The Millennial generation is highly engaged in online dating and hookup websites, such as Tinder, Match, and OkCupid.
Whether in sincerity or in jest, people often declare that romance is dead. Rapid technological developments transform the ways we communicate, but digesting the impact this has on romance is a whole different ballgame. Practices once customary for previous generations may seem archaic to a fast and forward-thinking Millennial.
Match Made Online
Sarah Schlosser is a sophomore and elementary education major at Ball State University. One ordinary evening, Sarah was mindlessly swiping through Tinder profiles. She had been using the app for about a year and was, essentially, just hoping to meet new people. Her shy nature made an app like Tinder seem like the perfect way to talk to others in her area.
When Paul DeRolf, one of the profiles who landed in Sarah’s match list, contacted her outside of Tinder, she didn’t read too much into it. She was talking to a few other Tinder matches at the time, and interacting with guys online never made her too anxious. Paul was cute and funny, so when he asked Sarah on a date to Scotty’s Brewhouse, she answered with a resounding “yes.” They became a couple two months after that first date and are still going strong today, more than a year later.
The use of online dating apps has become somewhat of a norm, especially over the past decade. According to Pew Research, 59 percent of adults in 2015 said online dating is a good way to meet people, up from 44 percent in 2005.
Sarah isn’t ashamed to tell people she met her boyfriend on Tinder. She feels like it’s a common way to meet people these days. She doesn’t think it’s that different from online dating, saying people wouldn’t be ashamed to say they met their significant other through an online dating site.
Sarah isn’t alone. As of 2016, 17 percent of marriages in the last year, and 20 percent of current committed relationships, began on an online dating site, according to Statistic Brain. According to Pew Research, 88 percent of relationships of five or fewer years are said to have started online, on a platform other than a dating website.
Kathy Henry, a psychiatrist and professional on relationships at Healing Hearts of Indy, says those who preceded Millennials hail from a time when choices were limited but romance was more evident. A time when love letters, mixtapes, and simple, but sincere, tokens of affection were not unusual. “Soul mates” primarily found one another through mutual friends, places of employment, or local venues and bars. It was typical to spend time speaking to a potential partner—in person, on several occasions—before requesting his or her company for an evening.
It appears to Henry that the increase in non-personal forms of communication makes dating lightning fast, or at least at the start.
Tinder, for example, might feel like a game that users can’t lose. They simply swipe right if they like what they see or swipe left if they don’t. This allows singles—or not-so-singles, as only 54 percent of users are reportedly single—to shuffle through potential partners without ever needing to meet another person. A mutual right-swipe makes a match, and the app encourages users to strike up a conversation. At one time, people might have labeled this practice superficial. But Tinder made about ten billion matches as of February 2016, with a daily swipe count of 1.4 billion, according to Tinder’s website.
A rise in Tinder’s popularity reflects the lifestyle of the app’s users.
Henry says an increase in dating sites stems from dependence on technology, impatience at waiting for a bond to form naturally, and discomfort with intimacy. People find it easier to sit at home and talk through a computer or phone than to go out and socialize.
Dating sites bring a level of convenience that definitely has its appeal. Between classes, work schedules, and general life obligations, there’s little time left available to mingle. Tinder alleviates some of the tedious efforts of communication.
Outlets like Tinder allow users to initiate quick contact with someone who catches their eye. Older generations would have done this face-to-face. But miscommunication among the younger generation has a distinct ability to warp the structure of a relationship.
Apps like Tinder foster a “hookup culture” that tolerates or encourages casual sex without long-term commitment.
People are moving straight from meeting to having sex in an ever-decreasing span of time, says Henry. She thinks the norm these days is to sleep with a person first, then see if a relationship can evolve.
Henry says this approach breaks down the foundation for communication in the relationship and makes it more difficult to succeed long-term. The publicity of a relationship’s ups and downs on social media also doesn’t help its chance at success.
As dating evolves in this way, the “paradox of choice” also intensifies. A seemingly endless list of options prompts the idea that there is always something or someone better, so people might hesitate in committing to any one individual.
Henry believes the paradox of choice has been an increasing problem for decades. She thinks dating sites came from a trend that was already happening. She says American culture is becoming more self-centered, impatient, and “immoral” than ever before. However, immorality is subjective, and some would argue has long been a part of American society.
Today’s communication forums allow people to contact whomever, from wherever, at any time—and to end that contact with the same level of freedom.
Modern relationships often differ from more traditional ones in the method of their demise. Breakups used to be stressful, awkward “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” verbal exchanges. Now, people can end relationships without ever seeing their partner’s face.
That ease has also led to a new social phenomenon called “ghosting,” in which someone suddenly stops contacting the person they are romantically involved with.
Gabriel Kinder is a freshman at Ball State with a dual major in psychology and sociology. Gabriel has been ghosted several times after being romantically involved with people he met through Tinder. The relationships included texting, phone calls, and even occasional meetings. The individuals shared details about themselves and seemed genuinely interested
In each case, the ghosting happened when things got more serious. The communication would just come to a halt. The messages stopped, and Gabriel received no response if he reached out. He first thought they might just be busy or going through a rough time, but he soon realized that wasn’t the case. They dropped everything without explanation.
Gabriel wishes people were upfront with their intentions, but he doesn’t think society can do that anymore. He feels this is because sites like these give people the ability to say and do what they want, with no regard to how their actions could affect others. Ultimately, they take the easy route because they can.
This cut-off method has become commonplace, with 78 percent of young people in a Bustle survey saying they have been ghosted.
Some say that modern conveniences hamper the ability to communicate face-to-face, creating a generation of socially inept young people. The internet has changed dating lives and communication in profound ways.
Henry says printed words lack body language, instant reactions, eye contact, and voice inflection to provide context. One can’t discern the intentions behind the words without these nonverbal cues.
But Tinder aims to start relationships between people who never would have met otherwise, and it does precisely that. The success of each match depends on the user’s desire to form lasting connections.
Like Sarah Schlosser, if you are looking for serious commitment, you can find it, just by swiping right.