Is Dating Dead: Grappling With Today's Dating Culture

Dating’s hard. Whether you’re ready to find “the one” or you’re just looking for a little fling, sometimes it seems next to impossible to find success in today’s dating world. So why exactly does it seem so difficult for some millennials to find love? Well, it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one factor. There are so many changes and obstacles that we face when it comes to relationships, and it’s time that we talk about it.

It comes as no surprise to say that dating culture has changed a lot over the years. If we were to sit down with our grandma and have a chat about how she met her partner, it would probably sound a lot different than what we experience as millennial women. Things generally seemed a lot simpler back then. What happened to telling someone that we like them? Or actually having a conversation over the telephone instead of texting? Though it’s good to keep in touch with old fashioned values, it’s more important to acknowledge the fact that relationships and dating culture have simply changed. With the rise in technology and shifts in society’s norms, the dating scene is so different from what it was fifty, or even just ten, years ago. It’s hard to say whether this shift is good or bad, it’s really just…different.

So what’s taking the place of what many people think of as the “old ways” of dating? For one, we’re surrounded by a sort of noncommitment and hookup-focused culture. Maybe “Netflix and chill” is your dream date, but for some of us this idea can be extremely frustrating and intimidating. Though the idea of a no-strings-attached may appeal to a lot of people, a sex-centered “relationship” isn’t exactly how all of us want to spend our time dating. It seems like no one’s okay with being honest about their feelings and intentions nowadays - but why? Is it really that scary to let someone know that you like them or that you maybe want to go on a real date? Is it impossible nowadays for someone to want to pursue something more than just a physical relationship? Is it crazy to hope that if someone is only looking for that, that they’ll be upfront and honest about it? Don’t get me wrong - dating has never been a cut and dry idea. It’s just that our current dating culture doesn’t seem to encourage honesty about intentions, leaving many people in an awkward situation of hurt feelings and misread signals.

Another thing…Tinder. Millennial dating in a nutshell, or even worse, an app. While sites like this can seem to make the search for love so much more convenient, they can also make the dating world a lot more complicated. Though the internet increases your dating pool by about a million times, the quality of these online interactions can often be subpar. Every once in awhile you’ll come across a profile that directly says what they’re looking to get out of Tinder, but more often than not you’re left in the dark about a person’s true intentions. That being said, it’s no secret that Tinder is notorious for boosting the hookup culture that already surrounds us.

That’s not to say that Tinder doesn’t have its advantages. In some ways this online hookup culture is virtualizing the dating world. It’s a way to sneak dating into our already busy lives while we’re at the bus stop or on our lunch break. It’s also created an open door to a much larger database of people for those that identify as LGBTQ+. Where in person one often has to play guessing games or have a conversation about their sexual orientation, online it’s much easier to narrow down exactly what you’re looking for just by reading someone’s profile.

However, in general I would say it’s incredibly difficult to meet your next (long term) significant other on Tinder or Bumble. Of course it happens--we all seem to know someone who met their partner on the internet--but it’s rare. Simply because of all the uncertainty that comes along with this part of modern dating, I wouldn’t bank on meeting your life-long lover by swiping right.

Also, let’s just talk about the dramatic difference between women in past generations compared to ours. Though stereotypical gender roles are still an issue facing our society today, they aren’t nearly as present in the dating world as they have been in the past. Though our grandmas may have been changing gender norms through their own feminist movement, our generation is held to much different standards. It’s no longer out of the ordinary for a woman to make the first move in a relationship, and though we aren’t quite there yet, men and women are generally seen more as equals in a heterosexual relationship. Being an independent and empowered woman is often expected nowadays, where in the past it wasn’t always typical. As modern women, we’re under the pressure to be more concerned with getting a quality education, landing a well-respected job and providing for ourselves. We’re busy people! Are we really busier than past generations? Maybe, maybe not, but our priorities have changed nonetheless. There’s this constant burden surrounding our entire generation - not just women - to cram in as much as we can in 24 hours while still appearing like we have it all together, and of course, we're expected be able to secure and maintain solid relationship in the process. 

Because of this pressure to accomplish more and take on more responsibilities, there’s a lot less time for dating, and even less time for just fooling around. Being in a relationship is a huge time commitment, that’s no secret. With our busy lives, it’s like adding another job into the mix, and that can be hard to manage for a lot of people. This is part of the reason that Tinder is such a big part of our generation’s dating habits. Before you start feeling down on yourself for not making your love life a priority, think about all of the other things you have been pushing to the side as well. When is the last time you picked up a good book? The last time you caught up with an old friend? Don’t feel bad for not having a significant other while you’re this young - you’ll make time for it eventually if that’s what you want.

So is dating actually dead? I’d like to think not. Though the days of courting and love letters might be behind us, that doesn’t mean that romance has completely gone away. We may complain about the modern ways of dating often, but it’s important to then look at this issue from a modern perspective. What we need to do is raise our standards as a generation. Demand more of yourself and your partner. Make time to date the way you want to. Prioritize your love life, if you want to. Be real with your intentions. If you’re genuinely interested in someone, take charge and tell them how you feel. Don’t let a first date consist of watching Netflix in someone’s basement if you want more than that.

Whatever you do, don’t let people convince you that romance is dead, because it’s not. It’s not impossible to have healthy, loving relationships - there are plenty of young people out there happily in love. Instead of having a negative attitude about our love lives, let’s take ownership and embrace our generational values.

Dating isn’t dead, ladies. It’s just different.