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.
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.
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.
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.
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.