College students are no longer dating in the traditional sense of the word. Relationship lines have become blurry. Casual relationships are more often a topic of conversation among friends than dating or being exclusive. So what happened to dating anyway? Well, according to college students I interviewed, people are “just talking.”
Although “talking” is difficult to define, the general consensus is when interested people keep in contact in an effort to get to know each other they are considered talking. This could encompass a range of activities including texting occasionally, hanging out together, or even partaking in sexual activities. The key here is that there are no strings attached.
“Usually dating has a more mature connotation where as talking is more conducive to a person who is leading a carefree life,” said Alicia Montgomery, an undergraduate student at the University of Cincinnati.
Hank Orange says that “talking” may include going on dates, but this is not to be confused with the act of dating. Orange, who is a recent college graduate, said he believes the term dating is exclusive to one particular person. He says more college students choose “talking” instead of dating because it allows them to get to know and spend time with many people that they may be interested in rather than feeling committing to one.
“College is about experimenting and doing different things,” said Orange. “You are trying to find out what it is exactly that you want from a person.”
Dr. Tim Cole, a professor at of DePaul University College of Communication, says the ambiguity associated with dating in college makes it more complex. College is unique because the majority of students living in the college community are in the same age group. People who are outside of the college community are more likely to date in the traditional sense Cole explained.
“When you are out in the real world you are mixed in with people of various age groups so you’re really not just hanging out at that point,” said Cole. “You are much more explicit about what you are doing.”
Cole says casual dating is more common in college because the students aren’t good at dating because they may be fearful of rejection and have not had as much experience communicating their feelings.
“I expect that most people have this causal undefined relationship as opposed to actually being in exclusive relationships,” Doug Ealy, a graduate student at DePaul University. “People created the causal relationships because people are actually afraid of hurt and commitment.”
Courey McLemore, creator of the blog “Sex and the Twenties,” says “talking” and dating can be used interchangeably. Both offer the opportunity to get to know a person and figure out what people want out of the relationship. McLemore says it is all about intention.
“The purpose of dating is to assess people and decide if you can see them hanging around,” explained McLemore. “Figure out your own intentions, decide why you’re dating, and what results you really want.”
Regardless of efforts to dodge heartbreak by cutting out titles, Robbin Ivory an undergraduate student at St. Louis University, cautions college students against giving too much in a relationship that is not clearly defined by both parties. Casual sexual relationships can get particularly tricky she explained.
“Get to know someone first and be clear about your intentions in your relationship so that adding sex doesn’t confuse things,” said Ivory. “Giving someone too much too soon can hinder a relationship from being anything more than just sex.”
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