COLUMN: Digitized dating in the teen cyberworld

Ultimately, it has to happen, even in the world of “undating.”
The Split. The Break-up.

COLUMN: Digitized dating in the teen cyberworld

Ultimately, it has to happen, even in the world of “undating.”

The Split. The Break-up.

The Dumper and the Dumpee.

It’s the mother lode of gossip fodder in the Facebooking, Tweeting, texting world of young teens.

Good fun for the spectators. Deep and heartfelt drama for the cast. And another bemusing and bewildering episode for the theatre management (parents).

Let me explain the concept, from the perspective of an observer rather than a participant, although I have some reliable insight in regard to the latter.

If you are a parent of a youth, you will most likely be familiar with the dating rituals of early adolescence  – early being the operative word.

Courtesy of television and media marketing and music videos and social networking, and whatever else our society throws at our eagerly accepting new generation, our newly minted teens are attempting to emulate what passes for adult relationships – sans the adult part.

Kids who have yet to understand what hormones are, are trying some on for size in the digital world.

It’s all very clumsy, and rather confusing, since rarely are any of these “real” romantic relationships (perish the thought).

How does one “date” if one can’t meet the basic requirements of the ritual, i.e. actually go on dates – let alone without parental supervision or presence.

Hence the term “undating.”

They can’t drive. They have homework. They have family, and friends, and sports commitments – and on the weekends, often all of the above.

So, that pretty much leaves school, and/or the social media option. More on that later.

Hanging out together at school – what does that entail? Most well-managed school environments have a no-PDA policy (Public Displays of Affection). No kissing, pawing, clutching, groping, etc.

(Note to the principals and teachers who strictly enforce this policy: Thank you. Oh, thank you).

So, little to no actual physical contact leaves just the labelling: “She’s mine. He’s with me.”

Ownership status at 13.

What a concept …

Where the pseudo-relationship flourishes is in the online pseudo-world.

For boys in particular, it’s great. You can text all sorts of things that sound cool, and you don’t actually have to be in the presence of “her” to say it.

Facebooking is a whole lot easier than face-to-facing.

After the “dating” (lasting a few weeks or few months) comes the unhitching of the hardly hitched.

And what do they have to pattern their break-up after, other than the scripts they’ve been given – the same ones that compelled them to sample this strange game in the first place.

There are tears, awkward explanations, excuses, regard and regrets, silence, or in some cases, reconciliation, and then the cycle repeats.

And throughout the process, there is a legion of social network “friends” who leap to become involved via endless hours of texted tidbits, speculation, inexperienced advice, and ever-so-sincere support, all there for everyone to see.

It’s online, real-time soap opera.

Even if I could peel away 40 years, I wouldn’t want to do it.

It’s confusing enough for two very young people to try to replicate in their lives some form of adult relationship, let alone have it digitally displayed for others to experience vicariously.

For those who live their lives in cyber-space, that last word might be one to Google.


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