Picture this: You’re currently single and “cobwebbing” in the aftermath of your previous failed relationship. The attractive person you thought had “rizz” is starting to exhibit “beige flags,” so you turn to your ongoing “situationship” for attention, but deep down you hope to meet someone worth “soft-launching” on Instagram. Can you relate?
To describe yourself as single and in search of a relationship is almost too simple of a label in 2023. The way we seek romantic connections, especially with the influence of social media and dating apps, has naturally altered our behaviors and language around dating.
The fact that more people are meeting online creates an “abundance of options,” said Natalie Jones, a California-based psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and narcissism. This can make it difficult to develop a genuine connection, or can lead to toxic dating habits.
“I think that’s where these terms are coming from because now people have an abundance of people to choose from, and so different sorts of behaviors are being highlighted,” Dr. Jones said. “When you have so many people to choose from, you can ghost, you cannot call, you can hide who you truly are through online dating.”
Although there are dozens of new dating terms being used today, we spoke to Dr. Jones and Shan Boodram, a sex and relationship expert with the dating app Bumble, to help us narrow down the top dating terms that you’ll need to know.
When someone consistently checks in with a romantic prospect, dangles the possibility of a date and keeps them interested, but never follows through with what they really want: a relationship.
This act of self-love refers to purging any mementos from previous relationships (old sweaters, text threads or photos) in an effort to move on. Holding on to old phone numbers and pictures, Ms. Boodram said, “keeps someone from being fully present and invested in their dating journey.”
Derived from the word “handcuffed,” it’s the act of getting tied down to one partner, usually during the colder months of the year (also known as cuffing season). To be cuffed can also refer to someone in a serious relationship outside of cuffing season.
The act of sending unwanted sexual images to another person through digital means, such as on a dating app or social media platform, but also via text or another file-sharing service, like Airdrop.
Although there’s no federal law prohibiting cyberflashing, states including California and Texas introduced laws last year that give victims the opportunity to have legal recourse if they receive unwanted sexual images online. Other states are writing legislation to handle this issue.
[Take our quiz and test your knowledge of modern dating terms.]
When a person seeks a relationship with someone else as a backup plan. In the same way that people might reach for a cookie when they want an instant treat, someone who is cookie-jarring pursues their backup person when the one they actually want isn’t available or has rejected them.
The Three Flags: Green, Red, Beige
Green flags are positive, compatible traits that a person possesses. Red flags are negative, potentially harmful traits. A person displaying beige flags is not necessarily good or bad. They are just dull, boring and lack effort in dating. “What we perceive as flags can vary from person to person,” Ms. Boodram said, “and though there are flags in real life, they can also be displayed via dating apps, too.”
To manipulate someone into making them doubt their powers of reasoning, perceptions, memories or understanding of an event that happened. Common methods include blatant lying, denial and trivializing their feelings, which can result in an unhealthy power dynamic shift in a relationship.
The act of disappearing without warning or cutting off all contact with someone you’re dating, someone you’re in a relationship with or even someone you’ve simply matched with online. “Ghosting is very dehumanizing and a lot of people don’t understand that,” said Dr. Jones, who added that it can lead people to question their self-worth and value as a human being. “A lot of times it kicks up abandonment triggers.”
Lavishing a new romantic partner with grand gestures and constant contact, while also keeping them isolated from friends and family in order to gain control in the relationship. Not all grand gestures of affection are red flags, which can make love bombing hard to spot.
When someone has cut off communication with a person, or they have made it clear that they are not interested in pursuing a relationship, yet they continue to interact with that person on social media, usually through views and likes.
This also applies to the practice of observing potential love interests on social media, without initiating contact. Dr. Jones said that a lot of people — often women in heteronormative relationships — can mistakenly interpret this as someone being intentional about their interest, when it might not be.
“They can just be going through social media, sitting on the toilet and liking posts,” she said. “It can mean absolutely nothing and a lot of times it does.”
This newer concept is short for “charisma” and is commonly used among members of Gen Z. It’s very popular on TikTok, Ms. Boodram said, and refers to someone’s ability to flirt with and attract a potential love interest. This can be having an engaging personality or having an unspoken allure that others cannot resist. Kai Cenat, a Twitch streamer and influencer, who coined the term, clarified that rizz originally referred to the ability to attract someone who wasn’t initially into you.
A romantic or sexual relationship in which both parties do not communicate clearly to define their status. Unlike those who are “friends with benefits,” neither party in a situationship is certain of what the other is to them. This can be confusing and lack the consistency and support that comes with a defined relationship.
Posting a discreet photo or video of your new partner on Instagram or other social media to announce your relationship while still hiding their identity. The idea is that you don’t want to post about them on your account too soon in case it doesn’t work out. One example: sharing photos of only your partner’s hands clasped in yours. “You’re slowly trying to introduce the idea that you all can be a thing,” Dr. Jones said.
“Social media is involved in everything,” she said. “It’s like the third wheel of the relationship now.”