fbpx Millennial Nostalgia in the Dating World

Culture - Dating | September 13, 2022, 6:00 CDT

Millennial Nostalgia in the Dating World
Looking to the past may be affecting your dating life more than you realize, and that's OK.
Meg Walters

Written by

Meg Walters
An old flip cellphone is open with a line of white hearts behind it that are filling up with red.
Illustration by Tré Carden

Millennials are officially Generation Nostalgia. With our youth spent watching "Friends" and "The Gilmore Girls," following Mary-Kate and Ashley, listening to the Spice Girls, wearing skinny jeans and pulling out flip phones, we are a generation that can't help but yearningly look back toward the early 2000s through rose-tinted glasses.

As more and more millennials turn away from modern life in favor of the past, the way they view romance is changing, too. It seems our generational nostalgia has spread beyond pop culture and into our dating lives. According to the dating app Plenty of Fish, millennials can't stop "nostalgia-stanning" on their dates.

What is millennial nostalgia-stanning? It's integrating aughts-era (2000 to 2009) dating habits and trends into your present-day dating experiences, according to the app.

The dating app surveyed 3,800 millennial women ages 26 to 41. The majority of single millennials said nostalgia affected how they dated, with 57 percent claiming it's a turn-on when someone they're on a date with gets the same aughts references. About 39 percent also said they missed chatting on the phone, while 29 percent claimed to miss the slower modes of communication from the early aughts.

Why do millennials love the aughts?

According to Kate Maclean, the resident dating expert at Plenty of Fish, millennials keep going back to the aughts because of a sense of comfort it brings them.

"With everything going on in the world, millennials are feeling nostalgic for the aughts and the carefree, youthful lifestyle they associate with that era," she said. "Sixty-seven percent say they feel this way because life felt easier back then, and 44 percent say they feel this way because the aughts are a good, fun distraction from today's challenges."

Why connecting over nostalgia makes sense

If millennials are deriving a sense of comfort and pleasant nostalgia by reminiscing about the aughts, it makes sense they would seek the same comfort and nostalgia in their dating lives.

As Maclean explained, connecting over shared references builds an instant rapport with your date.

"Getting the same references makes for a great icebreaker while also creating a new layer of connection and discussion," she said. "Especially in the early days of dating, finding low-pressure ways to get to know someone is key, and reminiscing over iconic pop culture moments is a perfect option."

With so many millennials relying on nostalgia to keep them feeling grounded in today's chaotic world, it's only natural we desire someone who is also (at least partially) living in the past.

Is millennial nostalgia a dangerous precedent?

While getting lost in a daydream about an easier past is appealing, especially in the times we live in, is it healthy to build a romantic relationship on the foundation of pop culture nostalgia? Probably not, but in moderation, it can't hurt, especially in the early days of the relationship.

"Dating is a journey, and in the early days of getting to know someone, finding common ground around shared nostalgia or other like-minded interests is a good thing," Maclean explained. "It also helps you get to know someone on a deeper level: Finding what iconic aughts couple a date admires most, what they remember about growing up in an age before iPhones and other modern technology can help you assess compatibility for the future and provide a segue into a 'deeper' conversation that isn't super-stressful."

How to embrace millennial nostalgia dating

In small doses, incorporating millennial nostalgia into your dating life can help you keep dates light and fun while helping you build a connection. Maclean offered some tips on how to channel your nostalgia in a healthy way in your dating life:

Try giving the person you're seeing a call—even if it's over Zoom. "Millennials most miss getting to know someone by talking on the phone for hours [39 percent] as well as talking on the phone to plan their dates [35 percent]," Maclean said. "Despite a wide embrace of technology like Zoom and FaceTime, millennials clearly miss the experience of just calling up their crush. This embrace of new technology along with the 'old' is a great way to embrace the aughts, offering singles multiple tools for connection."

Don't be afraid to bring up a few aughts references on your next date. Love "Charmed" or "Gossip Girl"? Don't feel like you have to keep your nostalgia a secret while dating—many millennials feel the same way. So bring up your favorite references, break the ice and learn a little more about your date.

Wear your favorite aughts fashions while dating. Throw on a pair of low-rise skinny jeans and a lace camisole to really embody your nostalgia.

Part of 'Generation Nostalgia'? Lean in

It's official. Nostalgia is in. While obsessing over nostalgic moments in pop culture or early aughts fashion probably shouldn't become your whole personality, if you find yourself constantly coming back to retro fashions and TV shows, know you're not alone.

According to the experts, there's never been a better time to lean into your millennial nostalgia, especially in your dating life. After all, if you love Ross and Rachel, boy bands and skinny jeans, there's no harm in searching for a partner who feels the same!

Meg Walters

Written by

Meg Walters

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