Is Millennial Dating Really So Different?
To hear people talk about them you would think Millennials—persons born after 1980—were a completely different species. A great many claims have been made about them. It is said that they spend too much time on their computers, that their heads are constantly buried in their phones, that they have never learned the art of holding conversation, that they have been too coddled and protected, that they expect the world to be delivered to them, that they are flippant, unserious, and checked-out as regards the realities of the world around them.
As a Gen Xer, I have been guilty of making comments of this sort. But since moving to the university section of the city in which I live, I have been able to observe and study Millennials more closely. What I have seen contradicts all the popular stereotypes and generalizations about this generation.
The trouble with the way older generations discuss the computer and cell phone in relation to Millennials is that they still see these devices as primarily recreational. When my generation and the Boomers were coming up, the personal computer—laptop or desktop—was something one used to play video games, exchange emails, and watch porn. Cell phones were for gossiping with friends and taking the occasional after-hours business call.
For the Millennial, these devices are nodes that connect them to a vibrant and active social and professional life. They grew up as these technologies made their most rapid advancements. Social media, text messaging, and the rest of it is an inseparable part of who a Millennial is as a person.
People tend to talk the most nonsense about the dating habits of Millennials. The “hook up” culture that is so pervasive among them is seen as yet another sign of their un-seriousness. “They can’t even take relationships seriously”, goes the thinking. However, Millennial dating is not as different from older generations as it is sometime portrayed. Again, technology has shaped this generation in a very distinct way. The fact that under-30s are so much more wired, connected, and constantly in touch with people both near and far gives them more choices than those of us who grew up in the age of analogue.
When it comes to dating, few people get it right the first, second, or even third time—assuming you are looking for a relationship. Even if you are just looking for a bit of fun, it is hard to meet someone of the same cast of mind.
People of my generation had the same dating impulses as Millennials. But we were much more limited in how we acted on them. In my day, you could go to a club, meet a girl, get a number, and hope to make something of it. You could rotate through a few different clubs, but you would essentially meet the same kind of people; and in some instances, literally see the same faces every Saturday night.
There is also the fact that Millennials are at once more tribal and more cosmopolitan than their elders. They like groups, they like to socialize and move in packs; but they are more open to expanding the groups they join and insist on opening them up to people of different races, genders, and sexualities; they also like to form sub-groups that re-organize and re-arrange themselves from time to time.
The result, in many cases, is a blending of friendship, sex, and romance. Millennials, in short, are just as capable and adept at forming durable relationships as everyone else; they are just more inclined to be experimental in how they carry on in them and less willing to fix and define them.
I find the more open and liberal way of Millennial dating healthier than the way it was in my day. Millennials are not so inherently different when it comes to dating; it is just that they have more choice and more power, both of which make them freer than those of us born before the 80s.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.