Traditional dating vs modern dating
Yet it’s so easy to get carried away with texting or instant messaging.
Having just counselled a friend through an ambiguous ‘relationship’ characterised by furious text conversations and the occasional meet-up, I then found myself helping another friend decide what to wear when she met up with a man whose activities she’d been obsessively following on Facebook for months. ‘It wasn’t as thrilling as I’d hoped it would be…’ admitted my friend afterwards.
‘I think he was a little tired.’ Such disappointment shouldn’t come as a surprise, says Emma Weighill-Baskerville, a psychotherapist and relationship specialist.
Yet even without an official ‘boyfriend’ there are normally several text conversations with potential beaus buzzing away on my phone.
I also tend to have a few guys on a low-level stalk on Facebook, and there’s always that frisson of excitement when an attractive man retweets one of my ‘LOLz-ier’ status updates. I wasn’t the only one of my girlfriends to leave early that night.
I am not in a relationship – or in what someone 20 years older than me would consider a relationship – yet rarely am I definitively single. Our vocabulary is straining as much as we are to encompass the world of modern dating. Recently The New York Times questioned whether traditional courtship was over, and whether ‘hanging out’ had replaced ‘dating’. Last Friday night I met four girlfriends for drinks after work. We’d met at a mutual friend’s party around Christmas, and had seen each other a couple of times since with friends. We follow the new rules as assiduously as they do, are just as uneasy about being pinned down, just as likely to be the texter as the textee. Why make a phone-call or suggest a date when you can send a non-committal text that merely dangles the possibility of meeting?
All week we’d been texting, messaging and emailing. If, like me, you’re a ‘millennial’ (born between 19) you will have never known adulthood – or adult relationships – without a mobile phone. Instead of dating (an American term anyway) we might be ‘seeing someone’, ‘having a thing’, ‘hooking up’. ) let the rest of the world into our online world with gay abandon: you’d like to see 50 pictures of me on a bikini on the beach? If they’re keen, you’ll see each other; if not, they’ll plead prior plans. But at least one of you can end up feeling confused.
The I-don’t-know-what-is-going-on phase of a proto-relationship can continue far longer now.
I might be missing out on love, but I’m never short of intrigue, and right now intrigue seems more fun. In fact, I can’t remember the last night out with my single friends where we all stayed until the end, or where we weren’t joined by a special guest at some point.Some of this intrigue even becomes actual, real-life, human interaction and perhaps… But mostly I’ve found myself in a perpetual state of limbo – stuck somewhere between first encounter, a hook-up and a full-blown relationship. Twitter, Facebook and Google have turned the dating world upside-down, changing how we meet people, what we know about them before we do – and introducing a new layer of ambiguity into single life that generations before us never had to contend with. ‘Drinks with the girls.’ ‘Want to meet us at my local? I schlepped all the way across the city – only to spend the next three hours with Paul and about six of his friends. And it isn’t simply a case of women being on the receiving end of the latest incarnation of male dating fecklessness. But in the world of endless options, where nothing seems permanent, and you never have to interact with anyone face to face if you don’t want to, me actually picking up the phone, telling someone how I feel about them, or even asking them out for dinner seems like too big a risk.We’d made vague plans to see each other that night. Like me, you are probably so used to keeping your options open – and not deciding what you’re doing on a Friday night until about 6.59pm that evening – that the idea of ‘dating’ seems pretty foreign. Increasingly, we ‘hang out’ – and not necessarily as a twosome. The social psychologist Ben Voyer warns that while texting and online messaging are perceived to be easier than face-to-face contact or a telephone conversation, in the medium to long term they can make things more difficult. Your guess is as good as mine.) ‘Face-to-face contact is much richer.Actually phone someone up to ask them out and agree on a date at some point in the future and put it in my diary? We have more visual and audio cues to help us form an impression of someone.’ Of course endless texting will never offer the same insight into someone’s personality as even a single face-to-face conversation.
Strange then, I realised recently, that I have rarely been properly on my own.I haven’t lived with a boyfriend, introduced anyone to my parents, or been on a mini-break.