You have to hand it to the online world: it knows how to come up with catchy terminology. The latest to enter our vernacular? Masterdating.
For a term that sounds cheeky, masterdating is actually pretty wholesome. This relationship trend is one for the self-care girlies and it’s all about showering yourself with gifts and experiences that are typically reserved for people in relationships. In other words, it’s all about dating yourself. An obvious play on the word masterbating, the emphasis is on solo pleasure — of the more publicly acceptable variety, of course.
Think, sweeping yourself off your own feet and whipping yourself into the latest and hottest restaurant in town.
At the time of writing, the hashtag #masterdating at 1.6 million views on TikTok, so it’s fair to say this dating trend is resonating with people. Given how bleak the dating scene is right now, we're hardly surprised that some people might be turning their backs on dating other people, in favour of dating themselves.
“There are a huge number of benefits to 'masterdating',” clinical psychologist, Tamara Cavenett, tells Refinery29. "Some of the greatest gains come from personal growth because you step out of your comfort zone, try new things and have time for reflection. This can allow you to discover things you didn't know about yourself and increase your self-confidence."
For many people, the idea of taking ourselves out alone in public, and particularly into places that are typically associated with groups and couples, can be daunting. In particular, the idea of dining out at night can have many people vigorously and vehemently shaking their heads.
But listen, dining alone can actually be an incredible experience. Consider the endless takeaway debate at home with a partner — “I don’t feel like pizza”, “no, not burgers”, “hmm, nah, not sushi” — and now imagine it’s just you, without anyone else’s tastes or preferences to account for or factor into your decision making. Sounds pretty good, right?
But beyond being able to finally try that tapas restaurant your ex never took you to because they didn’t like “small” food, what the solo dining aspect of masterdating advocates for is fostering a sense of independence and self-confidence. It’s pushing us towards finding some level of comfort in our own company and it's hopefully just a pit-stop on the way to fully and genuinely enjoying it, also pointing out that the freedom and flexibility afforded by solo dating can also be empowering.
“You get all the flexibility and freedom and quality time to invest in both the people and hobbies that you love," she says. "Often we don't have the time to do this as much while in a relationship.”
It's also interesting to consider how this trend fits into the current wider attitudes around dating. It feels as if we’ve recently been receiving a wave of reports and statistics indicating the younger generation is less interested in dating. Recent stats from a UCLA survey indicated that around 52% of 18-to-30-year-olds reported having one sexual partner in 2021, a decrease from 2020. Whilst sex is by no means the only indicator of whether people are dating or entering into relationships, it does speak to a potential wider trend of favouring career, friendships and self-care over the endless pursuit of a relationship.
And personally, we'll never forget the study that indicated women are lifting their standards and men are being left “lonely”. It seems like women are wanting more from their relationships (as is their right!), and whilst this could be for a number of reasons, the idea that it might be connected to an increasing sense of self-fulfilment — the likes of which might be achieved by things like masterdating — is not out of the realm of possibility. When people have healthy relationships with themselves, it stands to reason they would want external relationships to meet the same fair, firm standards.
“Younger generations are often noted for their tendency to prioritise self-care and individual well-being more than previous generations. Masterdating goes along with that trend,” Dr Cavenett says.
She also points to the influence of social media. “This can be encouraged by social media, where often, certain influencers display a growing awareness of mental health and highlight the importance of self-care and self-discovery in maintaining wellbeing.”
It is true that social media encourages self-care activities (albeit favouring those that can be packaged up into pretty aesthetic videos for consumption).
Of course, any masterdating you engage in needs to come with a side of social interactions because as great as your company is, it can’t be a complete replacement for human interaction. We need to be sure we’re balancing our solo pasta dates with a friendly catch-up to make sure we’re not sinking into isolation.
But for the most part, masterdating can be an excellent way to get to know yourself, before you throw another human into the mix. Plus, it throws out the idea that we need a relationship to, well, do relationship things.
Want to go see that one obscure indie film at the local cinema but never had someone to go with you? Well, look in the mirror; you can take the person staring right back at you.