Dating these days isn't what it used to be. The internet has made meeting people a whole lot easier, but it's also made actually finding a serious relationship a whole lot harder. Most millennials have heard stories from their parents and grandparents about how dating used to be. You would meet a nice guy through your friends, at work, or in class, he would ask you out, and you'd fall in love and get married. That was about it. People also used to get married a lot younger and the divorce rate was higher, but still. It sounds so simple compared to what we have to navigate today.
Online dating has been around for a while, but the real shift in how we date happened the day Tinder was launched in 2012. Suddenly dating became a minefield of people who just want to hook up and are always looking for the next best thing. It isn't easy, but we've had to adapt to deal with the unique dating struggles only millennials could possibly understand.
Earlier this year the phrase "Netflix and Chill" was made an official euphemism for hooking up with its inclusion on Urban Dictionary. Any social media fluent millennial knows that if someone asks you to come over for "Netflix and chill" it means they're expecting to get laid. But what if you just want to have a perfectly innocent, fully clothed House of Cards marathon? You'll have to make that clear beforehand or risk your viewing partner making a move right when you're about to stuff a handful of popcorn in your mouth. Even worse than the phrase having a double meaning are the people who use it as a pick up line. Does it get any lazier?
A lot of millennials have little interest in being in a serious relationship and dealing with everything that comes along with that. But that doesn't mean they want to be celibate. Casual sex has become a lot more acceptable and desirable for both men and women in the last decade, and it has changed the way people date. Now that sex is pretty much on the table from the first date onward, it can be hard to tell if someone is interested in getting to know you, or they just want to get in your pants. For a lot of people, it's have sex first, decide if you like each other later.
Feminism has become extremely trendy in the last few years, and it's changing the way men and women look at dating. Women want to be seen as equal in all ways, but that has sparked some anti-feminists to point out that if women want to be equal then why aren't they making the first move more often, paying for dates more often, and not expecting guys to be the pursuers all the time? While it's a good question, it's still possible to be a feminist and appreciate it when a guy offers to pay on a first date. Feminism has changed the expected dynamics between men and women in a lot of good ways, but it's also confusing sometimes to break out of those deeply ingrained gender role norms when it comes to dating.
The thing with Tinder and other dating apps where you're scrolling and swiping through an endless sea of faces is no one ever seems good enough. If you say no to this guy, there's another one to take his place. It's easy to find plenty of people to go on dates with thanks to the internet, but actually settling on one and making an effort to make a relationship work is a lot harder. Millennials are a generation of people who are never satisfied with what they have and are always looking for something more, something better. How do we know we wouldn't find someone better if we just swiped a couple more times?
Internet trolls are all over the place these days, including on dating sites and apps. They're just there to say the most outrageously offensive things to see what will happen. They have no interest in going on a date and getting to know a girl, they just want to know if she's DTF, and they aren't going to waste their time if she's not. There are also plenty of shallow guy, and girls, out there who will call someone too fat, too short, too ugly, too whatever, to be worthy of their attention. Would people say this kind of stuff to someone they just met in person? Probably not. Hiding behind a screen makes them brave.
Tinder isn't the only dating app out there. There's also Bumble, Happn, Coffee Meets Bagel, OKCupid, and plenty more. They all have their own twist in an attempt to stay relevant in the over-saturated dating app market, but essentially they're all the same. They give you a bunch of strangers to judge based on looks and a short bio, and you're expected to make a connection. But with so many apps, and so many people on those apps, how can we ever be expected to find the right one?
Millennials are used to doing everything on their phones. We text, take pictures, update our social media, read the news, check our email, and track our fitness levels on our phones. Our phones are our lives and we'd be lost without them. We even find dates using our phones. But we have a hard time putting our phones away when we should actually be connecting with the person sitting across from us. And not only that, it's hard to actually meet someone in person because even in bars, everyone is too busy trolling Tinder for a hook up to actually pay attention to anyone around them.
Thanks to social media, millennials have grown up thinking they should share everything they do, think, and feel with all their followers. All you have to do is look up someone's Instagram profile to find out how they feel about selfies. Add them to Facebook or follow them on Twitter to find out what kind of news they read, like, and share. Find them on Linkedin if you want to know their workplace and employment history. Since we're always going on dates with complete strangers, Googling someone first is a pretty common practice. But that ruins the fun of actually getting to know someone because we've already pre-judged them based on their social media presence.
Meeting someone online means they're probably going to be a lot more forward about what they're looking for. It's not uncommon to have someone you've never even met ask you to send them a naked picture. And that's not even taking into consideration the number of unsolicited dick pics that are being sent on a daily basis. Gone are the days where sex wouldn't be on the table until at least the third date. Thanks to hook up culture and Tinder, sexting is to be expected if you're dating these days. Sometimes it can be fun, but the majority of the time it's weird.
Thanks to texting, it's a lot easier to talk to someone for a little while and then instead of telling them you aren't interested, you just stop responding. "Ghosting" can happen at any point in a relationship, but most (decent) people only do it if they haven't met the person yet, or they've only been on one date, and they don't feel like they owe them an explanation. But there are plenty of inconsiderate people out there who are so afraid of confrontation that they'll date someone for months and rather than break up with them, they'd just stop responding to all calls, texts, and Snapchats.
Millennials don't even "date" anymore in the traditional sense. It's always something a lot more casual and without the pressure of a real date. It's called "hanging out". To avoid the possibility of rejection, guys will just ask girls if they want to "hang" or "chill", so no one is ever sure if they're actually on a date or not. Being friends first is a great way to ease into a relationship, but hanging out means different things to different people and it ends up just being a way of keeping each other at arms length and never being vulnerable enough to risk getting hurt.
Millennials are more open and flexible about their gender and sexual identities than any generation before them. That can make dating easier, because there are so many more possible people to love when you aren't restricted by gender. But it can also make things confusing when you're trying to figure who you are and what you want and society is constantly trying to fit you in a neat little box. Ultimately, the fluidity of sexuality is great, but it can also complicate things.
The internet has made it possible for people to lie about who they are in order to trick others into liking them. The MTV show Catfish never would have existed without the internet, social media, and online dating. It would be nice if we could just trust what someone told us and develop an honest relationship, but instead we have to be suspicious and constantly vigilant of anything that doesn't quite add up. For example, if they won't video chat, and they're always dodging your requests to meet in person, they're probably catfishing you.
No one likes writing about themselves, but unfortunately that's exactly what you have to do if you want to find dates online. Sure, if you're extremely attractive, you might be able to rely on a few pictures to get you dates, but most of us have to have a personality to go along with the carefully curated pictures we've chosen to portray ourselves. You want to be funny, but not too funny. Smart, but not intimidating. You don't want to say anything cliches, or have any spelling errors. How do you boil your entire personality down to a couple paragraphs? Good question. Millennials are trying to figure that out too.
Dating has changed a lot in the last couple decades, and that means dating advice has had to evolve too. There are countless websites, magazines, blogs, books, and TV shows attempting to give advice to daters. The Rules just don't apply anymore. There's also your friends and family's opinions to deal with too. We're always trying to interpret what someone really means and picking and choosing what games we should be playing and what rules to break. It's exhausting. But a necessary evil if we want to be a solid contender in the dating game these days.