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“Just talking” is a new cultural phenomenon among emerging adults. The term seems to imply a relationship intentionally left without a label; however, it has yet to be explored by researchers. Guided by prior research indicating that this phase may lack labels, commitment, and exclusivity, this study attempted to define “just talking” as an intentionally ambiguous preliminary dating phase that lacks definitional consensus, since there is general disagreement on what it means when someone says that they are “just talking” to someone else. Through recruitment of 37 (Men: 13, Women: 22, Gender diverse: 2) college-aged students, a qualitative analysis was conducted through men-only, women-only, and mixed-gender focus groups. Focus group facilitators used a semi-structured interview guide designed to explore the progression, communication tactics, and intimacies of “just talking.” Focus groups were conducted via Zoom and recorded. The researchers analyzed transcripts from the focus groups into themes and codes meant to capture the essence of the “just talking” stage. Results indicate that the term “just talking” represents a relationship stage that is not yet a relationship but differs from a “hookup”. It is often more related to an emotional and intimate connection gained through daily communication than a casual physical encounter (hookup), more aligned with the traditional theme of courtship and less with college students’ adaption of hooking up without attachment.



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