The Unspoken Rules of Modern-Day Dating
If you don't know by now, times have definitely changed in terms of the dating world. If you are a member of the millennial age group and just so happen to be single, welcome to the tennis match that is about to be your dating life. For lack of better words, dating in this age can be described as a game. Hell, sometimes its a game I wasn't even aware I was playing. If you are still in denial in thinking these rules don't apply to you, I suggest you read on. I can almost guarantee any single person between the ages of 18 and 30 can relate to the following unspoken rules at least once.
1. Social media activity means something more than what it actually means. A "like" on an Instagram or Facebook post will more often than not relay some sort of interest in the person posting. For example, let's say a guy has been consistently liking the pictures you post on your Instagram page. Millennials interpret that like as a serious sign of that person showing interest in you. I mean, let's be honest, if a guy throws a like at your post, he's probably not liking the picture because you have some fluffy caption that captivates his soul. No- quite the opposite: He just wants to make himself relevant. Now, if you get a notification that someone has liked a picture from several weeks ago, that shows major interest and can actually be described as "cyber stalking" if it goes too far. It is a sure sign that rather than just scrolling through his news feed and casually stumbling on your post, he has made the choice to visit your profile page.
"OMG he liked a picture on my Instagram from three months ago!" is something I've heard many of my friends say. If the aged liker happens to be someone you are interested in, the person is obviously showing interest back. Insert "jump split" here! There is nothing more rewarding than that. However, on the flip side, if the aged like is from someone that repulses you, he will immediately be labeled a creep.
2. You can't be caught dead sending the first text. This is a rule that took me a moment to grasp. To a rational person, if both parties are interested enough to exchange numbers, it would seem like the next logical step to progression would be texting that person to talk. Or, dare I say it, make plans for a date. This is millennials we're talking about people- everything is written in code that the average mindful person will never be able to understand. So, if you are a woman and you send the first text, or even God forbid double-text, you will be labeled as desperate or aggressive. The goal is to appear to be interested, but not too interested. Available, but also super-busy. It's exhausting.
3. Do not, and I repeat, do not try to define the relationship. This is the generation of distance. Rather than define, we will dance around the idea of making anything official. If you try to label the relationship, chances are the guy will head for the hills because relationships with definitions hold people accountable. When you are held accountable, suddenly any of your questionable side behavior is labeled as cheating. You see, while you are in a relationship it is highly frowned upon to like other girls' pictures on social media, send snap chats to members of the opposite sex, and ditch your girl all weekend to spend time with the boys. As long as that relationship has no real definition, you can pretty much do as you please. It's no surprise that guys freak out the second you question where the relationship is going. It's almost like having house rules when you come back from college during the holidays to stay with your parents. When you are used to living your life your own way with no regard for a partner, there is no rush to signing up for the obligations that a defined relationship can impose.
4. Never question the intent of cheating. The lines are blurred these days with all of the underlying meanings out there. A guy you are seeing tags another girl in a meme, likes a picture or carries on a back and forth brigade of Snapchat selfies. It's not actually cheating, although we all know it isn't exactly innocent either. Millennials want you to be the cool girl who is disconnected, so you can't actually be mad about something like that, right? Wrong. We all just have to pretend that we aren't mad when really it's clear that the guy you are seeing is keeping his options open right in front of you. Your relationship or "situationship" will be kept at arm's length, but you know what else is kept at arm's length? Another girl that he's been showing interest to on all forms of social media. It's as if everyone has something on the back burner these days!
5. Expect to be ghosted, but don't cross them off the list. Just because you haven't heard from a person in two weeks doesn't mean you've been given permission to move on to someone new. Like I said, dating millennials is all about deflecting from definition. The newest trend in dating is "ghosting"- when someone you have been dating seemingly disappears into thin air, dropping all forms of communication. No texts, no calls, or as my southern mother would say, "Didn't even give you a bye, kiss my ass or nothing." It is the literal version of having the rug pulled from underneath you. I've had this happen to me, but the ghosting wasn't necessarily the worst part.
For me, the real stinger is when that person resurfaces weeks later with a casual text, asking what I'm up to for the weekend. As if nothing is out of the ordinary! It's just enough communication to make you silently suffer internally, wondering if this means you still have a shot with this relationship, when in fact it is just a sign that you are obviously not a priority. The problem is that you are left questioning where you stand with that person, which in turn limits you from moving on to someone else whole-heartedly.
As if dating isn't hard enough, we now have to figure out how to close the chapters of the book ourselves. If answers are what you are seeking, disappointment and unclarity is what you will most likely find. You see, while the mature daters out there would have the courage to tell you where you stand in a relationship, the millennial daters will keep you in limbo, never truly giving you an out. By keeping their options open, they never have to feel as though they failed in the dating world, because they are never left alone.
Michele is a former St. Louis Rams Cheerleader living in St. Louis. Follow Michele from the sidelines of the NFL to the sidelines of the modern dating world.