Apps like Tinder and Bumble have transformed dating beyond all recognition. And it seems a day doesn't pass now without another depressing word being coined to describe the latest brutal dating trend.
Words like ghosting, flexting and shaveducking have emerged from the Wild West that is online matchmaking. We can now meet dozens of people a night at home on the sofa, without needing to move more than a thumb – always hoping someone funnier, better looking and smarter will appear with each swipe. These new words help us navigate this confusing landscape.
Don't get us wrong. We're all for hookups being set up with a swipe and a few taps. But it can leave those looking for something more than casual flings wanting.
The diagnosis of dating coach James Preece is clear. "Dating apps have killed romance," he told IBTimes UK. We're not talking about archaic ideas of romance like holding open the door for a date, or surprising them with vomit-inducing red roses. But not becoming so blase about a date's feelings that you can't muster up the courage to gently let them down rather than vanishing off the face of the earth. Or not rejecting a person because they're an inch too short and shaved off their beard. Romance can be as simple as giving someone a chance – even if they misplace apostrophes on their profile.
A recent survey by Figleaves of over 1,000 UK adults who use a range of dating apps found that 52% of users admitted to being more judgemental of people's looks since joining. And a separate study by dating site eHarmony and relationships charity Relate found that 15% of single people feel overwhelmed by the current dating landscape.
Of course, it would be naive to believe terms like ghosting describe behaviours that are new. What is new, however, is the speed at which we can make and break connections.
"I'm sure people have been breadcrumbing one another for hundreds of years – they just employed slightly different means," a 27-year-old woman who only wanted to be identified as Alex told IBTimes UK. She and two other friends in their late twenties set up the Reasons Why We're Not Dating Instagram profile. There, they document why they've ditched different men.
She added: "Modern technology has caused dating to evolve into a phenomenon where the rules are constantly changing. It makes people seem more replaceable: we have implicit access to a huge number of single people in the surrounding area – if you go on a date are you going to give that person as much of a chance when you know that you can always go home and start swiping again?"
Despite all this, a recent survey by dating app Odyssey found that nearly a fifth of millennials invested over two hours a week on dating apps. "That's a long time to spend having miserable interactions" ONE Condoms ambassador and Superdrug Sex Educator Alix Fox told IBTimes UK. So there must be something drawing us in rather than convenience and easy access to hook-ups. And that seems to be the buzz of forging connections.
Aaron, a Londoner works in digital communications and didn't want to be identified by his last name, hasn't found this landscape jading despite being single on and off for a number of years.
"I think apps have improved my dating life as it has made the world of dating a bit more accessible to a relatively shy, pessimistic, insecure man who would always err on the side of caution and assume a woman wouldn't be interested before talking to them in a bar," he told IBTimes UK.
"Overall, I think dating is fun. I don't go in to a date with many preconceptions or expectations, it's just a way to meet someone new, try something different, hear some new stories, and who knows where that can lead. Yes, it can be frustrating, time-consuming, a bit disheartening to match and talk, and it go nowhere time and again, but you never know what's round the corner."
He sees the glut of dating terminology as a symptom of a positive trend of openness. To him, romance isn't dead at all. In fact, we are simply more open about our experiences, including our failures, and show a new willingness to support each other. And as any relationships expert will attest, communication is the key to anything from a great hook-up to a long-term bond.
So now we can't put the genie back in the bottle, and in many ways we wouldn't want to, Fox says it's time to reclaim dating terminology.
"I'd like to see more positive new terms enter the linguistic landscape, to make people more mindful about behaving well towards others and themselves, help them navigate the modern dating process more joyfully, and ultimately enjoy happier experiences," she said.
Caspering is among the new terms she has coined. "If you're going to ghost someone, be friendly about it," she said. "If you've decided you don't want to chat to someone any longer, that's fine, but if they're simply not your cuppa and haven't been an ass, try to leave them with a compliment or some constructive feedback so they feel bolstered to keep on looking for love."
We can save romance, chimed Aaron, and it starts with changing how we behave towards one another.
"What you do with matches is your responsibility, and the advice for speaking to someone you meet online is the same as for someone you meet in person," he argued. Ghosting and breadcrumbing will become redundant if we followed his simple rules: "Be reasonable, respectful of their wishes and treat them how you would like to be treated – aka don't be a dick."