey couple tees in faceless photos. Now your followers are super invested in your alleged boo. Nobody’s focusing on the food aesthetically plated in front of you. Instead, they’d sell their souls to know if you’re officially off the market or not.

Introducing the incognito little world of ‘soft launching’. Or as I like to call it, borderline-gaslighting your followers to doubt their own love lives as you bask in romance without consequences.

What is soft launching?

To truly understand the concept of soft launching in the dating sphere, it’s essential to look back to the term’s origins in… marketing and advertising. In business, a soft launch (also known as a soft opening) is a preview release of a product or service to a limited audience before it’s introduced to the general public—majorly with the intent of gathering data or gauging customer feedback before its grand kick-off.

Here, soft launch also refers to the gradual release of a product in stages which, in turn, slowly helps develop the merchandise into an offering optimised for the market.

Soft launching a romantic partner across social media platforms works on similar pillars. For instance, a restaurant may host a soft launch before its official opening to understand accounting and ensure if they’re sufficiently stocked. A video game may be soft launched to analyse any glitches with a preview audience. And a boyfriend may be soft launched to know the first impression of your social media circle before you truly solidify your relationship.

The concept essentially involves uploading sneak peeks of your partner in the most cryptic way possible—be it via non-descriptive photo dumps or blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cutout collages. Oh, and tagging their username in your photos is an absolute no-no. Sure, you can ghost tag them on your Instagram Stories but anything more would be a dealbreaker in the initial stages of your relationship PR.

If you’re still finding it hard to grasp the term, think about the time Kourtney Kardashian first announced her relationship with Travis Barker by posting a caption-less and tag-less picture of their intertwined hands on Instagram. Mysterious.

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A post shared by Kourtney Kardashian Barker (@kourtneykardash)

The hard launch of soft launch

Soft launch first evolved from a corporate jargon to a dating term when Shiva Baby and Bodies Bodies Bodies star Rachel Anne Sennott debuted the word on Twitter back in July 2020. “Congrats on the instagram soft launch of ur boyfriend (pic on story, elbow and side profile only),” Sennott tweeted at the time, which has since garnered over 127,000 likes.

Just like that, everyone had a new phrase to describe the awkward ‘talking phase’ of their dating lives—you know, the one where your relationship hasn’t hit the commitment level of a full face reveal and you’re wondering what others think about your way forward.

Given the rise of documenting our lives in snippets online, it’s no surprise to see soft launches gripping our feeds like mini Easter eggs even in 2022. With 27.2 million views on the hashtag, TikTok is swamped with tutorials on “cute ways to soft launch your relationship” on apps like BeReal as users dish caption ideas and even twist the trend into the perfect way to trigger your toxic ex. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Today, you can soft launch everything in your life from tattoos, breakups and divorces to your sexuality and even your personality to co-workers. The concept also comes as a huge contrast to the early 2010s, when relationships were all about hard launching your boo by going ‘Facebook official’ and updating your profile status to “in a relationship”—with full face and body shots to match.

@deliverablesbydani

#greenscreen #AerieREAL #softlaunch #mirandacosgrove #workhumor #coworkers #consultinfhumor #copywritersoftiktok #artdirectorslife #corporate #corporatelife #corporatehumor

♬ original sound - random videos

What is soft launch September?

All hail! It’s September and we’re finally inching closer to the colder months of the year. As pumpkin spice latte and UGGs once again dominate internet and meme culture alike, September also brings the nosebleed section of the cuffing season back into mainstream conversation.

While August is considered to be the ‘scouting’ phase in the cuffing season schedule, September is all about ‘drafting’ your potential partner before entering the ‘tryout’ stage in October—as singles increasingly desire to be tied down in serious relationships. And what better way to subtly draft your match than soft launching them on social media?

This is why the transitional month is dubbed as ‘soft launch September’. Well, also majorly because the two terms rhyme, like in the case of ‘No Nut November’ and ‘Jack it January’. In the dating sphere, September is hence a hallmark month for building suspense around your would-be partner, all the while ensuring their privacy and indulging yourselves in the gleeful phase.

@corashircel

I do this because its fun okay. Also your DMs and reactions are my favorite #greenscreen #greenscreenvideo #ShowUrGrillSkillz #FilmTeyvatIslands #softlaunch #softlaunching #relationship

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So what are you waiting for? If you’ve been looking for a sign to debut your match on Instagram, this is it. Start with a cryptic Story and work your way into a photo dump carousel that lasts more than just 24 hours on your profile. Sure, some of your followers might just eye-roll-and-scroll through your soft launch strategies but others may be more invested in your relationship than TikTok once was with the dude building an eel farm in his backyard.

At the end of the day, know that even if your soft launch doesn’t actually land, you don’t have any solid evidence to prove you were in a serious relationship anyways. There’s no username for others to stalk and no face that will continue to live in your followers’ memories even after you move on. The best part? You can continue teasing your social media circle with snippets of your beau without an actual reveal forever—as long as it’s a mutual decision taken together with your partner, that is.

@laurenromeo__

the urge to be sneaky #softlaunch

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‘Cost of loving crisis’: Cash-candid dating is the latest financial trend gripping gen Z and millennials

In 2022, the dating world has no time to spare. Following two years of lockdowns and restrictions, single people are making their priorities and preferences clear from the get-go now more than ever before. As trends like hobby dating and awareness about toxic practices including kittenfishing and Kanye-ing continue to gather mainstream attention, a new topic has debuted on the list of obligatory icebreakers: finance.

