Sally: Justin and I hooked up last night!
Betsy: OMG no way!! R u guys a thing now?
Sally: Idk, he didn’t say anything, but I think he wants to hang out again.
Betsy: Yeah, u guys are probably gonna start talking.
Sally: I hope so!
With the increased use of technology, relationships have gone completely digital; we try to decipher texts, swipe left and right on Tinder, and casually check our crush’s relationship status on Facebook while attempting to avoid judgment from our friends (you know you do this). We form relationships on a database rather than in a diner. Our generation’s views on relationships are less traditional than those from the early 1900’s.
In today’s culture, “talking” does not mean verbally communicating with others: it means something completely different. According to Urban Dictionary – the online dictionary that defines almost every popular slang term or phrase – “talking” means “two people are not exclusive with each other nor have established what they are as a couple, but have some sort of relationship.” This phenomenon is common amongst teens, especially those on college campuses.
Years before this phenomenon began, “calling culture” was in effect. No, it does not mean that people called each other instead of texting (though that probably happened before iPhones and Blackberry’s were released). Calling culture involved men and women physically meeting each other. In person. As in, not online. In Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus, Kathleen A. Bogle uses Beth Bailey’s work to define “calling ” as the physical act of a young man going to a girl’s home to spend time with the girl and her family, especially her mother. The young woman, however, would be the one entertaining the man: she would play piano and ask him questions. The two were rarely left alone (Bogle 12).
There was a distinct difference between “calling” and “dating.” Dating was common amongst the poorer populations, whereas calling was a much classier alternate. Members of the lower class lacked the materials needed to entertain men; therefore, “dating” began. The term “date” was actually a slang term used by members of the lower class. Furthermore, dates usually ended in a lower-class woman sexually pleasing the man (Bogle 13). Ironically, in today’s culture, dating is viewed as sophisticated and taken very seriously by both men and women.
This cultural transformation can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. With calling, the woman had to court the man, everything was very formal, and the man was more concerned with impressing the woman’s family rather than dedicating his time to getting to know her. On the other hand, dating was seen as low-class and trashy, often revolving around sexual favors. Today, our culture’s “talking” phase has combined these two phenomena, creating a relationship that revolves around sex and sexual favors, much like dating, but lacks the formality and reassurance of calling culture.
It’s funny: our generation is constantly “talking,” but not much is being said. We speak through digital pathways that have the ability to mask our true thoughts, concerns, and intentions. We might as well be robots. Is social media even social? Or does it breed reclusive behavior and foster uncertainty? Most of us don’t care about what others are saying on our timelines — we just want to be “Facebook official” with our significant other so we know the relationship is “real.” We resort to social media to form relationships and, essentially, brag about them.
Because the term “talking” is so ambiguous, it has a psychological impact on the parties involved. Not knowing where you stand with someone can interfere with your true feelings for someone. Factor technology into the equation and, well, you’re basically screwed. Texting and iChatting makes relationships impersonal, especially if the relationship itself has yet to be explicitly defined.
Is talking culture even worth it? Some may say yes, as there is no need for strict relationships or formalities, especially on college campuses. On the other hand, some may say no due to its ambiguity and psychological consequences.
On a thread on GirlsAskGuys.com, many users posted responses to the question, “What exactly does talking mean?” The responses, from both men and women, revolved around the same definition: that two people aren’t single, but they’re not in a committed relationship either. Well, jeez, that’s not vague or anything. Oddly enough, many of the posters claimed that their age was between 25-35. This phenomenon is surpassing its boundaries and leaking into older generations, slowly but surely replacing the security that comes with dating and relationships. Will dating be phased out?
As I mentioned before, there are psychological consequences associated with “talking.” Some people just aren’t meant for this type of relationship. However, others relish in it. Those commitment-phobes who just want to test the waters love this; they can a safe back-up while they go out and meet new people. This is frowned upon with dating. If two people have been dating for a certain amount of time, it is assumed they are exclusive, even though they may not be “in a relationship” yet.
Talking is the bastard child of calling culture and dating. It is the bane of our generation’s existence.
And, guys, I’m sorry to say this, but I spoke with The Talking himself; buckle up, because he said he’s not going anywhere any time soon.