In today’s age of swiping, ghosting, benching and breadcrumbing (yep, seriously), it can feel like no one’s got any manners anymore when it comes to dating.
Dating apps give us endless choice and the means to quickly move on to somebody new – but is it all making us ‘less ethical daters’?
Nichi Hodgson, broadcaster, ‘sexpert’ and author of The Curious History Of Dating: From Jane Austen To Tinder, is now leading a movement for there to be an ethical accepted code of behaviour in the search for love.
Curious? We asked her what’s it’s all about…
So what is ethical dating?
In a nutshell, "it’s about remembering there is a person behind the pixels", she says.
"It’s about actively working not to commodify the people you meet on dating apps, responding politely but firmly to approaches, not ghosting, zombieing or any other of those dehumanising behaviours."
Zombieing, in case that one’s passed you by, is coming back from the dead and resurfacing in someone’s life after previously falling off the grid.
But it’s not simply about treating other people better. "It also increases the ethical dater’s esteem by proxy," she says. "Because when we set firmer boundaries, and treat others as we wish to be treated, everyone feels better about dating and the standards go up across the board."
Are dating apps to blame?
Apps – or at least how we use them – could be part of the problem. "Dating apps make us all a ‘product’ in the shop-front that is our online profiles," says Hodgson. "Remember, dating apps are primarily in the money game, not the love game, and it does not benefit them if the apps are extremely efficient.
"When you realise this, it can make you more wary of apps but also more clued up about the fact they encourage bad rather than good behaviour," she adds. "So it’s up to you to push against that if you still want to use them."
So how do we date more ethically?
Essentially, it’s about starting with yourself. "Treat people how you like to be treated by honouring their boundaries. Respect yourself more so that you don’t entertain time-wasters, power players or narcissists," advises Hodgson.
Simply put, it’s about respecting other people’s time. "If someone is not responding to your messages in a timely fashion, constantly rescheduling dates or making excuses for why they can’t meet, they are not doing that."
How do you know when to walk away?
Hodgson says the minute someone shows they don’t respect your time, that’s your cue to cut them loose. "It’s game-over for the relationship, or certainly the balance of equality in the relationship – at the very best you get trapped in a cycle of game-planning. As equality is also at the crux of ethical dating, simply don’t respond to people that don’t respect your time," she advises.
If other people display bad behaviour, she says it’s best to immediately disengage. You may be tempted, or feel you really want to tell them you don’t like their actions (or lack of actions) – but Hodgson advises that it’s usually less painful for you if you just don’t respond.
"This can seem difficult when you have been ghosted, but the best thing to do in that case is to go ahead and block them on all channels, just in case they try to zombie you in a moment of weakness and you are tempted to reconnect!"
What are the benefits to you?
It might seem unfair if you’re the only one behaving with a conscience, but it’s all about having standards that will hopefully filter through your dating pool. Hodgson says you’ll even end up attracting better people.
"When you raise your game and demand more from other people, something wonderful happens too – you only communicate with those who are also behaving ethically, and suddenly a smaller but more valuable pool of potential dates opens up."