Ah, modern dating… will you ever cease to be a confusing, ever changing set of rules and layers and steps and stages?
Social media, Facebook in particular, plays a huge part into this romance thing, especially when it comes to those early phases of seeing a new person. You know, before you “DTR.” (A conversation in which you clearly define the relationship.)
Within this murky water of kind-of there are a variety of stages and important terms that I have experienced (Or at least read about one time). Are any of these really qualified to be called relationship milestones? That’s a matter of opinion. But I do think they mean something, no matter how minor or petty.
Without further ado, here’s my breakdown of key stages in sorta-dating…
______________The murkiest of murky….______________
Hanging Out: This one is as simple and innocent as it sounds. There is another human being that you are “hanging out” with one on one. Romantic interest exists but I would assume few blatant date-y or sexy gestures have occurred. Hanging out sometimes may morph into dates, but it’s all fun and light and fluffy (and ambiguous) at this point.
______________Romance is in the air….______________
Dating Casually: Alright so you have gone on at least one undeniably date-y excursion and maybe you guys did the “end of the night awkward kiss or no kiss” dance. I am guessing you kissed. You are dating and clearly more than friends. But it’s casual so you are absolutely allowed to go on dates with other potentials. It’s still open season out there.
Person of Interest (POI): This is someone you are hanging out with or dating (or WANT to date). In my book this usually includes giving them some sort of goofy nickname as a reference. However at the POI stage, they are still a big maybe with a whole lot more of recon needed.
______________Starting to digitally acknowledge each other…______________
Facebook Friend-ing: An excellent source of the above-mentioned recon, this may occurs somewhere around the first couple of dates. Timing varies drastically depending on an individual’s take on the invasiveness of Facebook. Of course, this is an acknowledged open invitation to mild-FB stalking. You wouldn’t send or accept their request if you didn’t expect them to dig through your photos, posts, history, etc. This is giving them permission to have a glimpse into the social media version of you.
Facebook “Like” : Whether it be a status update or a photo, this declares “I am looking at your FB page and want you to know that I am looking.” (Even though we BOTH know we are both looking already… see FB Friending above.) It’s more straight-forward than the elementary school flirt technique of punching and running away, but not quite as direct of a verbal “I dig you.” Mostly, it says something along the lines of “I like your thoughts/activities/photos/face and wanted to let you know that in a safe, passive way.” It’s an important step.
______________About time for comfortable ambiguity….______________
Seeing Each Other: In the realm of MY dating world, this would mean referring to said person by given name vs nickname. At this point they are starting to become a real person, getting past the superficial first couple of dates conversations and information. In general you are getting more comfortable with them and starting to see good and bad. You haven’t DTR’ed yet, so it’s still fair game to date around. But most likely you are growing less interested in pursuing others at this point.
Facebook Tag in Photos: This one is sorta a big deal for a couple reasons. First, you are acknowledging in FB world that you were at the same place at the same time IRL. There is photographic evidence. And when you are both tagged, it means all your individual friends can see it. And if this tag is a photo of you together, especially JUST the two of you? Looking even vaguely mushy?
Well…. it’s getting sorta-real, guys. Almost possibly to the point of….
THE DTR LINE! Dun-dun-dun!
Pause for dramatic effect, please.
______________DTR Line. Do Not Pass if you don’t mean it….______________
Dating Exclusively: Okay, so you have had THE TALK. You have DTR-ed and agreed that neither of you is seeing anyone else romantically and neither of you want to. You are just dating each other. So no more bored nights trolling OKcupid for you anymore, alright? You aren’t putting a title on it yet, but you are probably spending as much casual time together as having formal date nights.
______________Starting to get official-ish….______________
Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Some Sort of Formal Title: This is the stage in which one of you, usually sorta-accidentally-on-purpose, introduces the other to friends/fam/coworkers/acquaintances as “So-and-so, my whatever. You are not just a buddy or companion or friend. You have both a name AND a title, with that all so important possessive pronoun of “my” in the mix. This then snowballs to both of you feeling comfortable casually referring to each other as “My title“, to others.
Facebook “In a Relationship”: This one ABSOLUTELY must be discussed beforehand with your new SO. Because this is basically declaring that you are off the market for realsies. It’s the modern version of nailing up a declaration of love in the town square. Or going all Jerry McGuire crying out “You had me at Hello!” in front of your bookclub. It’s a confident announcement of “Nobody puts Baby in a corner” re: Dirty Dancing. You are in a committed relationship now and want the (Facebook) world to know.
______________And getting WAY past sorta-dating….______________
Facebook “Official” (AKA: In a Relationship with “their name”): I am tempted to say there should be a ring on it before this happens. Or at least a solid, established romantic relationship that has weathered the passing of the honeymoon period, etc. This one is as serious as a heart attack. I haven’t EVER done this one, not even in a six-year relationship with a man I lived with.
But maybe that’s just me.
After this, there are all sorts of other steps and such, but that is getting way way WAY beyond my intentions and interest today. These stages can be quite confusing and easy to over-analyze and read into. Trust me, I know having done it many times.
(But that’s part of the inherent nature of starting a new something… it’s a fluid, dynamic, ever-changing creature for quite a while. You will notice that I didn’t imply any timeline for any of these stages since every relationship is naturally different. )
But am I making meaning out of molehills?
Do these matters of social media and semantics and titles really matter?
Could having a more old-fashioned set of rules for relationships alleviate mass confusion?
Or can a Facebook “like” be as powerful a gesture as a sonnet? Is a tagged couple snapshot as romantic as a box of chocolates and a carriage ride?
Are the sentiments of romance just as pure and beautiful as they ever were historically, just in a modern, technological interpretation?
I like to think so.
(Even if there isn’t an official sanctioned book of meanings and hard and fast rules for dating today. That would sure help, huh?)