Thanks to Valentine’s Day, a plethora of stories recently hit the online stratosphere about the dating lives of Millennials. Many of these articles, derived by the alleged Millennial experts, hint that dating has been replaced with “hooking up,” technology is a crutch, courtship has ended and traditional values are being lost.
It is true that “hanging out” is now an interchangeable term Millennials use for “dating,” but they’re truly no different than the generations before them. According to a Clark University survey, roughly 85% of Millennials expect to be married to the same mate "till death do us part," and more than half frown upon sex without emotional attachment. Many Millennials actually consider themselves optimistic romantics living their own version of the American dream.
Whether you represent a restaurant chain trying to capture Millennials’ dating dollars or a jewelry store looking to connect with them for an engagement ring sale, there are a few records that need to be set straight about this generation’s courtship rituals:
There is a need for romance; they’re not all using “Bang with Friends.”
It’s true. Millennials are procrastinating more than previous generations to get married, but don’t take that as a lack of feeling or emotion. Over 50% describe themselves as romantics and, overall, they’re more likely than other generations to believe love lasts forever (those young optimists).
But that doesn’t mean they think dinner and a movie is an ideal date. They’re looking for dating ideas that deliver bonding and bragging rights. They want the chance to boast on Instagram or Pinterest about the bodacious art show, food truck or band that made their date special. No wonder “love” is the most popular hashtag with over 140 million photos.
Millennials turn to social media for inspiration to fuel their romance. Women rummage through Pinterest, pinning image after image in preparation for their wedding before they’ve even met Mr. Perfect. And even share YouTube videos about how to best surprise loved ones: see proposals or weddings (my girlfriend sent me these videos this year, talk about a subtle hint).
Dating is still alive. It’s just a little more casual and collaborative.
Millennials still want to be courted, and when the time is right, start dating. In fact, the majority of them have been on “traditional” dates. They just customize them to fit their preferences.
When they are ready to meet someone, they use their friends in group settings to facilitate meetings on common ground. Sites like Grouper, which sets-up group dates via your Facebook profile, introduces a group of guys to a group of girls, making meeting new people comfortable and efficient.
The changing dynamic of men and women’s equal partnership has also impacted their dating mindset. A hundred years ago, women were expected to marry and stay at home to raise a family. Today, women are an equal part of the workforce and are starting to pursue dates as aggressively as their male counterparts. And according to MTV insights, Millennial men are expecting it; 64% state that women should take more of a role to initiate relationships.
Technology is just another touch point, not the whole package.
Let’s be honest, technology has affected the way each generation communicates. So it’s no surprise that Millennials see Facebook messages, e-mails and texting as another dating tool in their arsenal.
This should not be confused with a lack of intimacy or fear of being rejected. According to Brandon, a 27-year-old business analyst in Austin, Texas, “It doesn’t feel any better if you’re rejected in person or via text. It still sucks cause either way you’re told no. It just eliminates the weirdness of her stumbling through why she can’t go on a date.” Millennials see the use of technology as a tool to remove awkwardness and navigate the bumps of dating.
Like anyone else, they do not want to have their hearts broken. This is a generation full of calculated risk-takers who use a prospect’s digital self (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in profiles) to help make an informed decision. Do we share interests? Could we be compatible? They just see technology as another way to make an informed decision.
If it isn’t obvious, I’m a Millennial. And willing to admit my generation may rely on technology, using text messages to flirt and Grouper instead of being set-up; however, we’re often just like our parents when it comes to our love lives and what we ultimately want from a relationship. We might even be a little more traditional than the generation before us since we’re more likely to admit we want our relationship to last. Maybe, that’s why it’s taking us so long to get to the altar. Who can blame us?