Move over, Gwyneth Paltrow's "conscious uncoupling." These Instagays just had the most talked-about breakup of all time.
Devon Gibby and Rob Zimmerman, better known by their social media moniker "dadsnotdaddies," met online over four years ago. Gibby, who was divorced with two kids when he met Zimmerman, decided that he liked the guy enough they would start co-parenting together in their Salt Lake City, Utah home. Soon enough the couple, as couples are wont to do when they get serious and take things to the next level, branded their relationship on a joint social media account.
"Dadsnotdaddies," which garnered 277,000 Instagram followers and 35,000 YouTube subscribers, tells the story of two fathers "on parenting, relationships, and philosophy." With advertisers like hotel brands, grooming products, and Lifeproof phone cases, Zimmerman and Gibby were a seemingly idyllic couple, getting anywhere from 15,000 to 33,000 likes on their Instagram posts of them in a bathtub together, or them enjoying the new Xfinity stream app. In addition to sponsored posts, the couple also has a well-documented history of fundraising and donating to various LGBTQ+ charities and incentives using their platform. They aim, primarily, to convey gay parenting in a positive light, especially in a state as conservative as Utah. Everything seemed fine, until it wasn't.
"As you may have seen from our recent posts, our feed has been focused primarily on my kids and me lately," writes Gibby in a screenshot posted to Instagram. "After 4+ incredible years of dating, Rob and I have decided to end our romantic relationship as friends. We cherish the many adventures we had together as a couple, and appreciate your kindness and support during this time."
Following their breakup Instagram post, they also published a breakup YouTube video titled "BIG LIFE CHANGES" where the two sit in somber silence, teary eyed before they talk to the camera and address the situation head on.
"We don't necessarily owe an explanation to anyone about our relationship," said Gibby, "but we've spent the last 3 and a half years sharing aspects of our lives with you, and we wanna be real with you as we've tried really hard to be all along."
"Just because we post pictures on Instagram doesn't mean we're exempt from going through hard times and making hard choices." The 8 and a half minute confessional concluded with a Ken Burns-style montage of photos of the two of them during their relationship.
In the age of social media, public breakups are no abnormality. Particularly when it comes to Instagram couples, posting a public statement to social accounts explaining to fans what's happening becomes essential to a breakup. But on this breakup tour, Gibby and Zimmerman took it a step further. The day following their post, they decided to publish a studio-quality breakup photoshoot to Instagram.
"I'm feeling quite the vulnerability hangover lately but as I'm processing this change and transitioning the kinds of things I post, I really wanted to share these photos from @kurtisdallon. The emotions are raw and real, but he captures them beautifully," Gibby writes.
"People usually take photos to commemorate happy life changes like engagements, births of children, or upon achieving one's career or educational goals. They don't take photos to show the emotions one goes through as their romantic relationship ends. But we did, and I love these photos. To me it shows that there is beauty in sitting with your pain and in the vulnerability imbalance that sometimes happens in relationships," writes Gibby.
Following this post, some mockery on social media followed. Gibby was so tired of moderating the reactions, that he turned the comments off, he tells Out.
"It's mostly gay Twitter that's throwing the ridicule," Gibby, who believes that Twitter culture is significantly meaner than gay Instagram culture, tells Out.
"We still had a lot of really positive responses to it, as people have been able to connect to it," says Gibby. "There's also been a lot of strongly negative responses to it, and I think that's just because as men we're conditioned to avoid displaying emotion. I think queer people especially are kind of policed in their displaying of emotion and their expressions. It's no surprise to me it's happening now, especially in the gay community."
"Being queer people, policing or ridiculing other people's expressions or emotions is normal because we've had the same done to us. It's often how our community operates," says Gibby. "It's understandable. A lot of people in the LGBT community have a lot of pain and trauma. That's why we often end up hurting each other the way we do."
When it comes to creating a YouTube and Instagram brand tied directly to his relationship, Gibby says he has no regrets. "I think that we've always been honest and straightforward with people... We're just trying to portray life as it is."
When asked about the choice to publish a breakup post, a breakup video, and a breakup photoshoot, and about whether some (perhaps on Twitter) might find that a bit disingenuous, Gibby says "people are gonna react to it however they want."
"I know that I'm being genuine and that's all that matters. And people can call it oversharing and they can call it hungry for engagement. That's not the case."
"I think that people can relate to a lot of aspects of our life, and a breakup is just one of those things people can relate to. Do I regret sharing all this? No. It's been impactful to a lot of people, and over the course of my own life. I'm going to keep sharing on my platform."
But as far as his views on Instagram relationships in general? "It is a fascinating, weird thing. I will fully own up to the fact that it's weird. At the same time, people seem to be really taken by it -- Instagram couples content."
"Honestly I'm a little bit relieved that I don't have that pressure on my relationship, now that my relationship has changed, and I can not have to be an Instagram couple," says Gibby chuckling.
"I think social media puts pressure on couples," he says. "I say that not because social media is directly related to our breakup, because it's much more than that, but it does put unnecessary pressure on relationships and I think it can also feed an unhealthy culture, says Gibby. "At the same time it can also be a very positive thing too."
Zimmerman and Gibby have been staying in separate places. While Gibby says he knows that this breakup affects his kids, he assures that their living situation isn't going to change drastically.
As far as the future of the brand goes, Gibby, who will be taking the reigns of @dadsnotdaddies potentially under a new name, looks forward to a different kind of platform where he can feature all kinds of LGBTQ+ dads who will connect with his story.
"We're positive about the future and are looking forward to a new chapter."