As a student: Making sense of dating trends in the digital age

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

The ambiguity surrounding dating in the digital age can make it difficult to navigate and understand relationships. Technology makes it so much easier to communicate, but it also makes it that much easier to misunderstand communication. It also comes with a handful of easy ways to enter, leave and manipulate a relationship.

I wanted to take a look at some of the dating trends specific to this generation, giving names to behaviors you otherwise might not even know exist.  

1. Ghosting:

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Ghosting is the most classic and well understood dating trend of this generation. Ghosting occurs when a person you are seeing ends all form of communication. This ending can come subtly—by slowly reducing the amount of communication—or it can come abruptly.

Ghosting can be incredibly damaging because it leaves the person being ghosted with no explanation. They are left to wonder whether or not they did something wrong in the relationship and why they weren’t respected enough for an explanation. Being ghosted might even lure you into the slightly embarrassing act of continuing to initiate conversation even though you won’t get a response.

2. Curving:

Some people consider curving to be more insidious than ghosting. While ghosting is simply halting all forms of communication, curving still gets you a reply with the implication that the curver would rather be doing something else.

Curving is something that usually comes off as being polite. They’ll apologetically reply a day late, they’ll be short and uninterested. Though the person being curved might sense that there is no longer any interest from the other person, the reply will keep them holding on to hope that there still is.

3. Benching:

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

A more common phrase used to describe benching is being left on the backburner in your romantic relationship. This is when a person doesn’t have any interest in taking their relationship with someone to the next step, but they keep that person within reach because of any potential that might exist in the future. They don’t want you now, but they’re keeping you around as a backup plan.

4. Haunting:

I’ll be honest, this one gets me all the time. Haunting happens when your relationship is more than over with, but the person continues to interact with your social media posts. These interactions are subtle and passive, a random like on one of your pictures even though you’re no longer on speaking terms.

Haunting is confusing because you start to speculate as to why your ex is still interacting with your posts even though there is no real interaction between you two. This kind of behavior keeps your ex on your mind even though you haven’t interacted with each other in months or even years.

5. Gaslighting:

Illustration by Megan Rowe

Illustration by Megan Rowe

The most manipulative and damaging of the dating trends, gaslighting is used in order to make the other person in a relationship question their reality and creates self-doubt within them. This is a more subtle form of mental and emotional abuse, but the gaslighter knows what they are doing in order to assert power and control over a relationship.

Gaslighting usually takes its form in lying and denying in a way that makes the accuser feel guilty for bringing up an issue in the first place. The victim of gaslighting often doesn’t know they are being manipulated until the relationship reaches a painful end. Effects of this kind of treatment include low self-esteem and trust in oneself and can often take years to recover from depending on the amount of damage.   

Though some of these trends may seem harmless, the confusion they cause can end up resulting in a whole lot of trouble down the line. From my own experiences with some of these trends, I have found it best to be upfront and honest about your intentions in any type of relationship you enter. Initiating the conversation about what your relationship is might be uncomfortable, but is is necessary if you want to maintain respect and keep from hurting people in the process of dating.