Whenever you notice a Close Friends update pop up in your queue of Instagram Stories, you probably rush to tap it before looking at anything else. Let's be real, there’s a high chance this content is juicy. If the story has been designated as Close Friends-only, it’s safe to assume the poster doesn’t want it to be seen by a larger crowd — which makes you feel like a privileged insider. And oftentimes, this intuition isn't far off. More and more people are using Close Friends to announce their relationships on Instagram, telling their core crew before letting the whole world know — if they choose to go public at all.
The trend appears to stem from people's growing uncertainty about sharing their love lives so openly. When you’re dating someone new, the relationship can feel precarious for awhile. “Will it last? Does this person like me as much as I like them?” While you’re figuring these things out, the last thing you need is the pressure of your entire social media following fiercely stanning you and your new boo. Not long ago, it was commonplace to announce your relationship by becoming Insta official, but lately, it’s become much more complicated. A July 2019 survey of 139 Bustle Digital Group readers found that only 36% said becoming Instagram official was important to them. A whopping 50% said they didn’t care about the milestone at all.
Even still, social media is weighted with expectation and scrutiny from those who follow you. "I have accidentally shown an SO's face on an Instagram Story and immediately gotten a bunch of questions about my love life — details I do not like to share publicly," one reader, Daneysi T., told Elite Daily during a July 2019 roundtable discussion on modern relationships. "So, yeah, it gives me anxiety." In light of all this, showing off your new boo to Close Friends only is a safer way to gradually introduce them on social media. Then, once you’re more comfortable, you can craft that perfect couple post for the feed, if you want to.
A Facebook company spokesperson tells Elite Daily that the Close Friends feature allows people to connect on a more intimate level. "Over time our community has grown, but we know that you sometimes want to share with just a small group of the people closest to you — with close friends, you have the flexibility to share those more personal moments with a smaller group that you choose," the rep explains. "We’re excited by what we’ve seen so far with Close Friends. Millions of people are using the feature and we see Close Friends Stories posts lead to lots of engagement and connection with friends."
Brianna, 24, referred to her new partner as her “boyfriend” for the first time on a Close Friends Story — and she curated the audience specifically to share the video with them. “The video I decided to record of him seemed a little personal to me, but at the same time, I thought it was too cute not to share,” she tells Elite Daily. “So I decided it was time for a Close Friends list. It was like an inner compromise.” This way, she got to share the video with people she trusted, but she didn’t have to put her private information out into the world. Now, she and her boyfriend Zack are happily Instagram official on her feed. Here’s a peek of that video of Zack that Brianna shared to her Close Friends Story:
For Michelle*, 26, sharing her relationship privately was partially done to appease her new partner, who wasn’t keen to announce the news to her thousands of followers. “My boyfriend is older and more old-fashioned than me in a lot of regards, and he isn’t super comfortable with our relationship being so public and out in the world, especially since I have a bigger platform than he does,” she explains. “So... Close Friends equals compromise!” This way, she can still post relationship content without the pressure of thousands of eyes on it.
Another perk of using Close Friends is that the feature feels safe and judgment-free — you can share your most authentic, unfiltered self with that trustworthy group of people. Anna, 23, followed along as one of her Close Friends shared every detail of a roller coaster first date. “She apparently met him on a dating app,” Anna tells Elite Daily. “After announcing she had met someone, she put up a series of screenshots from his profile, live-reported their first couple dates, his two-day ghosting of her, and finally that they were together, all on her Close Friends Story. It was a wild ride.” You can even throw subtle shade at your Tinder matches, or the person you’ve recently started seeing, on your Close Friends Story — because chances are, your new boo hasn’t made that list just yet. In some ways, it could be compared to using a finsta to share relatable life updates.
Using the Close Friends feature is just one practice in a larger trend of more subtle relationship announcements online. There’s also the Instagram carousel feature, which allows you to display your boo as the second or third picture in a larger series. Only your dedicated followers (the ones who actually take time to swipe through the photos) will notice, so there's less pressure. And a quick scroll through your profile won’t immediately reveal your relationship status. I did this with my current partner without even thinking much of it at the time. We had gone on a cute pizza-making date, and I wanted to share the photos, but I wasn’t ready to plaster #relationshipgoals content all over my feed. So, I snuck him in as the second pic in a series of two. It was like a clever “wink” to committed followers that I had a new man.
In a time when posting on social media can feel more like a burden than a legitimately enjoyable hobby — a November 2018 Pew Research Center study found that 43% of teenage respondents felt pressure to only post content that made them look good — it makes sense that people are turning to less stressful ways of updating people about their new partners. By sharing your relationship with Close Friends first, you can avoid the anxiety of having hundreds, or even thousands, of hypercritical eyes on your personal life. It’s almost like a group chat — what happens there, stays there. And then when you’re ready to shout your love life from the rooftops, you can do so in your own time.
*Name has been changed.