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Modern dating: new ways of discovering a tale as old as time

by eharmony Editorial Team - November 22, 2023

Dating has changed immeasurably in the past few years – it wasn’t too long ago that finding a partner meant being set up by family or friends or just by chance. Now, in modern dating though, like comedian Aziz Ansari says, all you need is a smartphone and you have a singles bar in your pocket. While this has some fantastic upsides (more options, easier dates), there are downsides, too, like the inability to really connect, plus an increase in flakiness on account of the aforementioned plethora of options. In this article, we talk about modern dating, explain a few common terms, and offer some tips for navigating modern dating culture.

Fun facts about modern dating

  • According to a 2022 Pew research study, three out of ten American adults have said they have used a dating app at some point, the same number that said yes in 2019. Interestingly, online dating is more common among younger people – roughly half of those under 30 (53%) report having ever used a dating site or app, compared with 37% of those ages 30 to 49, 20% of those 50 to 64 and 13% of those 65 and older1.
  • Relative earnings do not seem to be a dealbreaker, while debt, distance, and politics definitely are, per the same survey2.
  • Online dating experiences tend to differ based on gender – over half (54%) of women say they are overwhelmed by the number of messages they receive, compared to only a quarter of men. Conversely, two-thirds (64%) of men admit that a lack of messages has made them feel insecure, compared to only 40% of women3.
  • Reasons for using online dating apps are roughly split between wanting a long-term partner (44%) or to date casually (40%). Some people use these apps for casual sex (24%) or to make friends (22%)4.
  • According to a recent eharmony report, more people are looking for a serious relationship in 2023 (35%) than they were in 2022 (26%)5.

A short dictionary of modern dating

Sometimes dating Gen Z or millennials can feel like it requires learning a whole new language. But don’t worry we’ve got you covered with a few terms you’ll likely encounter navigating the tricky waters of modern dating. Some modern dating terms you’ll encounter in your search:


Ghosting is when someone abruptly stops any and all forms of communication with you without warning or explanation. While this is sometimes done for safety reasons, it’s usually more because the person is not interested and doesn’t know how to end it.


In some ways, breadcrumbing is worse than ghosting; it’s when someone mostly stops all communication, except every once in a while they’ll pop back into your life and toss you a little crumb of hope before disappearing again.


First used by Man Repeller writer Anna Iovine, ‘orbiting’ is when an ex stays just close enough that you see them around but not close enough to actually get back in touch.


This one comes from the world of sports – if someone is benching you, they consider you good enough to text but not good enough to actually date – aka a benchwarmer rather than first or even second string.

Red, Green, and Beige Flags

We’ve all heard of dating red flags (danger ahead) and green flags (you’re good to go) but what are beige flags? Coined by TikToker @itscaito, a beige flag on a dating profile means someone didn’t put much effort into their profile, is incredibly boring, or both.

Rules for modern dating

Dating in the new century can be incredibly confusing, but keep these simple modern dating rules in mind and you’ll have a much easier time finding love in this brave new world:

  • Keep your options open: You don’t have to commit right away. It’s okay to date multiple people at once before you pick, so long as you’re upfront about it. It’s also a great idea to take advantage of the many different kinds of people on dating apps to do some experimenting.
  • Put that phone away: Not only is it more respectful of your date, putting your phone on silent or even stowing it away allows you to be more present.
  • Be clear about what your expectations are: It can be a real bummer if you’re looking for a serious relationship and keep finding out that your dates only want casual sex (or vice versa, for that matter). Being open about what you want out of a relationship right from the start can potentially save you a lot of time and heartbreak.
  • Work on sorting out your own life before entering a serious relationship: More and more Americans are choosing to delay marriage in favor of things like careers or paying off student debt6. While a perfect life is not required to start looking for love, having the rest of your stuff together will make it easier to focus on romance.
  • Be yourself: Perhaps the most important piece of advice in this entire article. Social media can make it very tempting to project the illusion of a perfect life – but that’s all it is, an illusion. Authenticity may be the harder road in the short term, but it’s also the only satisfying one.

Finding love is still possible, regardless of which century you’re in.

From advertisements in the local newspaper to  professional matchmakers, people have used a variety of ways to find partners through the century. While modern dating may feel like a whole new world, it’s not really that different – it’s just a matter of knowing what you want and putting yourself out there when you get it. If what you want is a serious relationship with someone who gets you, try eharmony – we’ve been bringing people together for over twenty years. Sign up and get started on the road to lasting love today.

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