Are You Insane If You Ask Your Boyfriend to Untag His Exes?

The new mating norm: meet someone, start to date, become his friend on social networks, check out her profiles.The new mating norm: meet someone, start to date, become his friend on social networks, check out her profiles …The new mating norm: meet someone, start to date, become his friend on social networks, check out her profiles. At some point down the line, you're going to see them - pics of him with an ex, or perhaps two exes, or perhaps ten. The pics could be three years old, they could be from last week. And there they sit, living on the Internet for all eternity.

UNLESS…you break the digital wall and ask your beloved to untag himself. Is this a wonderful idea? A terrible one? Are you saving yourself from heartache and setting a good precedent for communication? Or falling on the sword of your dignity? The HowAboutWe editorial team was hopelessly divided, so we decided to offer the full range of viewpoints.

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Melissa Wall, Editorial Director:

I would be a hypocrite if I said, "It's ridiculous to ask your new boyfriend to untag pictures with his ex on Facebook," since I've done it. As with everything, whether it's appropriate (or advisable) all depends on circumstances. When a relationship is new, things are so fragile, and there's a lot that can upset the balance. One of the most common ways to learn more about a wonderful new person is to look through his/her Facebook photos - it'll give you an amazingly detailed look into your love interest's life, at least since 2006 or so. Naturally you should expect to see pictures of exes if you're looking through hundreds of photos over periods of years. So you should expect to have to deal with the feelings it'll bring up to see her skydiving with the same ruggedly handsome dude that took her to a wedding in Italy the month before.

But once you start to enter that crucial stage where you're both getting ready to play your full hand and commit fully, it's ok to request that he/she untag a few of those photos. Or all of them.

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Why? Because Facebook is a public place. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having and keeping photos from your past relationships - every relationship is a crucial part of you, your identity, your past, etc., and anyone you date should respect that. But there's a massive difference between having these photos stored in a private place (a folder on your hard drive) versus displayed on the world's biggest social network. Once you commit to someone, you should reflect that commitment throughout your life - you're not the exact same person you were when you were single, you're now part of a relationship. The commitment/love/devotion you feel needs to be reflected in the Real World. Commitment and love and the rest of it are just abstractions - they don't "exist" in reality except for how we manifest them (aka wearing wedding rings). So the "You" that you present to the billion or so people on Facebook also needs to evolve into this new "in a relationship" person. Which may include untagging a few photos that publicly tie you to other relationships.

Granted, if they're more than 2 years old, maybe everyone just needs to chill.

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Chiara Atik, Writer:

I don't think it's okay to ask your boyfriend to untag pictures of his ex on Facebook. It's revisionist history! For better or for worse, we're living in an era where your entire life history can be told through google searches, where the past 9 years of your life can be flipped through with the click of a mouse - old haircuts, apartments, trends, and, yes, relationships.

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Having photos of an ex on Facebook is just a public, digital version of keeping around an old photo album - the point is, you (and your ex!) shouldn't really be flipping through it that often.

Presumably these pictures aren't among the most recent on his feed - the ones that show up by merely clicking on his profile. If the pictures are 10 or so clicks deep, it's silly to complain about them.

And really, why should these ancient pictures bother you? Because you're worried about people comparing you unfavorably to his ex? Or because you're worried about doing some side-by-side comparisons yourself? Either option is rooted in an insecurity that won't be allayed by the mere act of hiding pictures.

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Michelle Dozois, Editor:

Chiara basically took the words out of my mouth. "Revisionist history" is exactly it.

It's one thing if you're in a relationship - new or not - and your partner's ex is continuously uploading more photos of the two of them. If they're old photos, clearly the ex isn't ready to let go and is trying to assert a prior claim - and in that case, a conversation with your partner seems necessary. (Important that it be a discussion, not a confrontation/accusation - until you have reason to think otherwise, you can't blame your partner for what his ex is doing.) If they're new photos, that's probably also worth a (measured) conversation. But I'm digressing - we're not talking about dating someone who hangs out regularly with his ex and broadcasts the evidence online, but rather asking someone to delete old photos. So:

If I'd just started dating someone and he said "Hey, I was flipping through your Facebook and I noticed photos of you and your ex and they made me uncomfortable - can you get rid of them?" it would make me reconsider the relationship, honestly. Insecurity is unbecoming, especially when we're talking about archives. Would you also expect me to delete my Flickr photos of my exes? How about Tumblr posts? By asking the other person to download the photos and hide the evidence from the public, you're actually asking them to pay more attention to the photos than they probably otherwise would. If you can't be comfortable with the fact that your partner dated other people before you - and that other people may also stumble upon this (clearly dated, Pre-You) evidence - you might have to quit the Internet.

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Scott Alden, Brand Strategist:

It's definitely okay to bring it up, but it's not really okay to expect your partner to actually do it.

Jealousy and insecurity over things that happened in the past are your own responsibility, not your partner's. That said, we all experience these feelings and social media is pretty good at fueling the fire. We're all still figuring out how to deal with the access that we have to exes - each other's and our own. At best, this gives us an opportunity for real talk about our pasts. At worst, it leads us to panic and start imposing unfair rules on each other.