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Are Green Flags Real in Dating — or are They Basic Human Decency?

illustration of dating green flags
Azra Hirji @garlicmogo

TikTok is filled with advice from those who have been there, done that, when it comes to dating, and they have no shortage of advice to offer about spotting sketchy signs that could send people running — otherwise known as “red flags.” For a while, it seemed that these red-flag videos were inescapable – following too many girls on social media and having no friends were red flags, proclaimed by some to be dealbreakers. Every person online seemed to have an opinion on what to stay away from while looking for love.

As these videos seemed to take over, there was a slow but powerful vibe shift and “green flags” were born in an effort to put a more positive spin on the flagging trend. Creators decided that instead of naming all the reasons to ghost your new boo, you should look for signs that they might actually be a good person. TikTokers began sharing their key tells or green flags that someone was worth dating: if they respected you or posted you on Instagram it was considered wonderful, and if they owned a bedframe or living houseplants, you’d better bust out the champagne because they were likely a keeper.

@sidneygraceb #tiktoksg #fyp #greenflags ♬ sparks – they/them

Related: 10 ineffective dating app profile tropes to avoid in 2022.

Although a number of these videos are purely for jokes and seemingly harmless, more and more people on TikTok started deciding green flags were not only important, but essential. But are green flags actually green flags when you’re dating someone, or are they just basic things that your date should be doing anyway? 

…it’s not really a green flag if our date acts like a decent human being by showing interest in our hobbies or respecting our boundaries.

It’s hard to unsee the number of TikToks telling you that the guy you went for drinks with is a walking green flag because he actually texted you back, or that it’s a green flag that the woman you had coffee with is a good listener. Of course, these are good things. But it’s normal to want to find the good in someone when we like them. But it’s not really a green flag if our date acts like a decent human being by showing interest in our hobbies or respecting our boundaries.

No one wants to date someone who doesn’t plan dates or talks about themselves the whole time you’re together. But it almost feels that labelling baseline behaviour – which is rooted in respect and kindness – as being a green flag, creates a slippery slope into potentially falling for someone who does the bare minimum.


See also: Thirsty for love? Sober ‘dry dating’ is the latest dating trend.

When we crush on someone, it’s easy to reframe things as being green flags. If the person you’re seeing claims they’re busy at work and barely texts us, that doesn’t mean they don’t care – they’re ambitious. Or if they only text us late at night to hook up, it’s OK – we convince ourselves they’re chill and easygoing.

But being nice and respectful isn’t worthy of praise it should be the standard. And it can be difficult and scary to realize that we deserve someone who is willing to do more than simply text us back or make a reservation at a restaurant we like.

It might be time to ask yourself if the person you’re seeing is giving you what you need, or if you’re choosing to see those basic things they do as green flags. It could help you figure out if they’re being polite, or if there’s actually more.

Related: Looking for long-term love? Avoid those friends-with-benefits hookups: Research.

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