When it goes well, dating is a lot of fun. But, dating can also be one of the most stressful and intimidating parts of being a young single person. Vince Vaughn’s brilliant monologue in one of my favorite comedies, Wedding Crashers, perfectly encapsulates the thoughts many single people share when it comes to the downsides of the dating process.
Luckily for many, the digitization of our social lives has offered a lot of benefits for those too intimidated to face the trauma that can come with randomly approaching a stranger in public. Online dating now gives people the opportunity to know almost every last detail about a person before going on a date, and it guarantees that you will have something to talk about over dinner.
When online dating first became popular, I was still a kid. At the time, I figured online dating only existed for older, often divorced people, who had kids or weren’t exactly about to go out and meet people at bars anymore. I also remember that it was more widely considered (at least from a young person’s perspective) as “cheating”; a type of dating that was not as legitimate as meeting “for real.” Despite the fact that we are the first true internet generation, this was one facet of online life that many of our generation did not jump at the opportunity to participate in. Millennials did not consider online dating to be a cute or romantic way of meeting.
But things have been changing lately for our generation. As one 22-year-old friend of mine said, “a few years ago, I would have scoffed at it [online dating], but talking to friends makes me sympathize that it’s harder to meet people once you’re no longer in school, and I don’t really think it’s weird anymore.” A big part of the change was the gain in popularity of millennials’ favorite online dating site: OkCupid. OKCupid has 7 million active users, many of them millennials, and it works similarly to other dating websites.You create a profile, add pictures and information, and answer a series of questions (there are hundreds if you care to complete the whole thing) and these then let you know who you are well matched with on the website.
With the amount of time that millennials spend online, it only seems natural that we would start to incorporate our dating lives into our online habits along with other aspects of our social lives. But do many OkCupid relationships turn into long-term situations, or is it just a forum for people to meet and have casual hook-ups? Is there ever a substitute to really meeting somebody in person?
Interested in what the average member of our generation thought about the whole process, I did an informal survey of several of my millennial friends to see what they thought. Those who I spoke to that are still resistant to the idea definitely agree that it is a cop-out; as one of my more pessimistic 23-year-old male friends put it, “I should still be able to get a date like normal people.” But he also admitted that he just found it to generally be an intimidating and mildly terrifying process. Another simply said “when people ask how I met my girlfriend, I don’t want to have to say ‘online.’”
Others I spoke with say it removes the elements of mystery and a sense of fate that comes with meeting a new partner, and that although it may be exciting at first, it loses its luster after a while and becomes boring to constantly go on dates with people you are averagely attracted to.
But a 28-year-old friend told me he liked OkCupid a lot because it helped get him back up and on his feet after a really devastating break-up. He didn’t have the mindset or the confidence to deal with “going out” to meet people and potentially deal with a lot of rejection before meeting a good person, and so it gave him a way to get back in the game and enjoy himself around women again.
“It’s nice to be able to be upfront when you go out with someone,” another 25-year-old friend mentioned. “It’s not like meeting at a bar where you have to guess if the person is single or not or interested or not or what they’re looking for. With OkCupid, you can go in at least having a mutual understanding of the situation, and it allows you to relax and have more fun with the person without worrying about all those other issues.”
One of my closest college friends is in a long-term (and very adorable) relationship with a woman he met on OkCupid; however, they also seem to be the exception. I heard a lot good stories from OkCupid dates, but those stories were often good because of how wacky and strange the dates and people were. While all the people I asked about online dating found it to be fun, many millennials seem to treat online dating as a casual way to hook up, and they rarely have the expectation that it tlead them towards a serious relationship.
Despite a surge in popularity, it's hard to say if online dating will ever become the MO for our generation, or if it will always remain something stigmatized as less legitimate than real life encounters. Either way, I think it will only continue to grow in popularity for our generation and those following as a fun way to meet up, hook up, and every so often fall in love.