Has “Talking” Replaced Dating?

A friend told me that she has never been in a relationship, and she’s always been stuck in the “talking” stage. I began to wonder if our shared experiences were by choice or circumstance. I hoped that it was a mere coincidence. I talked to other girls, in an effort, to prove my doubts wrong. They all confessed to having little to no experience with relationships. I thought maybe, just maybe, “talking” is our new dating. Let’s think about this: What is dating exactly?

You can no longer distinguish between labels or relationships because everyone is “bae.” I don’t know where “talking” stops and dating starts.

I mean, isn’t texting the new dating? I can’t keep up anymore. But let the youngsters tell it. Literally. I asked a few Aggies— students who attend North Carolina A&T State University— how they define dating and the “talking” phase of a relationship.

“Talking to someone is the beginning stages of dating. It can almost be labeled as pre-dating. The talking stage should be used as a way to learn a person before, and gaining as much knowledge of a person and their patterns and such before deciding to take that leap into dating. Dating takes place after you decide that you want to move forward with a person and add labels to what exactly is going on. Potentially moving in a long term direction.” – Jordan, 25

“I believe the talking stage is when people are interested in getting to know each other, either romantically or in a friendly way. On the other hand, dating is basically testing out the waters with said person and seeing how they act in everyday situations. This can either happen exclusively or non-exclusively.” – Kwalyne, 21

“Talking is when two people are engaging with each other before frequently going on dates. Once frequent dates or intimate meetups have occurred outside of sex these two people are now dating. At either point, both parties still are allowed to “do them” until a more serious title is put on their relations.” – James, 20

“Dating is seeing someone, like going out on dates and stuff to see what you like and dislike. Talking is getting to know them without actually meeting them in person.” – H’Vika, 20

“Talking to a person means you’re getting to know them. During this time, you guys can still go on dates, hang out, and even engage in intimate acts of affection. At the end of the day, no obligation is necessary. But make sure both of you are clear about your intentions. Dating, on the other hand, is when you guys make a commitment to each other. You can establish your expectations with each other and hold each other accountable for when a line or boundary is crossed.” – Devon, 20

Okay, I got it: Availability, accessibility, accountability. Dating may require those things, but “talking” surely does not. It still doesn’t answer my burning question. Is dating dead and if so, what or who killed it?

Technology changed dating and the rules by which we play it certainly have changed. We’re expanding ideas of gender and sex outside the rigid dichotomy of gender roles. Maybe we’re closer than ever to leaving behind old models of intimacy. We’re learning, through the rise of social media, how to navigate and build the capacity for relationships. We are seemingly more connected than ever— virtually. I worry that we’re not experiencing real intimacy, but some false sense of it.

There’s all this talk of self-care, self-love, and self preservation. I’ve learned to never cease working on myself, my mental health, or my own heart. I’m beginning to prioritize myself and my needs, above all else. Because I’m all I got. If I date, I would be sharing myself with said person or persons. But why would I do that? There’s too high of a risk involved, which means possibly foregoing my own self-interests. It’s easier to choose minimal effort and the lowest level of non-commitment, which is “talking.” 

It absolves you from accounting anyone else’s feelings but your own. You are free to do whatever you want. You can leave, if you want or “talk” to other people. You can text someone all day, maybe even every day, but they don’t need to be your girlfriend, boyfriend, or they-friend. Whatever your reasons may be, whether avoiding rejection, commitment, or trust issues. Boundaries are important! We determine how we want to be treated or by whom we want the treatment. Because without it, whatever you allow will continue.

We’d rather safeguard ourselves and our hearts, than to completely lose ourselves in people. I get that, but in a world, where nothing is ever certain, everything becomes possible. Things happen. The only thing you can control is yourself. If you want someone, speak up. If you don’t, speak up or leave them alone. Just be mindful of your intentions, as well as, the intentions of the person you want.

It all begs the question, do you like to “talk” or date?

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