The Complicated Realities of Millennial Dating

Erin Maher

The language of love has been rewritten by millennials.

Boomers once “courted,” we millennials “talk.” The traditional dinner date has devolved to “hanging out.”

But it seems there is one major change that separates millennial dating from generations past: technology.

While dating online became a reality in the 1990s, it wasn’t until the late 2000s and early 2010s, with the genesis of dating apps, that online dating became de-stigmatized and ubiquitous. Dating apps combine the embarrassing selfies and hackneyed “about me” bios of online dating, with an easy user interface, providing a nonstop bout of speed dating right in the palm of your hand.

And millennials regularly log in to dating apps. According to a 2018 study conducted by the online legal marketplace Avvo, 43 percent of all online daters are millennials.

“I think the apps are great because, you know, where else can you meet people while you’re at home in your pajamas?” said Karenna Alexander, a Norwalk, Conn.-based dating coach.

Alexander, who has served clients from around the world for the past 18 years, regularly works with clients from Westchester, and will often refer her clients to dating apps.

The ease of dating apps is alluring, but there are definite drawbacks.

When I asked three single friends of mine what dating is like for a millennial, I was told, “complicated,” “tedious” and “horrible.”

“People become more disposable because there are so many new people you can meet, and you’re judging someone based on a picture,” said 28-year-old White Plains resident Katherine McAteer. “You don’t really know anything about them.”

With online dating comes a whole new lexicon of unfortunate millennial dating habits. “Orbiting” is when someone stops talking to you but still engages with your social media. “Breadcrumbing” is when someone continually stays in contact with you, but makes no commitments or plans to see you. And “ghosting” is the spookiest dating habit of all. Ghosting is when someone you are dating abruptly stops communicating with you without explanation. It’s pretty common to be ghosted and to pull some disappearing acts yourself.

“I think everyone has ghosted, and we’ve all ghosted others,” said James Rogers, 29, of White Plains.

It’s no wonder, with all these cowardly dating habits that plague my generation, that millennials don’t care much for dating.

In 2018, dating app Tinder conducted a study of 1,000 single people, ages 18 to 25, and found that 72 percent of surveyed millennials made a conscious decision to stay single for a period of time.

There are a lot of reasons for this. For starters, marriage is not a must anymore. Historically, women were reliant on men to provide. However, times have changed. Millennial women are more educated than previous generations, leading to greater job and income opportunities with less of an economic dependency on a partner. Men these days are a luxury, not a necessity. Gentlemen, be sure to highlight that last sentence.

Millennials also cite finances as a barrier that keeps them from dating. Match.com’s 2019 Singles in America survey found that 30 percent of millennials said that their finances have held them back from pursuing love. Millennials are in oppressive student debt, dealing with rising healthcare costs and battling insane housing inflation prices, so finding those funds for dates is difficult.

Finally, just because you match with a handsome guy or beautiful girl online does not mean you two will click in real life.

“I think that we’re very glued to the phone and that people skills are very limited,” said 28-year-old Dan Hofer of Ossining. “I’ve been on dates where it’s like talking to a brick wall.”

Hofer and I were a former Tinder match turned longtime friends. So there are some upsides to online dating. And don’t worry, I wasn’t that brick wall. I’d like to think of myself more like soft concrete.

Online dating can be both daunting and exhausting. Make it easier on yourself, and only put in the effort for those that reciprocate.

“Love only those who love you,” Alexander said. “Keep trying, and don’t give up. And sometimes you have to treat it like a part-time job.”

Erin Maher is a writer in Westchester County. Find more of her musings at erinmaherwrites.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @erinmaherwrites.

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