Dating is always evolving. Once, it meant writing letters, trying not to die in a war and maybe eloping. Later, it meant mixtapes, make-out point and marriage. Later still, it meant signing into MSN to get our crush's attention and then ~accidentally~ sending them a message about them which was actually "meant for my friend, I honestly don't know how that happened".
For this reason, not every generation agrees on the "right" way to date. My mum thinks everyone I meet on Tinder is going to kill me, and she’d rather I went out and actually spoke to people instead of swiping endlessly through their mugshots. Gross.
The latest dating shift has come with Gen Z'ers – anyone 21 or younger – who are supposedly all isolated by their mobile phones and having less sex than previous generations. Of course, those statements, based on a number of academic studies, aren't exactly representative: lots of young people are still very much meeting people – with the help of their mobile phones – and then maybe having sex with them.
Because it's Valentine's Day, we asked some Gen Z'ers what dating is like for them, and what they think of the way older generations used to date.
Older generations didn’t have as much freedom as us to experience the diversity of dating. But thanks to the internet, my generation has been given more accessibility to different people. I think it’s such a good thing that we get to connect with a variety of people from all over the world. But, sadly, it means that a lot of authenticity has been lost. It’s hard to gauge if someone’s intentions are pure or not, because they’re showing and telling you what they want you to know, and you just have to take their word for it. It’s changed dating. A lot of people have expectations of you to give them attention – give them sex, even – without them having put any effort in to court you. It’s that instant gratification that our generation is so used to, because it’s so easy to move on to the next one and have someone lined up on social media. So I do think it’s beneficial for us to take back some of those "old fashioned" values.
My generation is less inclined to compromise, because in the digital era everything feels temporary, so people are more disposable. People used to see dating as a long-term thing, so they were happier to compromise. But for older generations I would say they should realise that today we all have a lot more independence and options, so be more selective and don’t settle for what you know deep down is not truly right for you.
I think most dates are based around social media – Instagram, Twitter, Tinder. I don’t really like that, but that’s the way it is. But in my generation there’s a growing lack of communication and enthusiasm because we’re distracted by our phones. I’ve done that in the past, but it has made me realise the amount of missed opportunities you could have experienced with that other person.
I think we’re a lot less faithful as well, because you’ve got such easy access to talk to other people on social media while being mutually exclusive. Older generations didn’t have the option to hit people up as and when.
I can’t afford to take anyone on an actual date right now. But I’d save for a bit if it was someone really special, I think. With the girl I’m seeing now, I just DM’'d her on Instagram after I had seen her around uni a few times, and we knew some of the same people. And then we just chilled at mine, watched some really bad films and talked for a while.
We’re less worried about doing "proper" dates. Now, you can say anything is a date if you’re spending time with each other. There’s less pressure when they are more chill. My parents think it's weird that I go on a lot of dates, because they’ve been together since they started uni. But I think older generations should just accept that we have a more relaxed approach to dating now. It doesn’t have to be flowers and chocolates every day.
I don’t think that much has changed between us and millennials, just the platforms we use. If you want someone to notice you now, people will usually just put up a Snapchat story where they look really good. Then they hope that their crush will see and will maybe even send them a message.
But a lot of people say that romance is dead because people text a lot more now. I’d say that older generations should embrace new technology, because texting actually isn’t such a terrible thing. It actually makes everything a lot easier, especially when you’re planning stuff or meeting up with people. It means that you can text someone you’ve never really met for a bit before actually meeting them. But I wouldn’t do that for too long or you’ll run out of things to talk about. And they should also embrace our more positive attitude to sex! I think it’s good that people feel more free and confident about what they want in that respect.
I think my generation is more relaxed when it comes to dating. But older generations weren’t because they were mainly focused on finding a partner. They just wanted to start a family, so they were less picky when it came to choosing who they dated.
So now, going on dates has become more important than it was before. As, now, we aren’t necessarily looking for someone to stay with forever, dating is less of a headache. We can meet a lot of other people before we settle down with someone for a lifetime, but I do think that makes it less romantic. And although it’s good that attitudes towards sex are more free, it has made dating a little bit harder. Sometimes relationships aren’t actually based on anything more than sex, and that’s not what makes a relationship.
I do think that when our grandparents had chosen their partner, it was because they really loved them. But now we look for the little things that bother us and go onto the next person. Older generations would send letters or run away together, and this is lost with the multiple encounters which we’re doing now. It may be seen as "old school", but it’s still something that is really important to me.
For Valentine’s Day this year, I was surprised to hear that my boyfriend had actually planned a spa hotel day and night. Often men are shit and don't care about it, so the girl would have to plan what you do and where you eat. But compared to my grandparents' generation, there is more pressure to come up with very impressive date ideas rather than focusing on simply enjoying each others' company. Instagram can make you feel like other couples are doing more and are better than you. I feel like it's taken away the essence of what dating is.
We are much better at catching people cheating than older generations. But apart from that I think, before, relationships felt more real and natural, because these days people are a lot more desperate to be in a relationship. That’s the same reason I don’t like dating apps – people are forcing themselves to find someone because there’s so much pressure. I think it's rubbish how they put people together, because having similar interests isn't what makes people fall in love with each other.
Also, with older generations it was quite frowned upon if the women were to be the instigators in any way, because it was seen as the "man's job" in the relationship. So that's something that has improved with my generation. Girls don't have to be scared of being seen as easy or whorish for sleeping with people or making it very obvious that they like someone any more. I do believe these ideas do still exist in some people’s minds, it just isn't as acceptable to talk about it.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.