The other day, I was reading an article that talked about how millennials have created a culture of "un-dating," where instead of dating, people are "talking," and rather than being asked on dates, people are merely asked to "hang out." I couldn't agree more with this, especially being a college student, where we have the freedom of seeing whoever we like, almost whenever we like. I think that this culture of "un-dating" has stemmed from hookup culture: a culture where real emotions are forbidden or shamed upon, and 'commitment' has become a trigger word.

Because of the casualty of hooking up (and take that word for however you interpret it), it's often hard to tell what someone's true objectives are in new or more casual romantic relationships. When asked to "hang out" or what someone's "up to" the intentions are oftentimes very blurred. Do they just want a cuddle buddy? Do they want to just hook up? Do they genuinely have feelings towards said person? Do they just want to be friends? Or do they want a combination of the above, but don't really want to put a "label" on it?

Whatever the answer may be, the lines have become very vague between what defines dating versus hooking up. This probably stems from our own insecurities, doubts, and mixed feelings, as oftentimes we may not really know what we want out of a relationship at first. On the other hand, if we do know that we want something more out of the relationship, we're often too afraid to bring it up. We don't want to ask the daring question of "what are we?" fearing that the question would potentially end the relationship or cause it to never "be the same" after the fact. But ironically, we also don't want to share our feelings out of fear of being rejected. If the feelings are not reciprocated, suddenly that person has become too "clingy" or burdensome.

Hookup culture has created a culture where having feelings makes someone "weak" or "soft." I personally think it's absurd- in the end, we can't help how we feel, whether we like it or not. But in general, avoiding the unsaid can cause some extremely mixed signals, and often ends up creating more problems than those evaded in the first place. If we're trying to "preserve" the relationship, then why is the safest way to go about it hiding our emotions? Society has established a norm where maintaining a "no-strings-attached" relationship means the maintenance of secrets and denial of any human emotion.

To make matters worse, we oftentimes avoid confronting the issue all together through what we know as "ghosting." (For those who don't, 'ghosting' is when someone just stops communicating on all platforms with a person they were involved with.) But, in my opinion, ghosting is just mere cowardice. Ghosting is like abandoning ship right when the sea gets a bit too bumpy for our own comfort. What's unfortunate is that usually it's done by the person less emotionally invested in the relationship, leaving the more emotionally invested person alone with their own confused feelings and prolonged insecurities.

So, what's the takeaway? Well first off, we should all man (or woman!) up, and be more honest to our partners, and more importantly ourselves, about our feelings. A one-sided relationship will rarely end well, so it's better to be upfront sooner than later before more damage is done. I think establishing the "what are we?" earlier into budding relationships is always a good way to go, just so both people are on the same page. Seeing "where things go" and not really addressing the elephant in the room may work for some people, but I'd like to believe that it's the exception and not the rule. In the majority of cases (that I've seen and lived through), avoiding the conversation has only caused a pent up jumble of issues, mixed emotions, and confusion. So, the next time you're asked to "hang out" with a person of interest, make sure you figure out what you're getting into before it gets too messy.