How Instagram allows men to keep us on the shelf

By Priya Alika

“He still watches all my Instagram stories” – young women everywhere. We’re talking about the men who we went on a couple dates with. The men who it didn’t go anywhere with. The men who pulled a slow fade out of our lives after we hooked up. These are the men who sit through all 26 of our blurry Instagram stories taken at the Beyoncé concert. Every time we post, within minutes of posting – there they are. Watching us. Liking our posts. 

But why? It can feel really frustrating. We know that Jared didn’t really like us! At least, not enough to go on a third date. But he aggressively ‘likes’ posts on Instagram, and never skips over a single IG story. What’s the point of that? Surely he can’t be that curious about what we’re up to these days. 

Here’s the thing about Instagram: like all other forms of social media, it is a shortcut. Shortcuts can be a good thing (we know how our friends are doing without needing to call them!) But when it comes to dating, shortcuts are terrible. And in this case, Instagram gives men shortcuts. 

Lukewarm men are everywhere  

Modern technology has changed the nature of dating: we keep people on the shelf for much longer than we used to. (There’s even a term for this – it’s called benching or breadcrumbing.) You’re always going to run into them: these men who don’t like you, but who aren’t totally indifferent either. Let’s say they’re lukewarm on you. You are not a priority to them, but you’re definitely an option. 

They don’t want to get into a relationship with you, but they want to make sure that they could still have sex with you when they chose. Remember, lots of men see sex as acquisitive. If they have sex with you once, they may think of you in ownership terms. 

So to maintain a cordial, bare-bones, relationship, they’ll still follow you on social media. It’s the equivalent of leaving a bag on a chair while you go to the bathroom: they want to save a place for later. 

They leave clues 

Has your Tinder date from six months ago suddenly begun watching all your stories? Is the cute boy who froze you out after sex suddenly double-tapping all your posts? Well, be prepared: there’s a good chance they’re ramping up to contact you again. 

Before you know it, they’ll be sliding in the DM with a “Hey, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? We should catch up soon…” Commenting on your gym selfies is sort of like preheating the oven (in Boy World). He’s letting you know that he’s still in the game. 

What you should do about it 

Okay, so now you understand why that one boy you had a one-night stand with is always lurking your IG. What should you do about it? 

Honestly, the answer is: nothing. Do nothing about it. It’s not your problem. If he wants to look at each and every single selfie you take until the day you both die, well, good for him. (Your selfies deserve the appreciation!) 

Unless, of course, it’s actively bothering you. If seeing his name in the list of people who viewed your IG story irks you that much, feel free to block him. Women are made to feel guilty all the time for setting perfectly reasonable boundaries, but you shouldn’t. It is a privilege to witness somebody’s life on social media, and you do not have to give that privilege to your ex-fling. Let him spend his days aimlessly clicking through other people’s holiday pictures, sis. You are no longer an option.

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