Gen Zers are frequently hailed as a generation of creative innovators. With the advantage of being digital and social media natives, we never shy away from new technologies like AI but instead quickly adapt to them and utilise their capabilities to drive society and culture forward. There are a lot of things we do differently compared to our millennial predecessors, and romantic relationships are one of them.
Next to placing a larger emphasis on honesty and communication, gen Zers also tend to be more pragmatic when it comes to sex and relationships. According to a study about gen Z from India, 66 per cent of respondents accept that “not all relationships will be permanent,” with 70 per cent rejecting a “limiting romantic relationship.” Consequently, it’s no surprise that micro-cheating, one of TikTok’s numerous dating trends has been polarising us gen Zers. So what is micro-cheating and do gen Z even care about it?
Micro-cheating is the middle ground between a full-blown affair and being loyal. As the name suggests, it’s way more minor than infidelity. Ever seen your partner hide messages and delete flirty chats with others from their phone? That could be classified as mico-cheating.
Keeping a dating profile because they “didn’t have time to delete it?” Also an act of micro-cheating. Liking and replying to flirtatious and suggestive comments on their social media? For sure micro-cheating. Obviously, micro-cheating isn’t limited to the digital sphere. It can also take the form of complaining about your partner and lamenting the relationship, secretly meeting people you know they dislike, and saying things like “If I weren’t in a relationship…”
A lot of micro-cheating instances are centred around a lack of attention and communication. As aforementioned, gen Zers can’t really identify with that. Tinder’s 2023 Future Of Dating report revealed that younger cohorts are less likely to ghost someone or to wait a long time to reply to a message than people over 33. 77 per cent of Tinder users respond to a match within 30 minutes, and 40 per cent respond within five minutes.
According to the popular app, gen Zers are also less focused on commitment and more accepting of the confusing “situationships” that were haunting our millennial counterparts like a ghost in the dark. Overall, gen Z’s way of dating is centred around being more honest, more open, and more focused on prioritising mental health. Thanks to this, Tinder is currently heralding a dating renaissance spearheaded by us gen Zers.
The company’s global relationship insights expert, Paul Brunson stated that “gen Z will have the most successful marriages yet. Why? Because they’re investing in emotional well-being and clear communication.”
Enter micro-cheating. The term currently has over 53.3 million views on TikTok and as soon as you Google it, you will see a collection of articles explaining what it is and how you can recognise if your partner is micro-cheating on you. Infidelity is an age-old concern, one that certainly hasn’t disappeared with gen Z and the digital age. On the contrary, actually. Digital technologies have created a myriad of new ways for partners to be unfaithful, so it makes sense that a lot of TikTok girlies are currently contemplating whether their partner liking the raunchy posts of other women is cheating.
Nevertheless, you’ll quickly notice after one quick scroll through your TikTok FYP that most of these posts are from people over the age of 28, aka not gen Zers.
So, do gen Z not care about micro-cheating? Have we become so open and not committed in our approach to relationships that cheating simply isn’t a major concern anymore?
That’s far from the truth, of course. Certainly, we seek intimacy and connection as much as any other generation that comes before or after us. There is also a lot of research that supports the theory that gen Zers make fewer, yet more value-driving connections. This involves focusing on more substantial aspects than physical attractiveness, emphasising putting themselves first, setting boundaries, and expressing their desires more clearly.
I am certainly no expert in relationships, but that might be the reason why this generation is so much better at embracing the grey areas of intimacy and situationships. These arrangements are underscored by a lot of healthy communication, self-assurance and boundaries—all things research says we are good at.
Another reason contributing to gen Z’s reluctance to embrace micro-cheating might be the negative consequence associated with this trend. Not being allowed to vent about your partner when they’ve hurt you, or get a whole set of rules around what you can post and who can comment on it can come off as rather manipulative and controlling rather than the basis of a healthy relationship. I mean, is anyone else getting Jonah Hill vibes here? This might be why comments under posts about micro-cheating always morph into a heated debate about whether being friends with your ex equals being unfaithful or not.
While the trend does contain some good advice around what discussions it might be worth having with your partner, it ultimately also shows that if your definitions around intimacy and what is appropriate in a relationship defer, you might want to give the whole thing a pass.
After all, gen Zers are good at placing themselves first and choosing relationships based on the value they bring to our lives. Feeling controlled and caged in our relationships doesn’t make the cut.