Illustrated by Liz Riccardi


The New Rules Of Dating In The Digital Age

As told to NYLON

Despite all of the books, movies, columns, and studies that exist about dating, it's still, generally, a really confusing process. There's no formula for the "right" way to date, especially now that technology is a third wheel in establishing our romantic relationships.

Recently, Mary H.K. Choi shadowed a group of teens to learn more about their social media habits. While their strategies for expressing an interest in people were nothing new, the way in which they went about it is miles away from prior generations—including millennials.

While every person is bound to have their own way of doing things, we wanted to see if there are any dating patterns that overlap. In order to obtain the most accurate results possible, we conducted an online survey via Google Forms. Read on to find out our conclusions on a variety of topics in the realm of dating.

When is it acceptable to follow someone you're "seeing" on social media?

This is always tricky. There's no simple answer, particularly because you might have already been following someone before you started seeing them. But you don't want to seem too eager by following them right away, and it would definitely bother you if they took a month to follow back. Based on the results of our survey, most millennials agreed that around three dates in is a good rule of thumb, but not all accounts at once. 

"I wait until the guy follows me first, although I will creep to find his social media accounts," said Annie Regan, 24. "I feel like Snapchat would be an easy add, though. Then maybe Instagram since that is connected via Tinder now. I had a guy add me on Facebook after two dates and thought that was too soon."

The only downside to following someone is what happens if the relationship doesn't work out. (Read this post to learn about the anxiety it can cause.) "If you just stop talking or someone ghosts, unfollowing them is so awkward and hard," said Amanda Ross, 23.

How do you feel about sharing passwords?

For some people, trusting someone with your passwords is a very big deal. It's a sign of commitment. "Guard your passwords as you would your social security number," said Malia Milici, 21. 

Most millennials agree that they wouldn't confide passwords with a partner until they knew for certain that they were exclusive, If they did, it would only be for services like Netflix, Hulu, or HBO Go—nothing too personal because that's a major invasion of privacy. "I'm a strong, independent black woman who don't need no passwords, so I don't need his," said Keryce Chelsi Henry, 23.

It might come as a surprise that Spotify is a touchy subject for millennials when it comes to password sharing. Compared to all of the other streaming services, Spotify seems to be the most sacred account of all. "I'm a music freak, and my playlists are like my children," said Brittany Oblak, 24. Many confess that it's not worth potentially messing up your algorithm. "Music is too personal for someone who might become an ex," said Jordan-Marie Smith, 23.

What is your policy for making plans?

Making plans is easier said than done. While the proper amount of time to set something up varies depending on the person, at least two to three days notice is preferable to most. "I'm really flexible, but a few days in advance is courtesy," said Sarah Nicole Francois, 24. 

Planners like to know what they're doing as far ahead as possible, and don't want to feel like a second choice or fall back option, so you can't hit them up in a 24-hour window frame. Some of us need advance notice; sorry not sorry!

However, there are definitely people out there who live for spontaneity and only need a few hours to prep. Others operate on their own schedule so you'll have to work around them if you want some quality one-on-one time. 

"I'm busy like every day so if you want to see me, reach out early or be around late nights," said Maeve McDermott, 24. "But generally, if I want to see you, I'll be the one to contact you."

Do you ever call someone that you're seeing on the phone?

Maybe this was naive to assume, but we were pretty sure that calling someone on the telephone for non-emergency related purposes is pretty rare. In our minds, it seemed a safe guess that phone calls might be a legitimately outdated method for people involved in romantic pursuits. We were wrong.

Based on the results of our survey, approximately 74.1 percent of people said that they will physically call people that they are "seeing" on the phone.

We salute the girl that used to call Drake on his cell phone—apparently, she is not alone in her hotline bling pursuits.

How do you feel about read receipts?

Read receipts serve many purposes for people that use them. For some, it establishes a level of honesty. For others, it's another game to master in passive aggressive tactics. It's both a reminder to respond and a stress inducer when you're the one waiting for the text back.

The three dots are bad enough, but combined with read receipts and you'll likely be found somewhere throwing your phone across the floor. "I don't need the exact timestamp of when I was ignored," said Adrienne Black, 24.

Jessi Fulton, 21, leaves her read receipts on because she is one of the rare few who uses them with a purpose. "If I'm busy and don't respond immediately but have read it, my partner knows I will get back to them," she said. "I think it's ballsy to keep it on and give no fucks."

What is the bare minimum appropriate amount of time to respond to a text?

Nothing feels worse than texting someone and not receiving a reply back for another four hours or worse—the next day. It adds an unnecessary amount of stress and sends a series of mixed signals.

"If you're having a conversation with someone, do them the decency of answering each text within 20 minutes. Any longer, and it's too difficult to keep a conversation," said Tatiana Cirisano, 22. "If you're not going to be able to answer, just tell the person you'll talk later. But other than that, I don't think anyone should be obligated to answer texts in a certain time frame. That's as long as you're not strategically taking a long time or not answering as a dating tactic, which I think is unnecessary and kind of immature."

Nothing gets the message across that someone isn't into you then when they leave you hanging without a valid excuse.

"As soon as you see a text and have time to respond to it, you should respond. I hate the 'playing games' and 'making them wait' philosophy," said Samantha Steinberg, 20. "It doesn't make me want someone more, it makes it seem like they don't care."

At the very least, send a disclaimer if you're legitimately too busy to talk. It's the least you can do if someone is willing to spend any amount of their time talking to you.

