What Is a Soft Launch and Why Is Everybody Doing it?

man taking photo of girlfriend at dinner
Photo: filadendron / Getty
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
Hayley Folk
The Knot Contributor
  • Hayley writes articles on a freelance basis for The Knot Worldwide, with a specialty in sex and relationships.
  • Her work has appeared in The Knot, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and more.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Hayley was a full-time editor at a business publication.
Updated Nov 29, 2023

POV: you're scrolling through Instagram and see a photo of your friend holding hands with someone from across a table. You can't tell who the other hand belongs to, but it seems romantic—date-y even. The caption reads: "Soft launch."

Not to be mistaken with the soft launch of a product or marketing tactic, this trending social media phrase is one you may have noticed pop up on you feed but are unsure of its meaning: So what is soft launching? What's a soft launch vs. hard launch? And what does it mean to soft launch a relationship?

Learn everything you need to know about the trendiest, most elusive way to share a new relationship with the world, below.

In this article:

What Is a Soft Launch?

In the new age of dating, a soft launch is when you slowly share that you're in a relationship with someone to your online presence. The soft launch meaning is quite simple: It's a light-handed, slow-moving way to show just enough of your new boo on your Instagram stories or social media that family, friends and onlookers may assume you're in a relationship—but don't have all the deets quite yet.

It's a gentle way of introducing your potential significant other, without fully committing to showcasing anything and everything about them for all to see.

Soft Launch vs. Hard Launch of a Relationship

Not to be confused with a hard launch—when someone showcases their relationship full speed ahead on social media—a soft launch is a quieter, tamer version of telling the world you've got a special someone.

The soft launch vs. hard launch might seem confusing, but the difference is actually pretty distinguishable: The hard launch of a new relationship leaves no room for guessing about someone's new boo. A soft launch is a bit more private and even secretive.

In a world where everything is on social media, it's nice to have some things that are kept just for you—like the beginning stages of a new relationship, for example. "One thing I love is a good soft launch," TikTok user @itsmiahnotmia says. "A good soft launch gives just enough, but not too much."

It's giving mystery, intrigue, fun and, above all, privacy. Which is exactly what a lot of people crave in the digital age of social media, constant cameras and online followers.

Reasons You Might Want to Soft Launch a Relationship

If you're unfamiliar with the soft launch boyfriend or are considering going the route, these are some of the many reasons folks are choosing to soft launch a relationship.

1. You want some privacy

Sometimes, you just need to keep things to yourself. That may include the beginning stages of a new relationship. When hard launching a new relationship too early, it can sometimes take away from the honeymoon phase of getting to know someone due to the possibility of outside opinions or inquiring DMs. Soft launching is a great way to maintain some privacy while also showcasing that you do in fact have a new love interest.

2. You have been single for awhile

If you've been single for a hot minute after a very committed relationship, it can feel challenging to put yourself back out there. Once you've started dating again though, the soft launch can be an excellent way to show you're back in the game while cherishing the beginning phase of the new relationship. Instead of jumping into the water, tip-toe instead. That pace might be just what you need.

3. It takes you back to old times

In some ways, practicing the soft launch is like taking yourself back to the old days, before everyone could find out everything about you with a simple click, double tab or scroll.

4. You want to be a little mysterious

The elusive, mysterious nature of the soft launch is definitely part of the appeal. "I love when a couple decides to soft launch for the first time," TikTok user @siblingsspamssometimess says. "A girls soft launch is kind of like playing Clue or Murder Mystery. You're gonna get a hand, you're gonna get a leg, you're gonna get a shadow, maybe even a hand with a fork. Looking at those posts, it's kind of like reading an old english poem."

Ways to Soft Launch Your Relationship

If you think the soft launch might be for you, we've got some great ideas on how you can perfectly execute it, here.

1. Post a photo of your partner's drink next to yours

At first glance, it's just a drink. At second glance, it's a pair of drinks. At third glance, it's obvious that someone is drinking with you. The suspense and intrigue of your friends will be high on this one.

2. Post a story of your date walking in front of you

It's subtle, but not too subtle. Posting a photo or video of the back of your significant other's head while they walk in front of you is a sure sign that you're hanging out with someone. Whether it's a date or not, everyone will wonder.

3. Show a photo of someone's hands while on a date

Whether you're sitting from across the table and take a photo of their hands, or you're including a meal photo with their hand in it, it's a pretty cute way to soft launch that you're seeing someone special.

4. Post a kissing photo (but not with their face in it)

This one is *almost* classified as a hard launch, but not quite. You've read it here: If you take a kissing photo, but can only see the back of their head, it's still considered a soft launch.

5. Post a photo of their feet

One of our personal faves: posting a photo of your feet together on a walk, sitting on the beach or while on a hike. It screams IYKYK.

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