Two years ago, Josh Logiudice met a woman named Bianca on Tinder. They instantly hit it off; conversation came easily between them and she was even a fan of his favorite hardcore punk band from Buffalo, New York, their shared hometown.
She was seemingly a perfect match ― but there was one catch: She had no social media presence whatsoever.
“Her not having social media kind of sketched me out at first because of how easy it is to catfish people nowadays ― and who doesn’t have Twitter?” the 22-year-old told HuffPost. “Initially I thought, ‘I wonder if this is an actual person.’”
In the age of oversharing, Logiudice had basically fallen for a human tabula rasa ― or at least she seemed that way online. Without even an old Facebook account to search for, he was left with a lot of unanswered questions about Bianca: Was he chatting with a lady serial killer? A perfectly nice person who simply didn’t want to publicize every last detail of her personal life on the internet?
Luckily for Logiudice, his Tinder match wasn’t a murderer, just a woman indifferent to social media. The couple is still together today.
“We texted and became friends for a couple months before we actually met in person, even though we only lived a couple miles from each other,” he said. “Since we talked for a while I was able to get a sense of what she liked without needing a social media presence.”
In the end, the couple got to know each other the old-fashioned way. But as Logiudice’s initial hesitance suggests, there is something a little unsettling about someone without a digital footprint. How are you going to know what they really look like if you can’t see tagged photos? What if they’re a flat-earther and you have to find out about it in person, over $18 cocktails, because they had nowhere to rant about it online?
Alternately, falling for someone without social media could eventually be a huge win: You’re not going to catch them “liking” underwear models on Instagram! They won’t spend the whole date Instagramming or tweeting! Sounds like a dream, right?
Of course, I pose these questions as someone who will hear a friend say, “I can’t find him on social media” and take it as an invitation to conduct a deep-dive investigation. (His mother’s name is Carol, he’s an “entrepreneur” at a vape company and ― I’m sorry ― he was posting memes about “libtards” as recently as 2013.)
Nothing brings out your inner FBI agent like falling in love. And that impulse to do pre-date reconnaissance is completely natural, said Tess Brigham, a psychotherapist in San Francisco.
“When we lack a certain amount of information about something, our brains want to make sense of it by filling in the blanks,” she said. “If you’re someone who tends to be anxious, your brain will fill in the blanks with stories and images of ‘worse-case scenarios.’”
“If there is nothing on social media, it’s easy to start to wonder, ‘Who is this person?’” she said.
We know social media is performative, that a carefully curated Instagram grid rarely matches up to a person’s real life. Even so, we still crave some digital approximation of a person before meeting them IRL.
“You might intellectually know how we appear on social media isn’t ‘real life’ but it still allows us a glimpse into a person’s life,” Brigham said. “It’s nice to at least see this potential partner with his or her dog at the park or out with friends or going to a concert.”
Especially for women, “it helps us see this person in situations and activities that feel familiar and safe and thus reduce our anxiety,” she said.
For some singles, no social media presence is an actual deal breaker. Sarah Hendrica Bickerton, a Ph.D. student researching New Zealand political participation online, conducts so much of her life online, she can’t imagine falling in love with a digital minimalist.
“Social media is such a big part of who I am and how I interact with so many people,” she told HuffPost. “To not have that as an intersection with a partner would mean they’re separate from a considerable chunk of my life, which seems wrong.”
Bickerton said she’d cave for the right woman, but joked that she’d still have conditions: “I would look sideways if someone was just all about Facebook, mind you. Because Facebook.”
Mia Young, a 21-year-old graphic design student in Fort Worth, Texas, met her social media-less boyfriend Beto during their freshman year of high school. Given how much of the high school experience is carried out online, Beto’s indifference to Instagram and other apps made Young feel conflicted.
“Everyone I knew was all about social media,” she said. “It was the only way we all knew what was going on in high school land. But I think Beto saw how it affected others: it was like having two personas of who you are and who you want to portray yourself as online, to gain validation from your classmates.”
Five years later, Beto’s lack of social media doesn’t faze her.
“I don’t need him to show me off because he shows me in so many other ways that are more meaningful than any half-assed Instagram post,” she said. “I don’t need him to have a social media account if he has no interest in it, besides making me ‘happy’ by telling his two followers how much he loves me. It feels so robotic.”
Young and her boyfriend may be onto something: A 2018 study suggested that posting frequently about your relationship may be a mask for relationship insecurity.
That’s not the only advantage of dating sans social media. Emily Portelli met her boyfriend, Nick, last summer. She said not being able to look him up online actually made getting to know him more interesting since there were no posts for her to read and make assumptions about.
“Anything I wanted to know I simply asked and got the response I wanted,” said Portelli, who works at a record label in Toronto. “There was no opportunity for me to lurk around and find things to make assumptions about. It allowed us to be really open about who we are and what we wanted out of a relationship, what bothered us and any hardships we faced.”
Even better, Portelli said, Nick is truly present in their relationship. When he’s at dinner with her, he’s at dinner with her, not hunched over a small screen, scrolling. (Of course there’s a term for that: phubbing.)
“I’ve dated people in the past who spent all our time together on their phone. I didn’t feel paid attention to or that they were present in our relationship,” she said. “With Nick, I never feel like that. We’re never on our phones when we’re together unless it’s to check the time or answer a call.”
Indeed, once you get past the initial hurdle of knowing the bare minimum about your date, falling for someone without social media is actually great: Imagine how wonderful it would be to date someone who’s blissfully ignorant of Instagram micro-influencers like Caroline Calloway or Jim Carrey’s weekly works of “art.”
I speak from experience: I once dated a guy who had no social media besides a Twitter account he kept to promote his company’s work. His phone rarely made an appearance on our dates. (Of course, as a result, I had to explain to him what an incel was and how Stacys, Chads and soy boys figured into their world view. Regrettably, I also had to explain how Stormy Daniels had said Donald Trump’s penis resembles Toad From “Mario Kart.” I felt like the keeper of so much knowledge! Incredibly bad knowledge, but knowledge nonetheless.)
So, yes, you spend a lot of time updating your partner on online gossip (and have to send memes via text) but, ultimately, the positives outweigh the negatives.
As Brigham explained, not having a social media presence means you get to know a person in real life, in real time, and get to experience things in the moment together.
“It means the two of you can simply watch a sunset and relish in that moment, knowing this was a moment just between the two of you and not the two of you and all of your followers,” she said. “That’s the huge benefit to it: You can really be in the moment as a couple.”
Hey, it’s hard not to “like” that.