Relationships in Digital Age: Understanding Red and Green Flags through eyes of Gen Z

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” -Emily Brontë In recent years, social media platforms have become a breeding ground for discussions about healthy relationships, sparking conversations about red flags, green flags, and more recently, beige flags. Among Gen Z, this fashion has gained significant momentum, as they seek to […]

“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”
-Emily Brontë

In recent years, social media platforms have become a breeding ground for discussions about healthy relationships, sparking conversations about red flags, green flags, and more recently, beige flags. Among Gen Z, this fashion has gained significant momentum, as they seek to navigate the complexities of modern dating including love, lust and dhokha. Moreover, relationship coaches and gurus, storytellers or open mic performers facilitate it though old school philosophy of philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Sartre is way far different. When it comes to red and green flags in relationships, influencers often share their own experiences and opinions, which can influence how Gen Z categorizes certain behaviors.

However, it is important to question the validity of the signs provided by these influencers and influencers in the media. Can anyone truly understand the depths of a person’s heart and mind? Are there not individuals who hide red flags while showcasing green flags to deceive and victimize others?

In the digital age, teenagers and techno-savvy youth have a unique way of navigating relationships. With the rise of social media and online platforms, they are exposed to a world of connections and opportunities, often encountering both red flags and green flags along the way. Understanding these indicators can be crucial for maintaining healthy relationships and avoiding potential pitfalls.

A red flag is basically a warning sign, indicating behaviors or characteristics within a relationship that may be potentially harmful or toxic as used by youngsters. These flags can be emotional, physical, or even social in nature. Examples include controlling behavior, excessive jealousy, being authoritative and aggressive in relationships, emotional manipulation, dishonesty, constant criticism and a lack of respect. Recognizing and acknowledging red flags is essential for maintaining a healthy and safe relationship and to avoid toxic relationships as we all know, people do suffer a lot because of wrong choices in close relationships and spoil their mental peace, physical heath, money and at times life.

Green flags, on the other hand, symbolize positive aspects and healthy behaviors in a relationship. These flags demonstrate traits that build trust, promote open communication, and foster mutual respect. They might include effective communication, support, empathy, and willingness to compromise. Paying attention to green flags can help individuals identify and nurture relationships that are both fulfilling and nurturing.

A licensed clinical psychologist and Founder of Couples Learn, an online psychology practice helping couples and individuals improve and change their patterns in love and relationships, Sarah Schewitz says- “A new relationship can feel like a traffic light—we’re looking for signs from our partner that tell us to keep going, take things slowly, or hit the brakes. That’s where green flags come in! Unlike red flags, which are glorified warning signs, green flags let you know when things are headed in a safe and healthy direction with your significant other.”

While the concept of red and green flags has gained significant popularity, the notion of beige flags has recently joined the clan for discourse. Beige flags represent behaviors or situations that are not inherently positive or negative, but rather depend on individual preferences or boundaries. It is important to understand and communicate personal needs and boundaries within a relationship, and beige flags provide an opportunity for self-reflection and communication.

If we consider insights from Relationship Coaches and Gurus, Dr. Alexandra Solomon, a psychologist and author, emphasizes self-awareness and boundary-setting in relationships: “Recognizing and addressing red flags allows us to honor our intuition, while identifying green flags helps build a foundation of trust. Beige flags remind us to prioritize personal boundaries, ensuring relationships align with our values and needs.”

Well-known for a philosophy of human relations, the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre asserted that conflict is an inherent feature of any social encounter. In his philosophical work, ‘Being and Nothingness’, Sartre argues that human relations alienate the self. So the basic thing what is required for any relation to grow is one need to understand the self and its needs. When you don’t understand and value your inner self, you can’t value and respect the relations as well.

To ensure healthy relationships where one can refrain oneself from going through sufferings, pain and trauma as we see in our surroundings, schools, colleges and offices or at news channels and read in newspapers on daily basis, one needs to be aware enough choosing right person and building strong grounds for a relation.

Author and relationship coach Mark Groves highlights the significance of individual growth within relationships and says, “Green flags can be seen as opportunities for personal growth and expression. They enable partners to feel supported and empowered, providing a strong foundation to build a healthy and loving relationship.” Sarah emphasizes on the importance of active listening in the relations and to comfy each other with physical presence and salubrious dialogue showing concern.

