The 5 Stages of Digital DatingBy: Martha Mukaiwa
BEFORE Facebook summarised all appreciation into an ambiguous ‘thumbs up’ that can mean anything from ‘I like this’ to ‘I like you’ to ‘my finger slipped while I was clicking past your status’ – men and women used to engage in this curious and crazy thing called ‘dating’ when trying to get to know each other.
Though those old enough to have gone through it can barely remember the romance of the rite, legend has it that dating was the stage in a potential relationship when a man invited a woman out to express his attraction to her by complimenting her on her appearance and engaging in clever, subtle sexual banter before singling her out as top banana in the compatibility department. Wooing her in earnest in the hopes of securing a live-in cook, cleaner and kid creator.
Ostensibly buried beside chivalry, there are many 20-something year old women who believe dating to be dead.
In fact, having never been asked out on a series of one-on-one outings to explore compatibility, communication and chemistry, it may come as a shock that the practice is alive and doing rather well but much like reading, banking, and shopping... it has become decidedly digital.
Swopping compliments for ‘likes’ and flirtation for comments on statuses, the five stages of dating as defined in John Gray’s ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ (1992) have basically been simplified on social media.
Strangely enough, this move from outside to online has resulted in women all over the world being involved in the modified stages of attraction, flirtation, exclusivity, intimacy and engagement without appreciating the ramifications of going through an age old process of elimination from behind their computer... in their pyjamas.
Stage 1: Attraction
While women of old had to step out into the chilly night and brave the cold in hopes of finding some warmth in the welcoming eyes of a sexy stranger, today indicating attraction can be as simple as clicking ‘Confirm Friend’.
Perhaps having met a man socially or not at all, women can paraphrase the
man’s request as saying: “Hallo, you’re easy on the eyes. Please accept this friend request so I can see whether your perfect profile picture is a once-off or the general state of things.”
Should the attraction not be mutual and the suitor persists in rashing a woman’s inbox with inappropriate innuendos, a simple ‘Block’ is equivalent to an icy drink in the face, however; should the interest be shared and the woman accepts the request, both parties will proceed to the stalker stage of Flirtation.
Stage 2: Flirtation
Having granted the good looking guy access to her profile, your average woman will wait around to see if he makes the first move or if he’s the type of potential who plays possum while clicking through her profile picture album like it’s the swimsuit issue of Sports Illustrated.
Equivalent to the waiting period after a woman gives a man her cell phone number, instead of staring at the phone hoping he’ll call so she’ll get to know him better, the woman will stalk every inch of his profile while wondering what calibre of tramp these Lisas, Lydias and Leandres are for posting on his wall.
Mercifully, the rules of engagement haven’t been entirely forsaken and after liking her status, profile pictures and eventually graduating to expressing interest through commenting on her posts and posting on her wall, the Flirtation stage would have started in earnest.
From then on, just as a woman will always try to look her best on an outside date, her profile pictures will become her stationary seduction. By changing them regularly and making sure she looks alternately gorgeous and goofy in each, the woman will give the man a rapid fire montage of how she looks in different circumstances - like parties, hikes, at the office and even in costume.
Armed with this info and after some chemistry and compatibility determining flirtation, which will contain winks and solitary kiss symbols that will be analysed with girlfriends for days, the next step is Exclusivity.
Stage 3: Exclusivity
At this stage, if the woman is the virtual ‘one’, the man will no longer comment on posts on his wall from members of the opposite sex, unless they are from the woman he is digitally dating. Though if he does, his comments will be brief and to the point in comparison to the fun and flirtatious responses reserved for his digital darling.
Soon both parties’ superfluous suitors will get the picture and there’ll be a profile-wide acceptance of the fact that their statuses and photos will probably descend into a series of in-jokes and innuendo between the digital daters.
Thankfully, this stage doesn’t last long and graduates to Intimacy at precisely the moment in which the pair is making their profile viewers puke.
Stage 4: Intimacy
Much like outside intimacy, this stage takes place in private and what’s more confidential than one’s Facebook inbox?
Having moved their relationship out of the prying eyes of Facebook friends, the Intimacy stage is about checking in, talking about their day, PG 18 flirting, sharing music, their current likes and dislikes, offering intense emotional support and essentially engaging in a crash course of Getting to Know What Isn’t on Your Timeline.
This stage is evaluated on the ease of communication, the frequency of communication and ends with the idea of getting together in real life.
Stage 5: Engagement
When they know everything about the other person ‘on paper’ and find it fitting, the digital daters graduate to the level of Engagement.
Hoping that the other’s resume is as good as their reality, the pair will organise to meet somewhere neutral that offers ease of escape.
In this endeavour, meeting at a local club is preferred as each can hang out with their friends, suss the other out from a distance and engage in some real life dialogue and dancing without the intimacy reserved for their inbox exchanges.Unfortunately, and despite previous virtual bliss, this is the stage where the wheels may start to fall off the proverbial bus.
The Happily (N)Ever After
If the relationship rallies in reality, the dates will move from online to outside. However, should the man be shorter, shadier and less intelligent than he is when he has Google at his fingertips or conversely the woman is bigger, less beautiful and basically incompatible in person, the pair will proceed to dissolve their online dating status. Digitally, of course.
Unlike in days of old where one would simply stop calling the other party, dissolving digital dating status is more drawn out.
If only the male party is privy to the dissolution, the realisation may only come about when he stops replying to the woman’s inboxes, stops liking her posts and begins replying to the Lisas, Lydias and Leandres on his profile at length.
Ironically, when the whole process is over and the man is seeking greener cyber pastures, this is the precise moment in which a woman realises that she has been digitally dating... and has just been dumped.
Short, sweet and without the effort required to get to know people in real life, digital dating is the new mode of soul-mate seeking and can take place whether we are aware of it or not.
However, should you currently be in the first of the five stages, you would do well to represent yourself honestly and upload grotesque photos freely because the thing about digital dates is that they eventually come to light, and when they do, it is better to be exactly as expected, rather than unceremoniously rejected for the rampant use of lies... and lighting.