How we long for love. And when the weather cools down and the holidays loom ahead, even the most commitment-shy may find a steady squeeze or get "cuffed"—at least till Valentine's Day. This popular term is likely short for "handcuffing" and relates to the old idea of a mate as a prisoner's "ball and chain." Urban Dictionary dates "cuffing season" back to at least 2011, but four years later the phrase was widespread enough to inspire a rap song and album of the same name.
How do you demonstrate romantic interest in the online era? Would-be suitors will, as one keen social observer puts it, "like three of your Instagram pictures in a row (only ones with you in them, obviously), they'll send you videos of miniature pigs [on Facebook], they'll text you with extra letters added into the words (thaaaank you). This is flirting, but...they're keeping things at a level of plausible deniability."
You know those barely clothed selfies that certain people are always posting on social media? That's a "thirst trap"—"thirst" being an all-too evocative popular term for desperation, sexual and otherwise. Are people really trolling for compliments with scantily clad six-pack abs or dangerous curves? Probably depends on the person. In a recent interview with Vice magazine, one online personality boasted about her "incessant need for external validation...strangers on the Internet always come through for me [and] I don't think there's anything wrong with embracing that." So if you're serious about cuffing season, don't keep tuning those thirst traps! Keep it moving along instead.
In a way, "negging" is the opposite of "tuning": semi-insulting potential lovers or giving them backhanded compliments to start with so they'll feel insecure and more open to advances. "'For a girl with a belly shirt: 'Did your shirt shrink in the laundry?'...'Your nose is a little red. You're like an Eskimo. Cool.'" These are actual examples of "negs" suggested by SeductionScience.com, just one of the many websites inspired by Neil Strauss's loathsome yet hugely influential 2005 bestseller, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.
Remember that great old New Yorker cartoon, "On the Internet nobody knows you're a dog"? Well, that goes double for Internet dating. We have a feeling that dog was actually "catfishing" on a dating app: creating a false profile or hijacking a real person's existing account, specifically for the purpose of scamming or pranking the unwary. According to Slate, the term comes from the 2010 documentary Catfish, in which one imposter's husband claims that people like her keep the online world exciting, like catfish that are put in with vats of live cod on long voyages to liven them up
Maybe you've already gone out on some dates, maybe you've just exchanged messages with a romantic prospect on Match or Tinder. Either way, this person doles out just enough contact to keep your hopes alive. Like Hansel and Gretel, they leave you a trail of online traces or "breadcrumbs" but never come through. As one disappointed hopeful put it in New York magazine, "He'd double-tap weeks-old Instagram posts or ask me to have lunch in Greenpoint [Brooklyn] in half an hour …The texts themselves would invariably be punctuated by baffling kissy-face and see-no-evil monkey emoji—the universal language of flirtation." Monkey emoji? Really? Learn more about the history of emoticons.
But why does your romantic prospect even bother with breadcrumbs? All signs point to "benching." Like a coach who leaves his second string players on the proverbial bench, your flirty, elusive friend is probably keeping you in the background in case other, more desirable romantic prospects don't work out. Just don't let your reaction go into worst case scenario, as Elite Daily describes it: "Benching can also lead to cyber stalking, if you let your confusion snowball into paranoia and jealousy. You might check the following tab on Instagram to see what other pictures your crush is liking, or you might go down a rabbit hole investigating all the people who are liking their pictures too."
Of course tons of people do slog through all the obstacles and get together. At that point, they may go "Facebook Official" (FBO) by changing their stated "relationship status." But what if you break up? Here's how a college student describes the aftermath of changing her status back to "single" in XOJane: "As soon as I stepped into the office, my friends and coworkers descended on me...My then-boss (also a Facebook friend) even pulled me into her office to make sure I was doing OK. After my work shift, then-boyfriend's best friend stopped me on my way to class to tell me how very sad then-boyfriend was feeling. Thanks to Facebook, everyone I knew knew about the breakup.
But what's the alternative to FBO breakups? If your affair falls flat, at some point you may realize it's become a...textlationship! You exchange frequent messages, but somehow meetings in real life (IRL) never come through. Friendships can dwindle to textlationships, but it's especially frustrating when a former or potential lover keeps you at arm's length. "Nailing down a date with him was like trying to pin olive oil on a wall," is how The Love Lessons blog describes it. "Typically he would be unavailable for the first two options I suggested, while his response to the third would be: 'Yes. Perhaps, that would work. Certainly. Maybe.' ...Then, not surprisingly, he would change his availability at the last minute."
No list of this kind would be complete without the infamous term "ghosting," the coward's way out of awkward social interaction, romantic or otherwise. This is one of the worst examples we've ever heard of: "One night at dinner...Michael and Linda mutually agreed that they wanted to move forward in the relationship. He dropped her off at home, kissed her goodnight ... and never heard from her again." Not nice but it gets so, so much worse: "After his attempts to reach her went unanswered, Michael...delivered Linda's favorite cupcakes to her office—only to find out his name had been removed from the guest list at the gate." Ouch! But we do kind of wonder just how many times he called her first. Here are some helpful hints for excessive people pleasers.
Remember Gloria Gaynor's great disco classic "I Will Survive"? She finally gets over the jerk who ghosted her and there he is sitting in her living room: "I should have changed that stupid lock. I should have made you leave your key. If I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me." Well, that's the ultimate zombie anthem, only 40 years later, it all takes place online. Says one Brooklyn dating coach: "Zombie-ing can be as a simple as an ex who disappeared liking something on your Facebook or Instagram, or sending a request to connect on LinkedIn. (Subtext: I don't have the courage to end our relationship respectfully, but please help me find a job!)" We don't need no stinkin' dating coach to move this one along. You can gauge whether your partner is trustworthy by looking for these signs.