Modern-day romance is a beautiful, wild world. Dating has always been evolving, with new terms, etiquette, and avenues for meeting people seemingly every day. Pair a constantly changing dating culture with a post-pandemic world and you have yourself a modern dating swirl of uncertainty.
While there isn’t a how-to for dating–your romantic journey is completely up to you, of course–there are ways to be prepared for and understand the current dating world, because dating is hard enough, right? Getting a good feel for what the dating landscape looks like right now will give you more confidence in your own experiences.
Keep this dating guide in your back pocket (well, on your internet tab, that is) as you navigate meeting people this year. We cover dating etiquette (and if there is any these days), how dating has changed after COVID-19, and trends that will continue throughout 2023.
Dating etiquette isn’t clear cut anymore
Dating tends to have fewer and fewer rules as the years go by–and that’s a good thing! Dating defined during older generations usually meant gendered and strict societal guidelines for courtship, but these days it’s less about who calls whom first and more about how you feel and what you want.
But with fewer rules comes more ambiguity. Now the types of questions you might be asking are who texts first, do you go home with this person on the first or fifth date, or how many messages does it take to know if you’re dating someone? Online dating and matchmaking can help to make the process more transparent because both people have the power to start (and end) courtships easily and on their own terms. However, there is still haziness surrounding these questions, which can be maddening.
But much like whether or not to show PDA or if you should go on a blind date with your cousin’s best friend, the choose-your-own-adventure is just that: your choice. Dating in 2023 is all about freedom and approaching the dating journey on your own terms. Embrace the vagueness surrounding dating “do’s and don’ts” by being up front about what you want. Only interested in a long-term relationship? Clarify that in the beginning. Want to meet the person you’ve been texting, but aren’t sure how they’ll feel about it? Don’t be shy to ask for what you want. That’s the beauty of modern dating.
People have strong feelings about COVID-19
We all experienced the ups and downs, tragedies and joys, confusion, and stillness that the COVID-19 pandemic threw our way. Even with the slow trudge back to normalcy, chances are that you still talk about the COVID years with friends, family, and people you meet. These conversations can be a soothing balm for processing what was most likely a stressful experience.
But many people have strong perspectives on the pandemic, and those years are tied heavily to emotional memories. It’s natural that the subject will come up in modern dating, but someone’s view on pandemic politics could mean a potential end to a budding relationship.
Issues like COVID-19 can be very polarizing, and, as you’re dating in 2023, it’s good to keep in mind that approaching the subject with an open mind might be the best move. That being said, it’s good to remember that being aligned with someone on your views and beliefs can often mean fewer disagreements in the future.
Post-pandemic baggage can make dating more challenging
After months-long lockdowns during COVID-19, many people have now emerged from that time with a suite of social anxieties. The effects of isolation can impact all relationships: from friends and family hangouts to dating. Dating is hard enough without adding the stress that might come with going out into the world again. So what can you do?
Keep a pulse on how you’re feeling about meeting up with someone in person, and make sure to respect the other person’s boundaries, too. If virtual dates are the preferred method early on, that’s just fine. But try to shed the weight of that post-pandemic baggage and push yourself to see someone socially in person, as this type of connection can foster a more meaningful dating relationship–for however long.
If you’re still feeling rusty in social settings and the idea of making small talk with someone makes you sweat, know that it’s totally normal. Give yourself grace throughout the process, and take a break if you can–whether that’s a few minutes in the bathroom to take a breath or scheduling shorter dates. After a while, you’ll have more practice under your belt to feel confident in many social situations.
Authenticity is more important than ever before
Remember when you set up your first online profile? (Yes, we’re going way back.) You probably selected a profile image with you at your best angle and only included posts on your feed that put you in the best light. As online social platforms have evolved through the years, so have the trends in how we portray ourselves. While posting curated photos and videos and crafting a specific story are still cornerstones of online profiles, now a new trend is emerging: authenticity.
Over the past several years, there has been a backlash against the “curated feed” showing people or influencers with seemingly perfect skin, bodies, homes, and lives. In 2023, it’s all about letting your true self shine, not only in your social profiles but also in your dating life. This could be in part due to the pandemic, which helped people pinpoint and understand what they value the most. It also encouraged people to be real about how they’re feeling, knowing that their peers and potential dates will most likely understand, given the experiences we all shared.
So, when you’re wondering why dating is so hard and you’re not meeting the right people, remember that staying true to yourself and being vulnerable is more likely to attract people who share your same likes, dislikes, and hobbies and who will accept or identify with your insecurities.
Virtual dating is here to stay
Virtual dating is solidified into the landscape of modern dating. And we’re not just talking about online dating. Whether you use a matchmaking service or an online dating app or are meeting people the “old-fashioned way,” going on virtual dates has become a new norm since the pandemic. From cocktail-making classes to Google hangouts, virtual dating has proven to be another great way to get to know someone and opens up the pool of dates beyond your zip code. Better yet, it can help you connect with someone and see if they might be a good fit before committing to an in-person meetup.
Remember: Don’t overlook the importance of meeting IRL. In an increasingly digital world, we often forget that meeting someone face to face is pretty darn essential. Just because we can buy a house having never walked through it doesn’t mean that we necessarily should. The same goes for dating. Texting, video, and phone convos have their time and place (and are crucial for online dating!), but a real-life interaction is still one of the best ways to get a true feel for a person.
We hope that this dating guide will help you to navigate romantic interests this year (and beyond) and also discover what works best for you. The more you date, the more you’ll know what you want in someone else, how you want to portray yourself, and how to approach certain situations. Modern dating is challenging no matter the route you take–whether you’re using in-person meetups through your hobbies or online dating sites and apps–but it can be extremely rewarding. Remember to keep your values and beliefs close and an open mind at the ready.