John Bowlby, a psychologist argues in his Attachment Theory that love is rooted in attachment and the bonds between two people are based on a need for security and safety. Thus red flags alert can be taken into consideration when one doesn’t feel safe and secure in the relationship. One needs to exert to make other partner feel safeguarded with him or her hence insecurities and dependence on online media for true relations too break most of the relations.

Although the prevalence of social media platforms allows for constant connectivity and instant gratification, which can impact how relationships are formed and maintained yet lacks humane touch. Dating apps, online communities, and virtual platforms have become popular means of meeting new people and connecting with potential romantic interests. However, with this increased accessibility comes a unique set of challenges.

Online dialogues and interactions seems too movielike and glossy, lack non-verbal cues and personal connections, making it easier to misinterpret intentions or hide true emotions, moreover portrays a nice picture of platonic bonding that is most of the time fake and deceptive. Additionally, the curated nature of social media often leads to portrayals of a ‘perfect’ life, making it difficult to discern what is real and what is simply an illusion.

Indian Actress and Model Sargun Mehta said, “aajkal ghoomte phirte ladke red flag hi hai, I think, ladke hi nhi, ladkiya bhi hai.” She further told that we are in a time, in millennium, an era of Gen Z, where youth keeps swiping reels left and right, up and down and can’t pay attention to one thing more than 3-4 seconds. Incase if boyfriend or girlfriend is not responding soon, they too are easily replaceable for them and it takes very less time to swipe them off. According to her, relationships are not made with five good qualities and five bad qualities. Both genders have bad or good qualities; it is upto us how we accept each other, therefore, partners in relations need to turn their red flags into green to make their relations work.

Building a solid foundation that includes face-to-face communication, maintaining personal boundaries, and understanding the difference between real-life and online personas is essential. It’s important for young individuals to remember that the Internet is merely a tool for communication and should not replace genuine human connection, thus they need to strike a balance between online and offline world in context of close relations to value real world and authentic relations.

When it comes to red flags and green flags, being aware, observant, and assertive is key. Recognizing warning signs such as excessive secrecy, lack of transparency, or manipulative behavior is crucial. Trusting one’s instincts and seeking guidance from trusted adults or mentors is important in navigating the complexities of relationships.

‘Red Flags, Green Flags’ by an internationally renowned psychologist and behavioural expert Dr Ali Fenwick is a book that can assist youth to handle pressure of fleeting infatuations to painful love relations, and nervy parents’ desires baggage at homes to assignments by cantankerous bosses at the offices that sucks blood, and lead towards serene and harmonious life. It can guide through the unhealthy and healthy social conduct. It also abets in improving emotional intelligence and learning how to understand one’s own needs and expectations when it comes to relationship building and identifying green signals.

However, it is important to note that categorizing behaviors as red or green flags is subjective and can vary depending on individual perspectives and experiences. What one person perceives as a potential danger zone (red flag), another person might view as acceptable or even righteous.

Social media influencers may have personal biases that influence how they categorize behaviors, and their followers may adopt these categorizations without critically evaluating them. This can result in a lack of nuance and critical thinking regarding relationship dynamics. Incase one need to observe one’s conditions and relation not according to what others take is but what he or she feels personally and how the relation is a supporting pillar or a hindrance in growth making life more troublesome. English novelist and poet George Eliot told what greater thing is there for two human souls in a relation is the feel that they are joined to strengthen each other.

The philosopher Plato believed that true love is based on a deep connection between two people that is rooted in shared values and a common understanding of the world. Ultimately, it is essential for Gen Z (and anyone else) to form their own opinions and judgments based on their own values, beliefs, and experiences. While influencers can provide valuable insights and perspectives, it is important not to blindly adopt their categorizations as universal truths.

As awareness and understanding of healthy relationships continue to evolve, the conversations around red flags, green flags, and beige flags have gained traction on social media, particularly among Gen Z. By recognizing and addressing red flags, embracing green flags, and respecting beige flags, individuals can foster relationships that are meaningful, fulfilling, and built on mutual trust and respect. Remember, relationships thrive when both partners prioritize open communication, personal growth, and the setting of boundaries.

Dr. Shalini Yadav is a Professor, Writer and columnist.