Digital dating deciphered: The 15 terms you need to know

The world of romance is constantly evolving and so is the terminology describing it, says Suzanne Harrington

Ah, the romance of modern dating. No really, dating is as romantic as it’s always been — moonlight smooches, dinners a deux, puppy dog eyes — once you’ve met someone with whom you wish to get soppy. Reaching that point, however, requires rock-solid resilience, steely self-esteem, and an advanced sense of the absurd.

It’s harsh out there, being a disposable thumbnail living in the phone of a thousand strangers — gird yourselves for the hellscape of swipe culture. And remember — a lot of identically appalling behaviour existed before the advent of smartphones: ghosting is the digital equivalent of going out for a packet of cigarettes and never coming back; roaching is just another name for cheating, wrapped in modern terminology. Stride forth, be fearless. And know when to stop — the swipe-right grass is not always greener.

Deep liking

Got a New Love Interest (NLI) in your life? You’ll obviously be lurking through their social media, checking out their past online life. Which is fine, until you give yourself away by liking one of their posts from five years ago. Which will make you look like a total bunny boiler. Play it cool.

DM sliding

When you ramp up a flirtation by daring to send your object of desire a Direct Message on social media, thus sliding from public interaction to private. A bit like knocking on their front door and hoping they don’t slam it in your face.

DTR conversation

Ah yes, that armpit prickling talk when you attempt to Define The Relationship after dating for a while; what if you’re keen on something casual, and they introduce you as their girlfriend/boyfriend/partner? Awks.


Friends with benefits, that is, friends who have regular, non-committed sex with each other which is not defined as a relationship, or requires exclusivity. The other name for this arrangement requires asterisks.

Slow fading

You’ve had enough, but you are not a total monster and care about the other person’s feelings. A bit. So you set about disengaging subtly, by being friendly but unavailable, until the other person gets the message. Like leaving the room by walking backwards towards the door, smiling as you go.


You’ve been dating A, but for whatever reason – maybe you’re also interested in trying it out with B, C and D – you decide to temporarily park A, leaving them to wonder where you’ve gone. You then reappear in A’s life, as though nothing has happened, to carry on as before. This works best if A has low self-esteem. Otherwise, expect a P45.


You stop seeing someone, so that they are officially your ex before you disappear into the dating depths without a trace. Months later, you pop up again looking to rekindle, again as though nothing has happened. Highly risky. They may respond by blocking you. See also zombieing.


You drip-feed a potential NLI with a series of friendly but vague messages, none of which are going to lead to meeting up – you just want to keep them hanging on. Only works short-term, as most people who are not delusional will see what you’re doing and delete you.


When you lure someone into a digital relationship by creating a fictitious online persona. Online, you’re hot, fit, rich, successful, and live just far away enough to make your unavailability excuses plausible; you can never meet in real life (IRL) because the person they think you are does not exist. Works well with gullible people.


Refusing to integrate your beau into your real life, so that they are never introduced to your friends or family, but are kept entirely separate. Compartmentalising, in old money. Effective only if the person is equally keen on a casual thing, or naïve enough to believe your excuses about how all your mates are terminally busy and your family live in another time-zone.And e


When you have Plan B already lined up, softening any emotional discomfort should Plan A not work out. Popular with those who cannot bear to be alone with themselves.


You’re dating A. Unknown to you, A is also dating B, C, and D. When you discover A has been sleeping with several others, they shrug and remind you that exclusivity was never discussed. This is why, if you don’t want to be roached, the sweaty DTR conversation should happen sooner rather than later.


You’ve stopped seeing each other IRL – possibly because they roached you - but you continue popping up in their social media, liking their posts, following their stories. This is different from the invisibility of lurking, where you secretly check them out to see who they’re dating now; this is letting them know you’re still watching them. Not creepy at all.


Like catfishing, except you actually do meet up IRL. Your date then sees that you are considerably less amazing than you’ve stated in your online profile. You’ve used heavily filtered photos, or ones that are years out of date. You’re not really a doctor. Also known as lying, although not very intelligently.


When you decide to stop seeing someone without bothering to tell them. You just abruptly disappear, cutting all contact, leaving them staring into their phone, wondering if you’ve died in a freak accident. Never do this, even if you’re a registered sociopath. Always, always be kind.

More on this topic

Twitter utterly bemused as Kenny G serenades Kim and Kanye on Valentine’s Day

Gardaí warn people to beware of romance scams after woman parts with €48,000

The business of love: Couples share what it's like to run a company together

A movie at home for Valentine’s? Sofa, so romantic

More in this Section

Design/life: Aileen Lee profiles Andrew Pain of Black Hen Designs

Learning Points: School bullies grow up to be work bullies

Another day, another new label - will we ever reach ‘peak gin’?

Paul Linehan on his favourite books, music and the best gig he ever went to

Latest Showbiz

Jedward to release new album this summer

Taron Egerton ‘understands’ why gay actors feel better suited to Elton role

More From The Irish Examiner