Your followers: “Who’s this mysterious stranger in slide #7?!

Move over, old relationship! It’s time for someone new, something fresh. But… what about all the posts and pictures you had together with your ex?

The good news is that the tradition of removing any and all traces of your ex’s existence doesn’t have to be a thing anymore thanks to (*drumroll, please*) the soft launch.

The hard launch is the way things have been done for more than a decade. One day when things got serious enough, you’d post an obvious couple pic with the person’s face in clear focus, declaring to all that “WE ARE NOW TOGETHER.” You might even tag them because it was all about making your status v clear.

Read on for everything you need to know about soft launching your next relationship.

So what actually *is* a soft launch?

A soft launch is much subtle and casual way of introducing a relationship online without actually introducing it. Why overthink it when all it takes is a mysterious arm in a slideshow?

Soft launches are all about clever shots that insinuated you were with someone. This could be done either in a post or in an IG story. Think: two drinks on a swanky bar top, a hand that’s def not yours resting on your knee, or a pretty bouquet of red roses with someone’s shadow in the background.

Honestly the month(s) of long soft-launches of new boyfriends or girlfriends are so cool; a hand at the other side of the table, in the corner of the picture? god forbid, a mysterious bunch of flowers on your story? a hotel room??

While this type of soft launching is still extremely common, a newer one is taking form that’s even easier on the grid. Now, it’s a matter of making a carousel post and casually inserting a soft launch in the dump of photos. So like, you have a picture of a cute street, you and your dog at the beach, a bagel, and then in the midst of all these random things, a photo with the new boo. It can be OG soft launch style with their face hidden, or you can go all out and show ’em, because hi, it’s buried in a bunch of other photos!!! Like this, if you break up, you won’t even have to delete the post!

How is a soft launch different from a hard launch?

The two relationship announcing tactics could not be more different. You see, back in the days when MySpace was phasing out and Facebook was just becoming A Thing, there was nothing more thrilling than literally changing your status from “single” to “in a relationship.” When this was done, you’d often tag your new S.O. (anxiously waiting for them to accept), and bam! It was declared across the land that the two of you were *officially* an item.

Once people moved over to Instagram and there wasn’t a text option to say you’re taken, the hard launch evolved into posting a very clear ~couple~ photo. Some common ones included pics of you snuggling together on the couch, kissing someplace romantic, or posing with your hand possessively on their chest, their face clearly in the shot. Even more, you’d usually tag the other person so your followers could easily stalk your new partner. Commenters would say things like “finally” or “mom and dad,” and just like that, you’d be #CoupleGoals. Even though the hard launch has slightly slipped in fashion, that doesn’t mean it’s not still an option if that’s more your speed.

Why would someone want to soft launch their partner?

Not only is the soft launch fun—it literally makes you feel like a celeb hiding Easter eggs about your life—but it’s a much lower-stakes way of sharing your bond with your followers. If you’re not exactly sure where you stand yet as a couple, don’t personally feel ready to let everyone know who you’re hooking up with or you just want to build the suspense, a soft launch is basically a given. Plus, if things *do* go south, it involves a whole lot less deleting on your part. Carousels containing not-so-incriminating pics with your former S.O. hiding in the midst can totally stay, as can shots of flowers, drinks, and two dinner plates.

How, exactly, do you do a soft launch?

If you’re officially sold on the soft launch and ready to take it to your socials, it’s actually much easier than you might think. First, take a ton of artsy photos that imply you’re with someone. The dual cocktails, shadow selfies, two tickets for a show, and your hand casually holding someone else’s are all classics. If you want to get a little bolder, take a mirror selfie over their shoulder, so your face is shown but followers can only see your new cutie’s back. If you want to go the carousel route, it’s simply a matter of selecting a whole bunch of unrelated photos and then on the sixth or seventh slide, showing a picture with The Person before going back to random shots. Now just caption the post something simple like “august” or “nowadays” and you’ll be set.

Whether you hard launch, soft launch, or literally keep the deets under wraps until you’re married with three kids, it’s totally up to you. As long as you feel good about what you post and the person in your pics makes you feel like a GD queen, we’ll happily Like, comment, and subscribe.