When it comes to dating and love, Millennials often (undeservedly) get a bad rap from the olds for not being serious enough about their romantic pursuits. Thanks to technology and the proliferation of nearly 4,000 dating services coupled with many Gen Y singles’ active participation in the dating game, Millennials have been broadly saddled with the decidedly unromantic conceit of Netflix & Chill, a new name for the age-old pastime formerly known as the no-strings-attached hook up.
To the casual observer, casual sex may seem like the ultimate end game for many of the 64 million Millennials on the make who use dating apps or websites in search of Mister or Miss Right Now. But assuming that Gen Y has cornered the market on promiscuity and commitment-phobia is a missed connection on how the rules of attraction have changed in the age of Tinder and OKCupid. Like a lot of relationship statuses, It’s Complicated.
Whether love is found through an app or a website, digital romance is big business these days, with annual revenue estimated at $2 billion and more than $240 million spent on marketing. Analysts suggest demand for online dating services—especially those aimed at niche consumers—will only continue to rise, as more apps take advantage of smartphone functionality (such as location services) and more singles from all generations jump into the digital dating pool.
For Millennials, digital media has both facilitated and complicated communications for those looking to make a love connection. While texting and social media use among Gen Y long-ago trumped voice calls and written notes as the preferred means to declare and share their affections, when it comes to teen romance, specifically, an overwhelming majority (69%) of teenage boys said they still prefer to ask someone on a date in person rather than via text message, according to a report from Pew Research Center. Furthermore, 27% of teen daters said they have used social media to keep track of their romantic partner’s whereabouts, while 65% of teenage boys said platforms like Facebook or Instagram made them feel more connected with what’s happening in their significant other’s life, compared to only 52% of teenage girls.
Meanwhile, many Millennials appear to be finding their perfect match online. According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, more than one-third of 19,000 couples that were married between 2005 and 2012 said they met through an online dating service. In fact, the old perception that users of online dating services were “desperate” seems to be changing, especially among busy and digitally savvy Millennial singles who increasingly have turned to digital channels to pair off.
Which has led to the dubious impression that Millennial daters are only looking for casual hook-ups, instead of lasting love. While the olds like to wring their hands over Gen Y’s seemingly promiscuous ways and general lack of interest in committed relationships, research bears out a different story. A study that examined the sex lives of college students over a 25-year period showed no difference between the average numbers of partners that average Gen X or Gen Y students had during the same period in college. In fact, the incidence of “hooking up” or casual sex has remained steady over the past 25 years. Additionally, another study indicated that most Millennials preferred being in a committed relationship over several one-night stands. If anything, Millennials have proven themselves to be more responsible than previous generations when it comes to practicing safer sex.
In truth, courtship rituals for Millennials may not be all that different from those in previous generations. The communication tools and lingo might have changed, but love remains the same, amirite?