What To Know About Flexting

Just a few decades ago, a phone call, love note, or even a knock at the door would be the only way to initiate a date with a love interest. These days, texting — whether through a dating app or in social media DMs — is the standard way to make a move. But not all texts are effective at winning over a crush. Enter flexting, a portmanteau that originally combined the words "flirting" and "texting." A 2011 Urban Dictionary entry defines the term as "flirting with a friend or significant other using a text message. Seen as a precursor to sexting."

Back then, it may have been little more than some winky face emojis and cheeky banter. However, by 2018, the term took on a different meaning, thanks to the dating app Plenty of Fish (via Insider). Inspired by the slang term "flexing" (meaning to brag or boast), the app explained that flexting is "digitally boasting to impress your date before you meet them in real life." It could be a subtle brag about an impressive job title or a series of photos showing off designer goods. The goal of flexting is to boost a dater's perceived desirability and — hopefully — snag an offline meeting. And it's fairly common: 47% of singles have been on the receiving end of flexting, according to Plenty of Fish's data. However, flexting isn't a foolproof strategy, and you (and the matches in your DMs) are likely better off not putting on airs.

Why flexting often fails

We've all seen a cringeworthy flex at one point or another, but that's not the only reason why flexting might not be a good idea while dating. A 2016 study published in the journal Communication Monographs looked at online daters and the types of profiles they were attracted to. The researchers found that participants judged profiles with highly selective self-presentation (displaying desirable traits while minimizing less desirable ones) as being less trustworthy, partially because exaggerating positive qualities were viewed as bragging. In general, the participants preferred profiles that were transparent and didn't boast about personal strengths. Put simply, if you want to build trust with a crush, being honest and relatable is the way to go.

Even when flexting isn't obvious, it can still backfire. Humblebrags — a subtler form of gloating — are often viewed as being insincere, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In the early stages of dating, when judgment can run high and partners are on the lookout for red flags and phoniness, a braggy text can quickly ruin a budding relationship.

How to avoid flexting (and falling for flexts)

If flexting has kept you from creating genuine connections with your crushes, the first step is to notice when you're tempted to flext and change course before hitting "send." "[It] can often be avoided by communicating clearly with someone we're dating and being mindful of our tech manners," Plenty of Fish's dating expert Shannon Smith told Insider. Be honest: Are you dominating the conversation? Are you sharing things about yourself that aren't 100% true or that you'd feel embarrassed to brag about in person? If so, you're probably flexting.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't share any positive attributes or personal achievements. The key is to do so delicately, as Bela Gandhi, founder of Chicago-based Smart Dating Academy, revealed to the New York Post. "If you say something like, 'I've got a job as an executive that I love and am so grateful to have it, it keeps me on my toes, and I'm meeting interesting people,' that's a humble brag, but it's also done in a way that makes you sound passionate about your job," Gandhi explained.

If you're on the receiving end of someone else's flexts, it's crucial to pause before getting swept up by their impressive salary or fancy car. Determine if you're interested in them as a person or if you're really just enamored with their status. And remember, whoever you date should let your strengths shine, too, instead of hogging the spotlight for themselves.