In dating, ‘dexting’ is a kind of relationship that isn’t really a relationship at all

Dexting involves exchanging text messages with someone you meet on a dating app, without ever meeting them in real life. — AFP Relaxnews

This Valentine’s Day, some might be busy finalising a reservation, while others are fine-tuning a dinner menu. Some people, however, could be putting the finishing touches to the text message they’ll be sending to the loved one they've never actually met.

If that’s the case, they could be into ‘dexting’, a new trend that singles would do well to avoid if they don’t want to find themselves in a purely virtual, platonic relationship.

Imagine the scene. You’ve finally found that special someone and it’s a match made in heaven! They confide in you, listen to you, make you laugh, and tell you about every moment of their daily life – so much so that you build a strong, solid bond.

The ideal partner, you might think, but with one exception: you’ve never actually met them in real life. It may seem unimaginable, but many users of dating apps form virtual relationships that can last a long time without ever – or at least going a long time before – actually seeing a single real-world date on the horizon.

This kind of virtual, message-based relationship is called dexting, and it could turn out to be a much more toxic and fruitless exercise than it seems.

A solid but platonic relationship

It’s Amanda Bradford, founder of the dating app service The League, who coined this term, which is a contraction of the words ‘dating’ and ‘texting’, reports Glamour magazine.

It’s a relationship based on the exchange of SMS messages, whatever their content, and therefore a relationship that’s not based on any kind of physical encounter.

According to Cambridge University Press, in an article exploring some of the “new terms around romantic relationships the Cambridge Dictionary team has seen growing in popularity over the last 12 months”, dexting is defined as “exchanging many text messages with someone you have met on a dating app without ever meeting them in person”.

This type of relationship doesn’t prevent you from building a strong bond with a partner – on the contrary, communication is the very basis of the relationship – but that doesn’t mean it’s beneficial for both parties involved.

A waste of time

At first glance, dexting may seem ideal for those seeking a trusting relationship based on authenticity, without having to make a real commitment.

“Dexting is convenient. It can make you feel like you are in a relationship, without having to actually do the work or spend the time required to actually form a true connection. In a way, it’s also safer as you’re less likely to get rejected if you don’t put yourself out there in a real way, so these relationships can ultimately last longer than IRL ones, and it’s comforting to have someone you can text vs being completely single,” Bradford told Glamour magazine.

But you only have to look at the social media posts about dexting, especially on TikTok, to see that this form of relationship can prove toxic. A user called @sarahlauren71, whose video has been viewed over 700,000 times, makes it clear: “no more dexting in 2024”, pointing out that this type of relationship may seem exciting, but that there’s nothing healthy about it.

This observation is based on her own experience, with the young woman explaining that she had “dexted” a potential partner for several months before meeting him, only to discover that he was not what she was looking for.

She also points out people inevitably aren’t the same behind their screen as they are face-to-face. And that’s a fact that many users lament after experimenting with dexting.

In short, that could be reason enough to avoid this practice, which can end up wasting your time and leaving you feeling disillusioned. – AFP Relaxnews

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