Letters from Japan: “Dates For Social Media”
Ask Hilary: Questions From Readers Answered
Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject "Ask Hilary."
I’m a Japanese male (26) dating an American girl (25). We’ve been dating for almost a year. We met through a dating app before she moved to Japan for work in November 2019. We get along well and our relationship was mostly good I think, but recently she’s become very focused on her social media.
I know she’s struggled with a lot (job, moving, pandemic), but she spends so much time on her social media that it is getting in the way of our relationship. She is even trying to micromanage my life. We don’t live together, but she tries to tell me what I can eat, how to dress, that I have to exercise more, and so on. I wanted to help her before, but now I think it’s too much.
When I tell her I won’t do something, she cries and begs me to do it. She says she is trying to become an influencer in the AMWF community [Asian Male White/Western Female relationships] but she needs me to participate more so she can “make us famous.” I have social media, but I don’t share personal details on it—that is not good for my job, either.
I’m thinking about ending the relationship because it’s becoming more stress that I don’t need, but I feel sorry for her. She has some friends in Japan, but she would be very alone. How can I talk to her about this?
Thank you for writing to me. It sounds like you really care about your girlfriend, but also that you and she are under a lot of stress, which is very understandable.
You said that you’re thinking about ending the relationship—is that because you are frustrated with her social media focus alone, or are there other factors involved? If you think the relationship should end, then I hope that you let her down gently and be as compassionate as possible given the circumstances.
If you want to work on the relationship, then you will need to be fairly diplomatic as well. To approach this situation properly, you first need to understand what your personal boundaries are. What are you willing and not willing to have posted on social media? You should read through your employment contract, and employer’s guidelines about social media use as well, to make sure you’re not endangering your job.
you need to establish what you are to one another
After this comes the hard part: you need to sit down with your girlfriend and talk about social media itself. It won’t be easy and she will probably be upset, but if you are serious about making this relationship work, you need to hold your ground and communicate with one another. You need to establish what you are to one another.
If this is a relationship, then you have to tell her how you feel about her constant social media use. Her social media use will still have an impact on you two as a couple even if she stops posting about you, however, so keep this in mind.
That being said, you mentioned that her goal is to be an AMWF influencer, which means you are an integral part of her social media presence. Her turning your relationship into a business without your express permission is problematic—and potentially fetishizing, but because you went along with it initially, she may think you want to be a part of it too.
remember that you’re an individual, not someone responsible for representing an entire cultural or racial identity and that you deserve to be treated as such
To continue the relationship, in this case, will mean that you need to establish concrete (written down on paper or in an email) boundaries and guidelines for what can and cannot be used on social media, and you need to hold each other accountable for them. As I said, she is turning your relationship into a business venture without your express permission. As with any business, clear lines must be drawn. Essentially, she needs to provide you with a business plan and contract that you can either accept or reject. If you don’t want to be part of any influencer’s career, and she refuses to stop using your relationship as a business, then ending the relationship is your only option.
You are in an understandably difficult position at the moment, but whether you stay together or break up depends on communication. Remember that you’re an individual, not someone responsible for representing an entire cultural or racial identity and that you deserve to be treated as such. Think about who you are as a person and what you want. Communicate this to her and ask for the same in return. Reaching a greater understanding of these points will help you decide. Best of luck.