Ghosting, orbiting, Tinder, Grindr, Snap map? Relationships have always been confusing, but with social media, they're downright cryptic.
Logging in to the world of social media is part of most of our lives. From posting MSN statuses with our significant other’s name to officializing our relationship on Facebook to finding the perfect match on Tinder, technology and social media have also found their way into our romantic lives, allowing us to meet new romances or connect with people regardless of physical location, and it’s a good way to communicate with others instantly.
However, when it comes to the pervasive nature of technology in our dating lives, it’s not all roses and butterflies like the kind you get when you’re in love.
These apps and platforms, which facilitate instant communication, also intrude on our romantic ideals as ghosting and orbiting become more common.
Ghosting — when someone ends a relationship and all communication with no explanation — can happen in-person, but according to students who've experienced this social media phenomenon, it can hurt your self-esteem more significantly when it happens on social media.
“In person, it doesn’t really matter because you see people you know every day, and you never talk to them, so it’s the same thing,” says Jahleel Mckenzie, a second-year health sciences student at Western University, who has been ghosted before.
“I feel like, with social media,… it becomes a lot more clear when you’re actively trying to avoid someone, so I feel like it almost hurts someone more,” says Zoe Rajwani, a fifth-year management and organizational studies student.
With orbiting, which the New York Times defines as “digitally observing a prospective love interest or an ex online,” you’re seeing a lot more people who are unable to move on from their love lives because social media makes it possible for you to access people’s profiles instantly.
“I definitely know friends who very strategically do stuff like that,” says Rajwani, who feels that social media enables this behaviour. “It’s harder to move on and develop positive relationships from there. If you’re constantly fretting about what your ex is doing or trying to make them feel jealous, it’s kind of toxic for your own mental health.”
People orbit because they want to know what their lovers or exes are doing. Jennifer Miller, a first-year kinesiology student, knowing that orbiting her ex meant she was hanging on to them for too long, deleted that person off her Snapchat.
“My best friend back home is constantly lurking her ex on Snapchat and looking at his Snap map, and it’s very unhealthy,” says Miller.
Snap map is a feature on Snapchat that allows you to see where your friends — or exes — are at all times. Mckenzie, who does not take dating apps seriously and would prefer to look for love in real life, also points out that these are things you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t have social media, so in a way, he says we’re playing into it as well.
Miller feels people are too scared to talk to others in-person, so they are more inclined to do it hiding behind a screen. She’s concerned we’re starting to lose communication through face-to-face interactions and replacing them with interactions through technology, where we fuss over whoever our number one Snapchat best friend is.
As a result, we aren’t able to thoroughly express how we feel — the lack of visible body language being one of the big reasons why we encounter miscommunication, as Miller experiences. In other words, your words could easily be misinterpreted by the other person based on the way they read it, causing tension that wasn’t there to begin with.
But our words aren’t the only things susceptible to misinterpretation. Our intentions could become misunderstood as all parties struggle to decipher what each Snapchat and message could mean, and orbiting tends to have this effect.
“[People] will do certain things, like watch your story or post on their story, but it’s all subliminal messages. So they’re kind of hinting at you, but they don’t want to necessarily say that they are,” says Mckenzie, previously in a four-month relationship initiated through Snapchat.
With dating separated from social media, there’s more face-to-face interaction, making it less likely to have miscommunication issues. It does take longer to build relationships, but it ensures your partner’s physical presence and doesn’t leave you wondering what’s taking them so long to reply.
With technology in the picture, relationships are built a lot quicker because of the constant and instant communication.
But if you think you’re getting to know a person on social media, chances are that you still don’t know who they really are. Mckenzie believes technology-based modern dating limits how far your relationship can go because you can’t fully know someone through their social media profile, and Rajwani agrees.
“It’s important to ground yourself and understand that social media only presents part of the story,” says Rajwani. “With real life interactions, they’re more rich.”
As social media becomes a prominent place to display life’s best moments, it’s likely skimming the surface of the lived reality, which might have more stress, pressures and problems. So getting to know someone quickly wastes less of your time and allows you to determine if this person could be a potential match for you; on the flip side, things could be moving too fast and the next thing you know, you might be trapped in a 50-day streak with an obligation to stay.
But even in a relationship, you aren’t in the clear. And believe it or not, it can get more toxic.
“Because we're so involved with technology, relationships don’t get that space to be away from each other, so it doesn’t enhance that whole missing feeling,” says Mckenzie. “It can also cause people to get bored of each other really quickly.”
Since social media mediates such instant communication, Rajwani experiences pressure to constantly communicate and finds it difficult to find personal time.
Mckenzie is also concerned with the fact that social media enables people and couples to deceive each other, making lying easier to do as their partner isn’t directly in front of them.
On social media, everything appears to be perfectly normal, but things rarely seem to match up with reality — so much so that we lose touch with who we really are and start to live our reality through social media.
“It’s really hard to separate social media from your real life, but if you can separate the two, it can have a positive effect, because if you don’t take social media like it’s real life and you treat it as just social media, the things that happen on there are less likely to affect you in your everyday life,” says Mckenzie. “Sometimes, you can just take a break and delete the apps and just allow yourself to connect with your reality, and that could have a positive effect.”
Maybe it’s time to log off.