Two weeks ago, I had the honor of witnessing my cousin and her new husband get married. After nearly five years of dating, the just as happy and in love couple decided to tie the knot. My cousin and her husband are definitely an extraordinary anomaly of the status quo when it comes to the millennial culture around love. The reason I say this is because they were high school sweethearts who’s love survived and is still ever so strong, a concept that is completely lost to anyone under 35. Of course it was a wonderful moment for my family, full of tears of joy, hugs, love, and well wishes but it was also wonderful in the notion of that genuine, romantic love still exists and can be found in my generation.
As a disclaimer, this isn’t going to turn into a rant about how our great grandparents, grandparents, and parents generation was perfect when it came to dating. I’m not about to reminisce about the “good old days” and berate my generation for not having similar values (even though I honestly do wish some of the values resurfaced). With time, norms change and people simply adjust to those norms. It would be completely unrealistic of me to romanticize dating back then because every generation had its challenges, cultural norms, and struggles. I will say though that I believe the one thing the generations before us didn’t have as a challenge is social media and more enhanced ways of communicating. For us millennials, distance is bridged by social media. I’m able to communicate with my friends and family all over the country and world. I’m able to (somewhat) get my thoughts across quickly and efficiently at my fingertips, solicit rides at an instant from strangers, and have meals delivered to my door in an instant. Technology and “app culture” have their perks, no doubt, however; it does have some toxic implications to dating that make it so damn frustrating. It creates implications that would’ve definitely been frowned upon and even unheard of within the unwritten rules of dating in generations before us.
First off, I will say “the chase” doesn’t seem to fully exist anymore. It’s still dimly there but not as much. Why would anyone feel the need to chase? “Chasing” is unnecessary thanks to Tinder and dating apps similar to it. We literally have a plethora of “options” within a reachable radius of where we live at our fingertips. In our grandparents and even parents generation, they weren’t so quick to give up on someone because social media and “app culture” didn’t create this sense of easy disposing. Instead, they were encouraged to make a diligent effort to obtain the mutual interest and affection of the person they wanted to date. I’m not arguing that we should keep fighting and fighting for people who don’t put forth some effort in return. You can only do so much chasing until it is time to move on. This is not healthy for your mental well-being and sense of self worth. It should never be one sided. What I mean by the “chase” is I feel our generation has lost the art of getting to know someone. I mean this is honestly the most fun part about dating. I want to be able to learn about things I’ve never known before through another person, I want to be able to establish a connection and exchange possible shared interests, and I certainly want to establish a bond with someone that isn’t baseless and short lived.
I feel in my generation, the short lived bonds are upheld now more than ever. It’s easy to have Mrs/Mr Right Now when there’s an app that could connect you to them in an instant. Once we get bored of Mr/Mrs. Right Now, it’s on to the next one as Jay-Z puts it. Getting to know a person and I mean truly getting to know them, their dreams, their aspirations, their values, their goals is something that is frowned upon among us millennials but really shouldn’t be. It’s more about having someone there we can hang out with and have sex with but not really getting to know them. The same can applied when you’re already in a relationship with a person. Instead of fixing the house, the rules of easy disposing tell our generation to buy a new house.
Feelings? If you want to survive in the millennial dating culture, any sign of feelings are an absolute no-no. Now, I get it. Vulnerability is never easy and that rule can be applied to all generations. After all, we are human and just as every organism, tissue, and cell within our body work to protect us from physical injury, every chemical, nerve, and neuron in our brain work just as hard to protect us from emotional injury also. Defense mechanisms and walls are built subconsciously to protect us from being hurt. In this generation though, we’ve given up on communicating any sort of feelings. We’ve replaced care with indifference. It is now a game of who can hide that they care the most. The loser automatically gets disposed of and loses any chance of mutual affection. They’re instantly deemed as “clingy” and crazy for having the audacity to express any kind of interest even though it was an objectively healthy amount. I’ll honestly admit, as someone with a nurturing personality type, this is a game that I refuse to play. It explains why I’ve lost so many times in my past experience.
And finally, as a society that loves keeping score, social media makes it so much easier to keep score when it comes to dating. One of its perks is that I get an update on my friends’ lives. I get to celebrate with them as they share their milestones: Engagements, weddings, a new job, graduations, pregnancies, a new pet, a new car, etc. But with the sharing of milestones, it also causes us to unintentionally keep score of our own life’s accomplishments. When you see the high school acquaintance got engaged, you start to wonder when it’ll be your turn to place the mark on your own personal bingo card. The need our generation has to constantly share the highlight reels of relationships while not necessarily a bad thing can be toxic to dating. We lose sight of the joys of our own relationships because when we log onto Facebook or Instagram, we see something that we may not think we have in our own relationship. We’re living the reality of wanting to rip your partner’s head off from starvation because they can’t decide on where to eat while looking at the seemingly happy couple taking selfies in Cabo.
While I feel so many things have been lost within the dating culture in my generation, I still have a smidgen of hope that it can be changed. I know for a fact that I’m not alone, that there are people out there who are just as equally frustrated with it as I am. I’m not someone who agrees to conform to the status quo. I believe that real change comes from stepping out of those boxes that society confines us in. If you’re just as frustrated as I am, text your crush first, tell them how you feel, actually TRY to get to know someone first instead of thinking of the next. Maybe, just maybe, we can change it, one person at a time.