Flirting's new secret language

Makena Clawson

Eyes by Petr Kratochvil (CC0 1.0)

In the Victorian era, the direction a woman twirled her fan or the type of flowers a man sent could all have very different meanings from “It’s over,” to “You’re the only one for me.” These “secret languages” were the main-stay of flirting for the time.

How things have changed.

Or have they? I propose there is new secret--or sometimes not so secret--language for flirting: social media.

For better or for worse, flirting is all over the social media today, and in more inconspicuous ways than girls posting “selfies” in bikinis.

Flirting is often subtle, I would define it as presenting the best side of yourself in a way to win the attention and approval of the opposite sex. And most women know this is most effective when it’s done undercover--almost as a secret mission to make the other person attracted to you without giving away your attraction.  A sort of flirting “inception.”

After all, we want men to think this “best side” of ourselves is the only side.

So when were Mr. Darcy’s furtive and intriguing glances replaced with a “hey ur cute” text message? How has social media transformed the way we flirt?

Victorian flirting was so undercover because anything more forward would have attracted a “lounge lizard,” not the debonair prince the ladies pined for, and even moving forward from petticoats to pin-up girls, the flirting scene was still under-wraps.

There was even an “anti-flirt club” in the 1920’s that protested “flirting motorists,” men offering women rides with more than the intention of saving them a walk. Although the club didn’t last long, it wasn’t until the sexual revolution in the 60’s that flirting became such an outward affair, leading us to where we are today--social media flirting.

At first glance, you may not notice much flirting on Facebook, (depending on your friends), but looking deeper, almost everything on a person’s profile is a façade, a skin deep glance at the side they want you to see.

Everything from profile pictures selected, interests and favorite movies listed, and with whom you interact all shout, “This is who I want you to think I am!” Same goes for Twitter, Instagram, you name it.

And beyond the façade, we have a million motives behind actions taken on these websites.

“If I re-tweet what he said, what will he think of me?” “Is it too soon to like his pictures and statuses?”

And don’t get me started on “poking”-- heaven knows what Ms. Austen would have said about the forwardness of a poke, even if it is virtual. This is all the new language of flirting, the revamped way for us to twirl our hankies.

But the façade we put up only cuts it for so long. Telling someone your identity is based on your interests, best pictures (because let’s be honest, have you ever put one up of you in those holey sweatpants?), and conversations only deep enough to let all 339 of your other friends hear them, is hopefully a lie.

So why do we settle for friendships and even relationships based on superficiality? Why do we act surprised when men think we will accept a date proposed by text message? (What’s next, a texted wedding proposal?)

If this is the way men are flirting, it’s because we’re the one’s setting the standard. We’re the one’s accepting that weak excuse of a date, that inappropriate pick up line. Perhaps we’re afraid if we don’t settle we’ll end up alone.

We may think, “Even if I don’t fall for the ‘lounge lizard’ and his slick texts, there will be ten other women who will, so what’s the use?” “Men won’t measure up to my standard, but is it only hurting me?”

But if I set a standard, just maybe there will be the right man who meets it, and all the others along the way will get a little lesson on how to treat a real woman.

So ladies, channel your inner Elizabeth Bennett, coy and coquettish, inviting but dignified. Grab your lipstick, change out of your sweatpants, and don’t be afraid to enter the real world.

Topics: Beauty , Culture , Dating

Makena Clawson is a sophmore at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. She is studying English, mass communications and Spanish and hopes to start a magazine for young women after graduating.

View all articles by Makena Clawson

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