Hookup culture is destroying our generation’s potential of finding love

Written By Maegan Fewell, Staff Writer

We are at a time when hookup culture is the main form of human connection. There is a global pandemic, and there is less of a desire for long-term committed relationships. Are people truly dating anymore or is it a thing of the past?

High school sweethearts are a rare phenomenon these days. The old universal norm of marrying young has been phased out of Western culture. A few good things have come out of that, with young adults having more choice over who they’re seeing and being able to wait until they are mature enough to establish a more equal partnership. But the path to find “The One” or even just a temporary committed partner is more complicated than ever.

Young adults in 2021, especially college students, are supposedly in their prime time for dating. Regardless of whether these relationships are leading to serious commitment or are casual, the point driven to our generation is to “go out and have a bunch of partners before you are tied down to just one person forever.” (The stigma of marriage is an argument for another time.) But we’ve all heard that before, right? Once you hit the ripe age of 20, you apparently have 10 more years to date without “repercussions.” What does that even mean? Society has set specific years for us to do this and other times to do that. But pressures about “dipping our toes in every dating pool” when we’ve barely started to figure out adulthood seems like an unreasonable and insurmountable task for young adults to accomplish. Also, not everyone may want to participate in such an undertaking.

When going on a date with someone, we have been conditioned to consider that a step towards commitment. I think a problem of today’s dating culture is the lack of formality. Hence, why going over to someone’s house to “hang out” can be so casually appealing to some. But if an actual date is offered, the response may be: “Woah! You want to go out to dinner and go on a ‘date, date?’ That is way too scary and may lead to a label which leads to commitment which terrifies me.”

Planning a date takes effort. Going and asking someone out on a date requires effort, as well as knowing that a form of rejection could happen. It is much easier to swipe right on someone on an app, hang out at either party’s house/dorm and keep things very casual. Another point I would like to make is that there is less desire for a label in relationships. Going and hanging out at someone’s house for a few hours is technically what a friend would do. Communicating with someone for days on end and texting is what a friend would do. The bridge between commitment and a label is quite conjoined. When you have labeled a relationship, there is so much more to lose, but sometimes, so much more you can gain if you give it a shot.

Elaborate, thought-out dates with several plans for one day are rare in this generation. Dating apps, the presence of social media, as well as a sense of entitlement, in my opinion, create a positive and negative form of accessibility. Yes, you can quickly know and find people on apps, but can you make genuine connections with them? Gone are the times when you would spend the entire day with someone to truly get to know them better. Going and having breakfast somewhere, heading to a museum or art gallery, having a picnic or dinner and finally seeing a movie to finish the night off simply doesn’t occur as often anymore. Yes, that is probably romanticized, but I believe life can be romanticized if you wish it to be. That’s the thing, though. You have to want to go and do those things with another person.

Dating apps create a certain kind of accessibility. It is a broad range of pick-and-choose, and some treat it like a game or ego boost rather than for the actual purpose of meeting and getting to know people. (Also, constant studies have been conducted analyzing dating apps and coming to the conclusion that these apps play into customers’ emotions of loneliness and low self-esteem. But again, an argument for another time.) Why would anyone go and meet someone organically when they could easily create a string of short-term, non-committal connections through a screen? There is less heartbreak involved, less emotion involved and less effort involved. However, there is consequently less chance of finding meaningful long-term relationships.

On the other hand, accessibility and an online dating presence can be good things. It opens up an entire world of connection outside of the few social circles someone has. You can easily find common interests, people you are attracted to and have more control over the time frame and nature of the connection. Some find their true love over a screen! Additionally, some members of this generation think that dating has only become better. With dating apps and Instagram, you can screen or “background check” someone much more than you would if they were a stranger off the street. But with that comes the self portrayal of social media.

Have we ever met someone online that seemed a certain way, but they are totally different in real life? I’m not just talking about catfishes … because that happens too. But how someone is online and in-person can be completely different. I say this for myself as well. It’s normal to want to be a certain character on your personal feed and share your best and happiest photos. You can hide behind the character you have created and show that person much more than your “true” self. It is inevitable in this generation. But I have found that some can take this too literally, straying so far away from the person they are in real life that it’s almost dishonest. How could you possibly get to know someone deep down if they don’t ever show who they truly are beneath the facades?

To conclude this complex topic, how can we change the stigma of hookup culture? How can the romantics of this generation searching for committed relationships coexist with those wanting short-term commitments? The bridge between the two is starkly divided. Instead of hookup culture dominating the world of young adults, we must find a way to alleviate some of these cultural stresses. We already have enough to worry about as college students in 2021; living up to society’s preconceived dating standards should not feel like an added hassle.