"I'd say a 2- to 3-hour window; anything more than that I think the person's pulled the fade out or ghosted. That is unless there's a bomb-ass explanation or excuse," said Diana Osei, 28. "Let's be real, we all have lapses in replying to text messages due to unforeseen reasons or not. If you don't text back, always have a good comeback."

What is your stance on taking screenshots?

Of all the things that Apple has allowed us to do with our iPhones, granting us the ability to take screenshots has been the biggest game changer without question. Most of the time, screenshots are used within the safe space of a group text to either boast or decode messages. I mean, consulting with your team about the best replies is crucial in the early stages of a relationship.

"Screenshots save and end relationships. No further questions," said Destiny Robinson, 22.

There's no doubt that some people probably have folders of screenshots, just waiting to be used at the right time. Sebastian Ramirez, 23, says it best to "always keep receipts."

Proceed with caution, though—there's nothing more embarrassing than accidentally sending a screenshot to the person in the original conversation.

How do you feel about meme usage?

When emojis came into the world, the way people communicated changed forever. At long last, we had the ability to speak our minds visually with emoticons and symbols that accurately conveyed how we feel—well, sort of. Now that we can download keyboards for GIFs, it almost seems wrong to not be on top of the latest memes too. Annie Perry, 21, said that she sends "more GIFs than actual words."

Honestly, if someone that you're dating doesn't "get" memes, are they even worth your time? Most millennials don't seem to think so, often viewing them as an essential factor in getting to know someone. Hayden Manders, 25, said, "Memes are the reason to live." Joneé Nunes, 25, echoed this sentiment by stating that memes are "God's gift to communication."

When you can't tell apart what's serious from what's sarcasm, a meme can be the perfect sign that a person is into you. Joyce Ng, 26, even went as far to say, "The more memes, the more likely I will date you."

Of course, sending too many memes can be a major turnoff. Rachel Davies, 18, is more comfortable exchanging memes with someone she knows really well. "Overusing memes can kill my opinion of someone if my perspective on them is still forming," she added.

What are your must-haves on a dating app profile?

A profile is an extension of yourself, so it should be taken somewhat seriously. Those that participate in the online dating culture want to see at least four photos—a mix of close-up face shots and full body—and accurate information about their age, education, and occupation. As for the bio, keep things light and witty with a funny tagline.

"Show you're funny in the bio without being vulgar," said Quinn Scanlan, 21. "Don't use the bio to brag about yourself!"

Annie Bueller, 25, broke down more no-nos for us:

No "looking for someone to go on an adventure with!" Nothing about choice of liquor, nothing about your goddamn beard, the list really goes on and on. Just shit that I see constantly, it's like, "Oh my god, would it kill you to be creative?" Make a joke or something, I don't care... I am so sick of dudes having "fluent in sarcasm" on their profile.

Does "hanging out" count as a date?

Approximately 108 people weighed in and 69.4 percent of them said no. Basically, any activity that doesn't start in your room counts. And sorry, your couch doesn't cut it either. 

"'I've had people over to my place on the first date, and it's been a disaster. Too much pressure, and it can be hard to tell people to get out," said Sophie McTear, 21.

In other words, step it up and take that special someone somewhere nice!

What do you typically do when the bill comes on a date?

Back in the day, men were expected to pay for women because of chivalry or whatever. Now, not only is that not the case for male-female dates, but, let's face it, who even thinks about "dates" in such a purely heteronormative manner anyway? Like, it's pretty hard to fall back on the old "the man should pay" rule, when plenty of dates consist of two men or no men at all.

But no matter your gender, or that of the person you're seeing, it can still get awkward when the check comes. Should splitting the check just always be the rule? Is it outdated to let your date pay for you? 

Based on the results of this survey, most people said that they appreciate being treated on the first date, but aren't offended if they end up splitting the bill.

"I'll reach for my wallet, but won't object if they pay. Especially if it's a first or blind date, neither party has an obligation to pay for the other," said Kirby Kelly, 21.

If the person is adamant about paying, there's no reason to protest. From there, either continue to split the check or switch off depending on how serious the relationship gets.

"I always offer to pay my share and take out my wallet to pay for my half. I don't expect them to pay, but if they offer to pay after I've insisted, then I'll let them pay. I'd like to think they're doing a nice gesture for me, but I'm not insulted if they let me pay for my half," said Blair Bass, 20.

What should be the standard first date?

Dates are different for everyone; we all have different expectations and standards, so it's hard to come up with a "standard" first date. Dinner and a movie has always been a classic, but can you imagine being stuck sitting in silence with someone that you're not vibing with at a movie that totally blows? 

All a first date really needs to be successful is two things: good food and conversation. Sydny Grossman, 22, suggests one-on-one meetups that offer a structured amount of time, like seeing an art exhibit or grabbing dinner or coffee. 

Coffee tends to be the safest choice—it's not as much pressure as dinner, and if things are going well then you can extend your time together. (And in the event that it's a total disaster, you didn't waste a huge chunk of your date and can GTFO.) If you really want to switch things up, why not try a matcha bar? Introduce them to something new!

"Anything involving snack food is a good bet: carnival, movie, happy hour, etc. You're eating enough that if things are awkward you have an excuse for the silence, but not a full meal so you don't have to stuff your face, bloat, or devote a lot of time if things head south," said Malia Milici, 21.

Even if your personality is more low-key, it's nice to get out into the world every once in a while. Sometimes unexpected things like going for a stroll in the park, taking someone record shopping, or catching a live show can lead to unforgettable experiences appreciated by both parties involved. 

"I like activities, and I want the person I'm seeing to have a shared experience with me," said Faith Masi, 24.