Web Culture

The Art Of The "Hard Relaunch"

How influencers who went through very public breakups told their loyal followers that they got back with their ex.

A faceless silhouette. An untagged hand in a photo of two cocktails. Deliberate props blocking any discernible characteristics. In 2021, the “soft launch” took off, a social media strategy in which people (celebrities and normies alike) would breadcrumb their followers with vague photos and cheeky hints they were in a relationship without sharing with whom. A year later, the opposite approach, the hard launch, became all the rage; it took an overt tactic, like dropping a full-on face reveal — a would-be birth announcement for the relationship.

Both practices remain popular, but things get complicated when you’re a content creator who hard launches, breaks up, and then has to decide when (and how much) to let your followers know. It gets even trickier when you eventually get back with said ex and need to decide whether or not to hard relaunch your relationship after it all unfolded online. And, according to people who have gone through it, sharing your messy love life with your following requires some finesse.

Conscious Uncoupling

Although A-listers typically post a jargon-heavy statement on their Instagram stories or via their publicists announcing a separation, influencers don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach.

Brooklyn-based TikToker Kelsey Kotzur, 30, shared her August 2021 engagement online and subsequent breakup five months later. She worked with her then-ex to figure out how she’d tell her 110,000 followers at the time.

“I was like, ‘Listen, I'm getting so many comments [speculating about us]. I'm going to have to address it because I have been so publicly excited about our wedding,’” she tells Bustle.

According to Annie-Mai Hodge, the founder of Girl Power Marketing, an agency that works with influencers, even if relationship content isn’t a creator’s brand, followers likely still expect answers if they sense a split. “The internet has made the phenomenon of parasocial relationships grow exponentially,” she says. “And if [followers] aren’t included in these key moments — like a breakup — it can create a disconnect between the creator and their audience.”

For Kotzur, that disconnect came to a head when a follower saw her in person and asked why she wasn’t wearing her ring. That’s when she realized she had to say something online and clued her then-ex in. “He was sort of like, ‘It sucks that we have to do this,’” she said. “But he understood.” They shaped the February 2022 breakup announcement together. Since Kotzur’s content mainly focused on lifestyle and fashion, her relationship was never her account’s main focus, and she said the intrusive questions stopped once she addressed them.

Another content creator, Sophia Munoz, 20, started posting on TikTok in January 2023, eventually gaining more than 125,000 followers thanks to her videos with her newborn daughter and boyfriend, though she never shared his name and full face (as was his preference). When they broke up due to his infidelity that August, she gave him a heads-up that she’d be completely candid about it on her account.

“A lot of people were upset when I shared the story about him cheating, but we didn't want anybody to attack him,” she says. Still, she continued to include him in lighthearted content as a signal to her followers that there was no persisting drama.

When A Breakup Launches Your Page

After the relationship ended, Kotzur had her Eat, Pray, Love moment and took a few solo trips to Europe, which she documented on TikTok. “I didn't make [being single] a part of my content in the sense that I was like, ‘I'm single now. Get ready with me to go on a Hinge date,’” she says, but the posts seemed to resonate with plenty of single women anyway. She had an influx of about 30,000 followers who didn’t know what happened beforehand.

“If [followers] aren’t included in these key moments — like a breakup — it can create a disconnect between the creator and their audience.”

Munoz’s new content focused on being a single parent, though there were a lot of videos about co-parenting with her ex. She even poked fun at her relationship with her baby’s father in a viral video with more than 1.8 million likes in which they bantered and explained their dynamic.

“The response to that video was all majority negative,” she says. “That's why it's surprised me so much that I've gotten a lot of support now that I've announced that we're [back] together.”

The Hard Relaunch

Reuniting with an ex is an emotional whirlwind even without an online platform. Add more than 100,000 loyal followers to the mix, and things get more convoluted. Kotzur and Munoz ultimately got back with their exes — both couples' lives were so intertwined, and soon they started texting again, which led to in-person hangouts and a reevaluation of their romantic ties. Eventually, both creators sat down in front of the camera and addressed this new chapter of their love lives — but not before rolling out a soft launch first.

“People were getting confused because I was including him in more videos, and then I stopped calling him my ex,” says Munoz. “Then people were like, ‘We need an update.’” On April 1, she made a video kissing her now-boyfriend with the caption “Life Update” and a hands-over-eyes emoji. The next day, she posted that it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke and says she saw an influx of followers afterward. Single moms who followed her for her relatability even told her they’d be sticking around, though that kind of loyalty during such a transition isn’t always the case.

Before her hard launch, Kotzur’s content took a “staying truthful via omission” approach. She says, “When we got back together, I never spoke about dating [or] being single.” When she would mention getting ready for a date, she’d keep it vague because she was nervous about how her followers would react to her new relationship status.

“When you [go through a] breakup, you become more relatable to the single girlies out there. But when you get back into a relationship, it's like those people who were rooting for you turn against you,” Kotzur says. “They put their own insecurities of being single onto you and project those feelings into your comments [section].”

Despite that, she began to open up anyway. She rolled out her soft launch in January 2023, four months after the pair got back together. “I took him to an event and was like, ‘You know what? F*ck it. Let me post this little video [of us].’ You could barely see his face, but you still could, so I thought let's just tease the girls and show him off,” she says.

For Kotzur, the soft launch instantly piqued curiosity, with followers guessing in the comments section who the “new” beau was. That same month, Kotzur posted a video explaining she was back in the relationship after calling off the engagement.

“People were either like, ‘I'm so here for this’ or were absolutely destroying me in the comments. They were so mad at me for some reason, even though our breakup was never the center of my content,” Kotzur says. Once they got engaged again with a new ring that following summer, Kotzur says the hateful comments mostly stopped.

“We can easily get on our high horse and say, ‘We wouldn’t do that!’ knowing full well we’d take back our sh*tty ex-boyfriend in a heartbeat,” says Hodge, the marketing expert. “Often, people judge harder online than they would their friends.”

You don’t have to be internet famous to get this kind of response. Take Carly H*, 21, who shared a TikTok about secretly dating her ex for two months before relaunching him to her friends. “People tend to assume if you broke up, there was a really bad reason,” she tells Bustle, explaining she initially feared her friends’ backlash. She says softly launching a reunion (in her case, wearing his sweatshirt in front of her roommates again) warms those closest to you up to the news.

Happily Hard Relaunched After

These influencers only hard relaunched their relationships when they were sure that their bonds were solid again. That way, nothing the online peanut gallery could’ve said would’ve impacted their love lives. Kotzur is now married to her ex-ex-fiancé, and Munoz is happily vlogging her day-to-day life with her little family. Even Carly is holding out hope she and her on-again, off-again boyfriend can give it another shot one day, which would result in yet another relaunch.

To anyone considering hard relaunching a partner, Munoz says, “Wait until you're so sure you want to be with that person that even if you got a million negative comments about it, you just wouldn't care.” Carly encourages people not to take themselves too seriously: “Add a fun caption, like ‘Chapter Two’ or ‘Look who it is?’ If it's what you want, who the heck cares?”

As for Kotzur, she credits one of her followers for helping her reframe her perspective on how her relationship statuses played out online. “Someone commented on my [relaunch] post being like, ‘Not a relaunch. It's a rebrand,’” she says. “And I was like, I love that. That's perfect.”