By Dabrianna Green
“This is an era of experimentation for young people as they try to have it all: their obsession with the Internet and their desire for intimacy”—Elizabeth Sherman, Rolling Stone
Welcome to the age of social media and availability, the first of its kind. Learning to incorporate these factors into a relationship is a brand new skill set that has yet to be mastered. The days of having a blueprint for entering a relationship are over. There is no courting. Hell, we can’t even collectively define “dating” anymore. Nevertheless, in hopes of finding a match, it’s time to get out and play the field. The problem is that there’s no game plan. Go, team millennials! Go!
Once upon a time, in order to date a person, it took building up the courage to ask them out and following up with an actual date. Now, all it takes is a direct message online – which requires zero human interaction – followed by a “we should hang out” or “let’s chill.” While previous generations courted one another and worked towards a relationship, we just “hang out” and “see what happens.”
Previous generations also unknowingly practiced patience. They weren’t able to communicate whenever they pleased. There was a home phone (which was shared amongst the family) and there were dates. Options were limited, which forced them to be patient. On the other hand, we have our own individual cell phones attached to us at all times. As if that isn’t enough, we have various apps and features to communicate in different ways. FaceTime is always readily available, and let us not forget that we can be attached to the world wide web at any given second. The lack of availability previous generations encountered wasn’t necessarily a bad thing; it gave them time to miss one another. There was more excitement to be in the presence of one another because it didn’t happen as often. There was more to talk about because they weren’t talking all day, every day. It’s hard to run out of something that isn’t used constantly.
Many arguments that occur in today’s relationships didn’t even take place back then. There were no “why haven’t you texted me back when your profile says you’re online?” arguments, “why are you liking another person’s photo in Instagram?” arguments, or “I have more photos of us on my Facebook profile than you do on yours” arguments. Disagreements didn’t take place through a screen, which left less room for misinterpretation. Contrary to popular belief, face-to-face is one of the most effective ways to have a meaningful conversation.
Dating used to be intimate. Messages used to be personalized, handwritten notes and letters. Most interactions were face-to-face, which allowed people to actually get to know one another through human interaction. Now, texting one another endlessly has become our main means of communication. We frequently spend more time getting to know others through typed messages. This sometimes even leads us to find that they’re not even who we expected them to be in person. We ask for advice, yet we get irritated when our elders insist we’re glued to our cell phones instead of enjoying our surroundings.
Intimacy is no longer valued. There are dating programs that allow us to choose the type of person we desire from their looks to their personality traits. We neglect making genuine connections in person and letting personality speak the loudest. We’re obsessed with having exactly what we want because there are numerous options that allow us to filter out anything we believe we don’t want.
Our elders can’t relate to scenarios like this. Though the same principles of loyalty, honesty, and respect apply to relationships, there are many elements that get intertwined within them these days. These are generational differences that we fail to recognize because they aren’t given enough attention. Though we may not realize it, they’re useful references that help us navigate socially, financially, and even romantically.
As a millennial, it is actually normal to find that discussing relationship problems can be a challenge. Peer advice isn’t always helpful because our peers are equally confused, and our elders can’t quite relate. No one is to blame. Millennial dating is much different from dating in previous generations.
It’s important to step outside of what appears to be normal and analyze what has worked (and hasn’t worked) in the past. Just because something appears to be normal, doesn’t mean it’s effective. Yes, times have changed. However, there is a reason why couples from previous generations are still going strong, just like there is a reason many of today’s couples don’t last quite as long. Instead of getting frustrated, when seeking relationship advice from an older couple, ask them what worked and what needed improvement. Explain the way things have changed, and ask them what they would do considering their circumstances combined with yours. If you’re persistent when it comes to experimentation, why not be just as persistent when it comes to learning from the past?