fbpx How Has Dating Changed for Gen Z?

Dating And Relationships - Dating | September 20, 2022, 6:00 CDT

How Has Dating Changed for Gen Z?
Welcome to the era of breadcrumbing, soft launching and virtual dating.
Meg Walters

Written by

Meg Walters
Two people with pink eye shadow press their foreheads together and hold hands in front of a purple background.

The dating world seems to be changing faster than ever. Up until a hundred years ago or so, "dates" might have been set up by parents and chaperoned by a relative. During the 1950s and '60s, dating, or "going steady," became the norm. By the '90s and early 2000s, dates typically consisted of dinner, drinks or a movie.

These days, the dating world for the young generation looks a little different. Young people must deal with the increasingly prominent impact of social media and ensuing dating trends. Just how much has dating really changed for Gen Z?

How is technology impacting the dating world?

At first glance, dates of today might look pretty similar to dates of 10 or 20 years ago, but for Generation Z, dating has changed more than you might realize.

For millennials, the generation preceding Gen Z, the dating world was somewhat influenced by technology. Young millennials might have chatted on MSN or AOL before scheduling an in-person date. Then the world of online dating became fairly significant for millennials when the first online dating website, Match.com, was launched in 1995.

While online dating was a part of how young millennials met, the way technology was used in the search for love has since changed. With more and more social media platforms and more time being spent on our devices, technology plays a bigger role in how we date.

"The advancement of technology has had an immense effect in altering our reality, our ways of practicing and our ways of viewing things, including dating," said relationship expert Callisto Adams, Ph.D., founder of HeTexted, a dating advice platform based in New York City. "Online dating now has become a huge part of the dating world, so much that a lot of trends emerging often stem from this exact practice: the use of online dating."

The world of online dating has expanded—and fast. The early days of matching on an online dating service or even on an app like Tinder are becoming a thing of the past. These days, you may encounter more specialized apps that use video, images and even interactive games. The simple swipe right/swipe left mechanism is now retro.

Pippa Murphy, the sex and relationship expert at Condoms.uk, said Gen Zers are using online dating apps differently than their predecessors.

"In the past couple of years, there's certainly been a social shift in the reason why people download dating apps," she said. "Whilst people used to download them to pursue a relationship, nowadays people download them to find no-strings[-attached] sex. This is largely thanks to Tinder, which originally started as an app to kickstart a relationship but over time became the go-to app if you wanted a good night in with someone.

"Whilst hookup culture has always been a part of human connection, what's new is that there are now apps specifically for no-strings sex, making it way less taboo," Murphy added.

Popular new apps such as Thursday, Pure and 3Fun prioritize safety, fetishes, anonymity and sexual experimentation. In other words, some Gen Zers aren't quite as traditional as many older dating app users.

Does Gen Z approach dating differently?

According to most reports, many Gen Zers are taking a new approach to the concept of love itself. As one BBC article explained, Gen Z is more "pragmatic" about love and sex and, in turn, is rejecting the traditional concept of fairytale love.

"They realize that they might have different partners at different times in their lives [who] may fulfill different needs," said Julie Arbit, global senior vice president of insights at Vice Media Group in New York City, in the BBC article.

The report also cited research from Arbit that found only 1 in 10 Gen Z daters are "committed to being committed," and a study from India that indicated 66 percent of Gen Zers are happy to accept that "not all relationships will be permanent."

Gen Z is also more open to exploring "nontraditional" relationships and couplings, with polyamory, hookups and undefined relationships all on the rise.

Of course, many people still end up in a more traditional couple, but as more and more of our lives are plastered on social media, many Gen Zers are choosing to keep their relationships offline. While millennials were the generation who changed their Facebook relationship statuses, Gen Zers are "soft launching" their relationships online.

"Most couples are now a bit discreet about their dating life online and opt for a soft launch in which the social media user asks their followers to read between the lines about their relationship status," Murphy said. "For women, this could mean posting a photograph of a man's arm with a watch on or shirt whilst you're both out at dinner."

Gen Zers are less into labeling their relationships, she explained, so the soft launch has become a safer stage, falling among the stages of seeing, dating, exclusive, soft launch and official.

Gen Zers have plenty of dating trends

Gen Zers' attitudes toward dating and the ways in which they use technology while dating are shifting. In turn, new dating trends and patterns are emerging that were less prevalent for other generations.

"With online dating, we got introduced to the idea of, and perhaps the illusion as well, of variety," Adams explained. "Now we have way too many opportunities for trends to emerge."

Some of these Gen Z dating trends include:

  • Virtual dates. Dating online rather than in person.
  • Hesitating. Feeling indifferent about dating at all.
  • FODA. Fear of dating again.
  • Breadcrumbing. When the person you're seeing drags you along with noncommittal signs but puts in little effort to commit.
  • Cookie jarring. When the person you're seeing keeps you on reserve as a plan B or backup plan.

In other words, the dating world has become something of a minefield.

"Dating never looked like this before," Adams said. "The future of the dating world is uncertain."

Meg Walters

Written by

Meg Walters

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