“Many millennial and Gen Z men aren’t outwardly affectionate, so we’re forced to discern the interest level and emotion behind a like or a view,” said Kristin in Los Angeles.
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It’s the Instagram equivalent of waiting three days to text back. “In our current dating age, it seems insane to play with someone like that just for the power dynamic.”Yet so many women and men do.
“If you’ve gone out a number of times and want to cool it, you try to not watch their Stories or engage too much,” said Alden, a 32-year-old based in Boston.
There will always be those who say they don’t care if the person they date notices them online, and many people genuinely don't.
But writing off the subtle implications of certain user behavior ignores the weight those actions carry for a growing number of people.
While it’s long been expected that good romantic partners will dutifully like and comment on their other half’s best selfies, it’s no longer acceptable to simply throw digital hearts on your partner’s Instagram posts. Before Snapchat introduced its Stories feature, a personal feed of photos and videos that last for only 24 hours, some partners would white-lie their way through a relationship.
But with Snapchat and Instagram Stories, there’s now a clear record of exactly who watched your content and when they did it.
Young men and women I spoke to ranging from age 16 to 34 all said they consider Story watching a lightweight form of flirting or expression of interest if done by an available person with whom they have chemistry.
“Consuming someone’s content is absolutely an important part of flirting nowadays, and especially during the beginning stages,” said Levinson, now deputy editor of Mel magazine.
“It’s how you signal you’re interested in someone, that you care what they have to say, that you’re curious what they’re up to moment to moment.