Never Tweet a Photo of Your Boyfriend Sleeping, and Other Rules for Social Media Romance

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Oct. 15 2013 10:10 AM

Never Tweet a Photo of Your Boyfriend Sleeping, and Other Rules for Social Media Romance

170920008
Rory McIlroy and Caroline Wozniacki interact offline.

Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

In September, tennis player Caroline Wozniacki took a photo of her boyfriend, golfer Rory McIlroy, asleep in bed—shirt off, eyes closed, slackened maw resting peacefully on his hand—then shot it off to her half a million Twitter followers. When Wozniacki’s friend Serena Williams saw the photo, she tweeted: “Omg Caro u are soooo mean!!!! Love it!!” Replied Wozniacki: “I know haha!! Can't fall asleep anymore! Always keeping an eye open lol!” This week, rumors surfaced that Wozniacki and McIlroy had ended their highly publicized two-year sports star romance, and that Wozniacki’s social media behavior was to blame.

Wozniacki has since denied the split ("I'm so tired of the rumors. They occur every time Rory and I are apart a few days or do not write on Twitter.”), and McIlroy, through his PR firm, said only that he “does not comment” on his relationships. But whatever is going on with these two supertweeters, it’s time we all have a talk about lovey-dovey updates on social media, and how they can impact the relationships we share with each other online and off.

Advertisement

Let’s dispense with the napping photo issue first, as it’s an easy call. Taking a mocking photograph of a loved one in repose is not kind. Tweeting it is a fireable offense. The bed is the most intimate of private spaces. It’s where we’re at our most physically and emotionally vulnerable. Sometimes, we are not even conscious there! It’s a privilege to share that with another person; publishing photographic evidence of whatever weird face your partner is making when he is not aware that he even exists—much less that your iPhone is clicking away within inches of his rapidly moving, yet unseeing, eyes—is a violation. This seems obvious, but Wozniacki is not the only high-profile offender. In 2010, Russell Brand tweeted a photograph of then-wife Katy Perry as she awoke in bed, her saucer-eyes frozen in fear in the dim glow of Brand’s cell phone camera. The photograph swiftly disappeared from Twitter, and their marriage soon dissolved. Brand finally unfollowed Perry on Twitter last year. “Bad Photographs,” a song on Perry’s forthcoming album, is presumed to be inspired by the relationship.

But even when romantic social media updates are ostensibly consensual, caution is advised. Love is so weird. We do and say things when we’re with romantic partners that would seem embarrassing and deranged if shared with the outside world, and that’s exhilarating. Publicity can spoil that intimacy. When New York Post reporter Stephanie Smith decided to inform the world, via blog, that she was meticulously crafting 300 sandwiches for her boyfriend in an effort to win his hand in marriage, humanity recoiled in disgust. “It was a joke,” Smith later said in her defense. “It was light. It’s funny. Come on, it’s a sandwich. It’s supposed to be just lighthearted.” “Make me a sandwich” is hopefully not a very cute joke in most intimate relationships. But even the most delightful inside jokes wither under the harsh light of public scrutiny. Some moments acquire beauty and meaning not through their literal content, but by virtue of their limited audience.

That’s not to say that interfacing with loved ones on social media is always, necessarily icky. Say you’ve just become engaged (no, “I’m 124 sandwiches away” does not count). By all means, blast the news to your followers, who are sure to share in your happiness (or at least feel socially constrained to politely refrain from publicizing their annoyance). Showing digital affection in non-milestone situations is a more subtle art. The occasional photograph shared on Facebook or Instagram can signal respect for your partner and your relationship's place in your community, so long as the photo in question was snapped consensually, and is not objectively gross (a potential exception is reserved for Mariah Carey, who should never stop tweeting her boobs at Nick Cannon as long as they both shall live). Favoriting a tweet or deep liking an Instagram photo ensures that your avatar will appear on your other’s feed without alerting the whole wide world. These strategies spare friends and strangers from being repulsed by your relationship, and they also ensure that some interactions are kept just between you. When in doubt, take it to Gchat, guys—it’s getting kind of weird. Even Wozniacki appears to have learned the virtues of locking it down: After the latest round of speculation about her love life, she said, “from now on I just think that I will keep my private life private.”

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

Where Ebola Lives Between Outbreaks

Gunman Killed Inside Canadian Parliament; Soldier Shot at National Monument Dies

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Paul Farmer: Up to 90 Percent of Ebola Patients Should Survive

Is he right?

Science

“I’m Not a Scientist” Is No Excuse

Politicians brag about their ignorance while making ignorant decisions.

Politics

The Right to Run

If you can vote, you should be able to run for public office—any office.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea 

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 6:30 PM The Tragedies That Have Shaped Canada's Gun Politics
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 22 2014 5:54 PM May I Offer to Sharpen My Friends’ Knives? Or would that be rude?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.