Gen Z and dating apps: an analysis of dating in the 21st century.
CREDIT: Santeri Viinamäki
I’m making my way through campus to my afternoon philosophy class and lo and behold, in front of me is a Tinder match from my graveyard of those who didn’t work out. A graveyard is an appropriate name, considering the ghosting which occurs at the end of many of the app's brief relations. I stare him down and hold eye contact as he approaches. We pass each other like strangers, despite conversing daily just a week ago. For clarification purposes, we will refer to him as “Robert”, or “Bob” for short. We never “met” in person until that moment. Bob seemed like a nice guy, so I gave him a chance; I would say this was pretty lucky for him since I am usually closed off. However, the “nice guy” image was just a facade, as Bob ghosted me as soon as I expressed that I didn’t want to go back to his place to watch Netflix after our impending date. Lame.
Tinder is notably prevalent on college campuses, with most students having used it in their college career. A study conducted by the University of South Carolina (USC) in 2021 found that about 65% of students on the USC campus use dating apps. Of that 65%, 93.3% said they use the app Tinder (Doyle, 2021). With the consistent presence of hookup culture on college campuses, it is no surprise that 80% of the men surveyed said they are on the app looking for casual sex. However, 55% of women answered casual sex as their motivation for being on Tinder. The mere functioning of Tinder begs for disconnection, especially given its superficial basis of finding a match based on pictures. Tinder is the epitome of “judging a book by its cover”. It appears that superficiality is a default for many users; some don’t put any effort into conveying their personality in their profile. By omitting a biography, personality sticker traits, and other customizable features offered on the app, it seems like they want to be judged solely on their physical appearances.
Between the shallow associations created on both social media and dating apps, and the prevalence of hookup culture, romance feels more dead than ever.
Casual sex has created a contradiction in which people are more comfortable with the vulnerability of being naked in a room with a stranger than they are with holding that person’s hand in public.
To be clear, I am not designating casual hookups as an issue that needs to be fixed; Every person varies in what they are looking from their dating life. Sometimes, something casual is the perfect thing. The issue about the casualness of hookup culture is that it has become the baseline for dating in our generation, and dating apps have only exacerbated this.
Generation Z’s unique experience of dating becoming so intertwined with our phones has created a complicated relationship between ourselves and our emotions. Technology has brought us closer together, but in a way that is empty and meaningless. Luckily, Gen Z has destigmatized talking about emotions and mental health; yet our generation’s relationship with our phones almost leaves us emotionally stunted.
Our constant search for distraction has left us incapable of processing and expressing our feelings, to the extent that giving someone a simple explanation of ‘I’m not interested’ is too much. I get it. Ghosting is the easy option and requires no confrontation. Honestly, I’m guilty of ghosting many people myself. The act of ghosting is something that has cultivated with the rise of social media and the ever-increasing distance between humans and their emotions. Ironically, many of us are on Tinder looking for a connection, but we lack the emotional wherewithal to do so respectfully.
“We are more connected than we’ve ever been, but I feel more alone than I’ve ever been.”
-Stated by Donald Glover, also known as Childish Gambino, on a radio talk show. Glover was discussing his album “Because The Internet,” which explores the loneliness of growing up in the age of the internet and social media. This quote has always stuck with me.
Dating two generations ago was wildly different. My grandmother, Lois, tells me about the absence of constant interaction between her and the person she was pursuing in the 1950s. Rather than connecting through smartphones, two people had to become acquainted in person. This is something our generation cannot relate to. Today, there is an expectation that two people should text back and forth all day, every day, while getting to know one another in the beginning stages of dating or just hooking up.
During her single years, Lois usually met people at a bar or a hotel, notorious for being the spot where the single people go. If she liked a guy she met, she would give him her number, and from there, the guy could follow up about going on a date. If the feelings were mutual, then she would see the same person for a date every weekend and maybe it would develop into something more along the way, as they got to know one another. Lois had to catch up about life with her date each weekend, as during the week, they were each enveloped in their own separate lives.
Dating just one generation ago has the similarity of limited phone interaction between dates and everything being done in person. My aunts Norma and Alison, who were single in the early 1990s, told me about meeting someone at a bar, giving them their number and then regularly going on dates as they got to know the person. If it were to develop further and they were seeing them consistently, then they would probably start talking to them via a phone call during the week. Even the simple act of a phone call is more personal than texting. So much of our modern dating has been replaced on the phone, to the point that our phones have become an extension of ourselves and our dating lives.
As technology has rapidly progressed between my aunts’ generation and mine, the concept of dating has regressed.
Because of these factors, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to say that romance is dying in our generation. We lack authentic human connection and feign for it through dating apps and social media. I am optimistic and believe the solution to moving forward is genuine connections. Put your phone down, go outside, and meet someone new today… And Bobby boy, if you're reading this, it's not personal.
Ilyssa Mann is an online writer for Rowdy Magazine.