These days, the word “millennial” has many negative connotations attached to it. This generation of young adults were born into a world of technology, social media, and speedy devices that can satisfy an array of needs in the palm of one’s hand. Many complain that the millennial generation has lost the ability to interact with others around them face to face. With apps like Tinder, Instagram, Facebook, and an array of other outlets, thousands of college students are able to swipe through and accept or deny other singles around them based on their physical appeal.
This information leads many to ask, “are millennials losing the ability to hold steady relationships?” Is our distance between one another, our isolation and lack of real conversation, diminishing dating? The college “hookup culture” is a major factor of social life on most campuses. If a student isn't browsing for a person to “talk to" through apps on their phone, they maybe instead drinking in a party setting to find a new hookup partner.
When many millennials do eventually find a person that might be worth trying a relationship with, many report getting stuck in a limbo often referred to as the “talking phase.” In this phase, one or both of the individuals in the relationship likes the other person but does not want to commit to them completely. In other words, they want to continue an emotional relationship but also have the ability to hookup with others. It seems as though millennials are not just lacking the ability to make real conversation and meet others through pure human interaction, but lack the desire to have a committed relationship. Does this speak for all millennials? Do we all want to run the other way when commitment comes around?
I wanted to learn more about how millennials were really feeling about relationships and dating. I surveyed over 200 college students, both male and female, ages 18 to 22. What I found suggested that millennials are in fact isolating themselves behind phone screens and finding it difficult to establish meaningful connections with others. 95 percent of students I surveyed reported that they find it difficult to find a relationship. When it comes to looking for a partner, the students' two most common methods were through social media apps like Tinder and Snapchat or by social events that involved drinking. 82 percent stated that they were okay with casual hookup partners and 95 percent felt that it was easier to talk to a possible partner when drunk.
What do all of these numbers suggest about millennials? On the surface, it seems as though we are uncommitted, unable to hold real conversations, and too reliant on our digital devices to guide us through life. And there is more...
Millennials may be relying on social media to misrepresent who they are in an effort to find a date. 89 percent of those surveyed said they used social media accounts to make themselves more attractive to possible partners. But how is this making them feel? When I asked how social media impacted these students emotionally, the most common responses were that social media made them feel “insecure,” “pressured to be perfect,” and “anxious.” And while many are casually hooking up, lacking emotional depth or connection, 75 percent of those that were single reported that they wished they could find a real relationship. Out of all surveyed, 95 percent said that their ideal situation in the future was a lifelong, committed relationship.
While these statistics do show that us millennials are not as commitment-phobic as many claim, we have other flaws that need fixing. It seems as though millennials are masking the desire for connection and relationships with quick fixes like drinking, social media interactions, and “no strings attached” relationships. We are filtering out our insecurities, posting for attention, and making thousands of followers think we are not alone. Instead of gathering together the courage to talk to the cute girl in our class, we are “swiping left and right” on Tinder based on a simple picture and short bio.
So how do we fix this? How do we stop making shallow, short judgements on someone that could actually have been “the one?” The answer is not easy but we can look to our older generations for some guidance. The video "Look Up" directed by Gary Turk delves into this problem.
Look at the amazing relationships that have come out of meeting people organically. We need to stop relying on “likes” and “matches” as a fuel for our self-esteem. Find passions that make you feel whole outside of a screen and engage in activities with like-minded groups of people that make you feel great as you are. Start dating (yes, I mean go out on a real date. Maybe to a movie, with just you two) instead of taking shots together in a crowded bar. The best relationships start as friendships, out of respect and trust, not over a Snapchat conversation.
Most importantly, stay true to yourself. If you keep coming up short with the same types of partners, try changing up your environment. If you have a hobby, look for others with that hobby. If you find yourself relying on the number of likes on a recent post for a mood booster, take a break from social media. If you spend too much time with your head down in a screen of apps and thousands of strangers online, try looking up before you miss out on someone great that just passed you by. We as a generation can do better when it comes to love, dating, and our own self happiness.