Meet cash-candid dating, a monetary trend rooted in the cost of living crisis where singletons are being more honest and open about money matters with their matches.

What is cash-candid dating?

According to a new consumer research by women-first dating app Bumble, commissioned through YouGov, talking about one’s financial situation with their dates is no longer considered ‘taboo’. In fact, some straight-talking gen Z and millennials are reportedly discussing their salary with a new flame almost straight away.

In cash-candid dating, this level of honesty and overlay of finance and romantic relationships has, in turn, paved the way to ‘low-key dates’—a meetup with little to no costs involved, which ultimately leads to less monetary pressure on both parties in question.

The results of the research also indicate that one in three people (34 per cent) aged between 18 to 34 across the UK are now more likely to suggest a free date activity, such as a walk in the park or on a beach, than they were at the start of 2022. Nearly half (42 per cent) of them also admitted to preferring “modest” date locations to avoid any stress about money whatsoever.

While one in ten (11 per cent) of daters said they are open to discussing salaries on the first few dates, as they believe it’s an important factor to know about a potential partner, almost one in five (19 per cent) mentioned the fact that it’s more imperative to them now—given the cost of living crisis rippling across the globe—to be with someone who is financially stable than it was at the start of this year.

On the other hand, only six per cent of participants admitted to never talking about finances with someone they’re dating. This ultimately suggests that, for the majority of single people, discussions about money are no longer inhibited.

@charlieandviyaleta

What date should we do for our next instacart order? #fyp #foryou #couplegoals #dateideas #charlieandviyaleta #girlfriend

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Compared to other generations, gen Z and millennials aged between 18 to 34 also proved to be the most concerned and pressured with their spending habits—with 30 per cent of them being conscious of their date’s budget when suggesting a venue, compared to just 19 per cent of people aged 35 to 54. 21 per cent of gen Zers and millennials are further more likely to set themselves a budget to spend on a date than they were at the beginning of the year, compared to just 12 per cent of singles older than 34.

Now, cash-candid dating is not about outright baring your financial history to your partner on the first date. Sure, it can be considered part of ‘cutting to the chase’, but the monetary shift in priorities is essentially hinged on being frank about your fiscal status to better navigate decisions together by planning financially-viable dates.

How to approach monetary conversations 101

Let’s be honest here. Whether you like it or not, money is an inevitable part of dating and the conversation about who should pick up the bill and how often you should go out on dates is bound to arise at some point. So, how exactly do you bring the topic of money up in the early stages of dating without making things feel… awkward?

Partnering with Alice Tapper, the financial expert behind popular social media platform Go Fund Yourself, here are some tips Bumble has sketched about navigating cash-candid dating like a true pro:

1. How to suggest a low-key first date

“Being ten minutes into a three-course dinner and realising there is zero vibe is an expensive but avoidable situation,” Tapper said. “Save yourself the pain of having to think up an elaborate excuse in the loo—your mate suddenly contracting a tropical virus is not compelling—and kick things off with a short and simple low-key date.” Think a breezy walk in the park during the weekends or a quick morning coffee run. You get the idea.

@withlovewick

Reply to @ahohnmhoe 🤑 3 budget-friendly ideas (+great for long distance couples if you’re creative with video chat!) #freedateideas #datenight #ldr #relationshiptips #withlovewick #couples

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2. How to suggest splitting the bill

Given how the subject is a controversial one, Tapper believes nobody should be picking up the full tab unless they really, really want to. “Times are tough and, thankfully, we’re moving beyond gendered expectations of who pays for what,” she said. “While paying can be a kind gesture, it often creates unhelpful expectations and pressure. On the first date, in particular, there’s no shame in confidently asking ‘Shall we split?’.”

In fact, research from Bumble shows a quarter (25 per cent) of gen Z and millennials believe that you should split costs of the date even if you and your match have different salaries.

3. How to figure out if you’re on the same page about finances

Now, onto the elephant in the room: how do you work out someone’s values when it comes to finances in the first place? According to Tapper, having open conversations about money and earnings with your date (the concept of cash-candid dating in its true essence) are good places to start.

“On a first date, you can kick things off with questions like ‘Is work important to you or a means to an end?’ Down the line, you might move on to bigger conversations like whether they prioritise saving and paying off debt. Remember, there are no right answers—it’s just about what your values are and whether they align.”

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A post shared by GO FUND YOURSELF ® (@gofundyourself)

4. Value over wealth

Lastly, while we’ve all heard the advice that it’s important to ‘find someone who has the same values as you’, remember that financial values are an important standard to consider as well. That being said, it’s also recommended to avoid basing your entire relationship on this factor altogether.

“We’re all guilty of making assessments about a date, but what someone earns is only half the story,” Tapper said. “While it’s okay to want financial stability, someone’s behaviour and values around money are more important than what they earn.”

At the end of the day, while it’s totally fair to know about your potential partner’s financial health, remember to tread with patience and make sure your match is comfortable discussing the same. This will not only encourage a more transparent relationship but, ultimately, you’ll come out as a stronger unit than ever before.