Has Gen Z Separated Themselves From Love?

Here’s how Zillennials have found a way to distance themselves from traditional dating culture by redefining it.

Things are getting complicated between Gen Z and dating culture. Being raised on smartphones, they feel the burden of doom scrolling and the superficiality of apps. Online dating platforms provide a pool of people they may never encounter daily, potentially leading to a “the grass is always greener” mentality. As a result, Post-Millennials are dating slower, having fewer sexual partners, and redefining what it means to find love. 

The media have changed the conversation around love’s role in our lives. According to Julia Lippman, a senior research specialist at the University of Michigan, young people’s minds are easy for the media to mold. These perfect portrayals of love affect how we feel. However, the media depicts an exaggerated image of expectations and standards that could be tainting the minds of impressionable Zillennials. In addition to the media, it’s also worth pointing out how Gen Z’ers are nontraditional regarding values set about love and marriage.  

Marketing consultant Myca Williamson’s dating experience started in high school and only lasted in comfort for four years with an upperclassman. When the relationship ended in college, she realized she had no real dating experience because he was the only person she had ever been with and didn’t even have to pursue. The 30-year-old reflected on how when she turned 21, it felt liberating to begin exploring her dating life in person. I [had] a new type of freedom that I felt I didn’t have before. I was just about meeting people organically,” Williamson says.

As any new legal drinker would do, she made going out her first mission to find new partners. Drinks were bought for her and flirting was practiced. After a while, she started a new journey by joining Tinder in 2016. She met some good and bad guys but could not take the online setting seriously. “I think in the beginning the apps had a good intention,” Williamson says. “They meant well to help people connect in a way that maybe felt more natural for us because [Millennials] are the generation that went from offline to online.

Through her experience, she saw how dating apps were becoming more gamified to hold users’ attention. Her peers remind her that dating apps have caused the world to forget how meeting authentically can sometimes be easier. It’s just laborious,” Williamson says. “Getting on there, having to manage five or six different conversations, and then sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh, I don’t even know if I want to save this conversation.”

After multiple attempts and dating horror stories, Williamson eventually gave up on dating apps. Her current partner is a man she initially matched with on Tinder but only entertained once deciding to find her person in real life. It confirmed her thought of how people date platforms for validation, attention and out of curiosity rather than the sole purpose of finding love.

The media we consume plays a significant role in glamorizing false reality. From reality television programs to influencer culture, it often portrays love as a universal formula rather than acknowledging its individualistic nature. Influencers that showcase curated versions of their love lives can create pressure and a sense of competition or comparison. This pushes unrealistic expectations and makes it seem like relationships need the glitz and glamor to be healthy and long-lasting.

22-year-old Instagram influencer and model Faith Harper has taken the responsibility of being a good role model for realism. Harper recently hard-launched her boyfriend on Instagram and has zero regrets because she sees the difference between social media and reality. “Dating apps are not authentic and so preconceived that it’s hard to make something real out of it and take it seriously,” she says.

With the media profiting off Gen Z consuming the aesthetic of “the perfect relationship,” it could prevent them from building a genuine relationship and instead chasing after the best option that fulfills their fantasy. Harper believes hook-up culture has taken over dating apps and has become one big distraction from the real work it takes to settle down. “It can feel very competitive when it really shouldn’t,” she says. “It’s also the culture now where being toxic and cheating is a joke, and people are shamelessly acting like that.”

Even though her life is fully displayed, Harper doesn’t fear vulnerability. It challenges her to grow authenticity through her online presence and not fall under the pressure of over-glamorizing her relationship. “If you like someone, then the other stuff shouldn’t matter,” Harper says. Authenticity can sometimes come with a price. The internet looks best paired with stability. Relationship expert Keisha Saundra-Waldron doesn’t think Zillennials are moving away from love solely because of social image but because they’re also trying to secure a better future.

“Societal pressures and expectations have evolved, with many Gen Z individuals prioritizing career advancement and personal development over traditional relationship milestones,” Saundra-Walrdon says.“Economic factors also come into play, as financial instability may deter people from committing to serious relationships.” 

We’re at an age where economic factors matter, and nowadays, it’s more expensive to get divorced than to get married. That alone can cause a natural concern to pick the right partner. The idea of being bound to someone for life can make anyone fear running to the altar based on feeling a spark. With everything on the internet, nobody wants to go through the problems in marriage culture and have it publicized.

“Fostering open communication and promoting healthy relationship values can be beneficial,” Saundra-Waldron says. “Education about consent, boundaries, and emotional intelligence is crucial in navigating modern relationships.”

Marriage culture has shifted through the years by introducing open relationships, separate bedrooms, and normalizing co-parenting. Fredrick and Jasmine Ohen have been married for almost seven years and see no issue with how this generation practices love. They shared that the media has always been a factor since its introduction. Social media has played a part in the Ohens’ relationships as well. When they first started dating in college, Jasmine expected to be posted every now and then. Still, Frederick strictly catered his Instagram page to promote social events since he was a part of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and didn’t want to mess up his brand. “That did matter to me a lot, and it meant something,” Jasmine says. “Only the people who see us know we are together. Post me, like, why are you ashamed?”

They shared that every time their relationship hit a low point, they would wash their feeds off each other, causing them to feel embarrassed and overexposed. This problem was so prominent in their relationship that they decided to come to a compromise by defining not only how much of their relationship they wanted to show the public but also how they chose to show love to one another. The Ohens don’t blame Gen Z’ers for changing dating standards. They believe the traditional values of love will not be lost but will be redefined for what works for them.  

“Everybody has a different definition, and when you get in a relationship, you need to identify your definition of marriage. What is your definition of commitment?” Fredrick said.

The image of love and marriage is ever-changing through cultural experiences. Gen Z is noticeably impacting the world by bringing awareness to outdated practices. Not one generation has got this life thing right, but one thing that is agreed upon is that love can never die.

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