Dating is often complicated and confusing, but that’s especially the case for Millennials. They’re coming of age at a time when it’s not just about forming a connection with someone in person; rather, it’s about getting to know someone through technology. Many Millennials are essentially having a relationship with their cellphone or computer screen as a portal to get to know or make plans with another person. They’re constantly waiting to receive and respond to texts, attempting to interpret cryptic messages, and wondering how to define their relationship if they’re not “Facebook Official.”
Many Millennials want to see what’s out there — they have a fear of missing out (FOMO) — and they often want to do so in a casual and commitment-free way. While the same traditional views of romance still hold, “finding love has a new set of challenges for Millennials, partners struggle with navigating ambiguous digital communication between each other in the early, sensitive, awkward, phases of relationships,” says Jake Katz, our general manager.
Gen Y and dating has been a huge topic in recent weeks following The New York Times article, “The End Of Courtship?” The piece highlights how teens and twenty-somethings are abandoning dating in favor of hanging out or exchanging texts. The hookup culture in college is being taken to the real world as Millennials are settling down later in life.
The article explains what we often hear about Millennials’ habits; they aren’t going out on dates as much, which is an effect of the economy, as well as a change in attitudes. Instead, they’re texting others to tag along with their friends, embracing online dating sites, and even going on group dates. Our recent research among 989 13-34-year-olds provides further insight into this trend, highlighting how dating is different for Gen Y.
For the most part, it appears less serious among Millennials than it was when previous generations were their age. Nearly half of Millennials (46%) agree that the new date is just “hanging out” and a close percentage (41%) think it’s fine to ask someone on a date via text message. “We see this more as a result of a thinning intimacy in communication between young people, driven by the rise of texting, tweeting, and communication snacking” says Katz.
In this sense, there’s less of an emphasis on courtship since a quick informal text doesn’t usually carry as much weight as asking someone out in person or calling them on the phone. However, to Millennials, this is normal. They’ve grown up doing this, and they still feel close to people through technology. In fact, 21% of Millennials agree that you can be in a relationship with someone without meeting him/her in person.
But Millennials aren’t sure what to make of this ever-evolving attitude towards dating. Many like not being tied down and enjoy having a pool of potential partners just a click away. Technology makes this simple and, as a result, dating can be considered a game. However, many Millennials still want to be wooed. Eight in 10 (82%) say that true romance is very important, and 51% have been on a formal date.
At the same time, half of Millennials haven’t been on a date, which highlights why dating and relationships are so confusing for them. They see characters on TV, particularly on HBO’s “Girls,” struggle to figure out what “hanging out” means, and, at times, it really is complicated. They’re not sure if hooking up will lead to a relationship or what to do if they receive a text that simply says “hey.”
So is dating really harder for Millennials than it was for previous generations? Fully 40% of this generation thinks so since there’s no clear path from hook-up to “Facebook Official” as MTV Insights explains. But as young people are reworking almost all aspects of culture, it's no surprise that they’re changing the nature of dating to fit their busy social lives and today’s technology.