'OnlyPlans' Is the Latest Toxic Dating Trend You Need to Know

The process of finding a partner via dating app can be an arduous one: First, you have to tediously swipe to find a viable date (or at the very least, someone whose profile doesn’t scream Patrick Bateman). Then, after you match, you have the virtual song and dance of, “Where are you from? What are you watching?” Finally, you reach the ask-out portion of the endeavor, where both parties agree to take things IRL. Yet, at that point, the saga of planning the date has become so drawn-out, you can’t help but think, What are the chances of this working out, anyway? I’d much rather stay home and binge the new season of ‘You.’ So, on the morning of, you cancel; making up an excuse that you’re crazy busy with work or that you have to go to your friend’s sister’s poetry reading. 

Interestingly, this plan-to-cancel dating theme has become so ubiquitous, it even has a name: OnlyPlans. Read on for everything you need to know. 

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What Is OnlyPlans?

Coined by dating app Plenty of Fish in its annual report, “OnlyPlans [is the act of] repeatedly planning dates with someone, but never actually following through on them.” The term plays off OnlyFans, which ICYMI, is a platform where influencers and Instagram models monetize exclusive, uncensored content through subscription plans. OnlyPlans involves a single person chatting online with another single person, and agreeing to meet IRL for a first date—only to cancel last minute. “Whether it's a ‘work emergency,’ a sudden need to babysit a friend's pet or the classic, ‘too much traffic’ [excuse], 52 percent of singles have experienced this situation,” per the report. 

That said, it’s worth noting how OnlyPlans differs from a blatant stand-up. Back in the old days (i.e., pre-Hinge and Tinder), being stood up generally looked like you, waiting at a bar for two hours, only to realize the person was never coming. You didn’t get a warning text that would spare you the sheer mortification of telling the bartender, “Looks like I won’t need that table after all.” You’d simply down your dirty martini, pick up a slice of pizza and call your BFF to vent. Now, however, we live in an age of overcommunication, where everything in the dating world borders on interminable. A person will, for all intents and purposes, stand you up—but they’ll send a “rain check?” text beforehand with a sad face emoji. OnlyPlans carries a deceptive undertone of hope; the rejection has a slow burn until you wake up one day and register: They’re never texting to reschedule.

Why Are People OnlyPlanning?

The question still remains of why daters are doing this. Doesn’t OnlyPlans feel counterintuitive to the very purpose of dating itself? It’s basically the equivalent of that Friends episode where Chandler joins a gym, never goes and subsequently fails to cancel his membership. On one hand, the argument could be made that OnlyPlans has something to do with the cushioning trend, which provides an emotional safety net meant to shield us from the impact of dating unknowns. The simple act of virtually communicating with a potential suitor offers all of the validation—without any of the risk. Why buy the cow when you’re already getting their affection for free? 

On the other hand, however, today’s digital dating market—and the infinite options that come with it—have led to a sort of paralyzing opportunity overload. The entire exploit, from matching with someone to stalking their socials to subsequently deciding you won’t like them (before you even meet), is all a result of having too many options and too much time to overthink and overanalyze. Not only are we cursed with a wealth of resources that foster rejection, but we have the luxury of staying in our comfort zones (behind the screen) as we do it. No longer do you need to go to a bar to find out your date has crappy taste in music, and gone are the days when bad cologne or a wrinkly dress shirt would be enough to send you running for the hills. Instead, you can simply make up a white lie, slap on a face mask and pretend like you’re “bored out of your mind” while dog-sitting for a Chihuahua that doesn’t exist. 

Nevertheless, while OnlyPlanning is common (and not necessarily harmful), it’s worth looking at the other side of things. Sure, it’s easy to take the easy way out and spare yourself yet another painful Hinge date. But dating, in and of itself, is a numbers game—and you’re not going to meet Prince charming from your couch. So the next time you’re about to hit send on that, “so sorry but…” text, you might want to ask yourself: Am I self-sabotaging from potentially meeting someone great?

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Associate Editor

Sydney Meister is PureWow's Associate Editor, covering everything from dating trends and relationship advice (here's looking at you, 'soonicorns') to interior design, beauty...