Dating has changed since I landed on the dating scene a couple of decades ago (eek). In my late teens I was wide eyed, excited and optimistic. Gaggles of girls met packs of boys at discos, birthday parties, in pubs whilst pretending we were old enough to drink (I had some very dubious looking fake I.D.)
The university dating scene wasn’t that much different. We met in pubs, at parties, in nightclubs, in lectures, in our halls of residence. We had face-to-face conversations. Often drunken conversations, or short and embarrassed conversations, or a conversation with a wing-man or woman, but a real conversation nonetheless.
Then came speed-dating. These were still face-to-face conversations, just ruthlessly efficient conversations lasting three minutes, but speed-dating did at least give you the chance to meet someone in the flesh and talk to them, rather than just relying on a selection of photos to make an assessment of whether you might like someone.
Internet dating sites like match.com or e-harmony represented a bit of a shift about a decade ago. You wrote your profile and added a few photos. This was essentially your sales pitch, your advert, your CV and your chat up line. The shift was that your first encounter with your prospective suitor was on-line rather than face-to-face. This was the dating scene that I exited about eight years ago.
I re-entered the dating scene last year only to find that the dating world is a very different place. I had to learn how to date like a millennial.
First, millennials don’t date. Millennials hook-up. The idea of a ‘date’ always felt a bit formal and pressured. I quite like the idea of just meeting for a coffee or for a drink after work. Upon entering the millennials’ dating scene about eighteen months ago, I had naïvely assumed that we’d maybe kiss at the end of the date (if the date had gone well) and we’d agree to meet again, or we’d politely say “thanks for a nice evening” and then go home and neither of us contact each other again. That’s how things used to happen.
These days you meet your ‘date’ via an app rather than in person. Tinder, Bumble, Happn, Once, okcupid, they are all very similar. There is a lot of swiping, a load of ‘matches’, proportionately very little text contact, and proportionately even less face-to-face contact at the end of hours of swiping.
You see the thing about these apps is, like all social media, they are highly addictive. They are probably more addictive than other forms of social media because there are statistics involved. There are people on these apps who are just there to see how many matches they can get.
Ever been on Tinder? When you get a match and you think “oooh, somebody likes me”. You get a little hit of dopamine – that infamous brain chemical that is released whenever you experience something pleasurable. It feels good. You smile to yourself and carry on swiping. Lots of people on these apps spend hours swiping, receive hundreds of matches, hundreds of hits of dopamine but never send or respond to a message.
I am not a normal dating app user. I make a point of only choosing people who I would actually like to meet in the flesh and I always message my matches. I have no interest in knowing how many random strangers like the way I look.
Once contact is made on these datings apps and a conversation actually gets going, and it does occasionally, conversation will usually transfer over to WhatsApp. I once had a conversation lasting over an hour on WhatsApp. Texts back and forth, one word, two words, truncated sentences. I looked back over the conversation a couple of days later only to realise that over 900 messages had passed back and forth between us. It did get a little bit dirty. That’s the weird thing, not that it got a bit dirty, but the the fact that you’d have such a long and uninterrupted conversation via text. Why not speak to each other? A decade ago we’d just call. If you want to know how to date like a millennial you need to know how to spend hours on WhatsApp.
After millennials ‘hook-up’ they leave. If they are sober enough, the tube is still running or an uber isn’t too expensive, then they may leave that evening. If not, they will leave very early in the morning. It has to be clear, crystal clear, that this is a hook-up, not the exciting beginnings of a new relationship when you might have brunch in bed, maybe a bit of kissing and then shower before going home.
This is not a criticism. There is nothing new about trying to avoid getting hurt, but millennials seem to have perfected the separation of the physical from the emotional.
If you truly date like a millennial, you will also learn that hooking-up, no matter how good the sex or how many orgasms were had, does not determine seriousness, exclusivity or commitment. There is no such thing as exclusivity when you truly date like a millennial.
Hooking-up does not mean that your partner will respond to your messages either. There is no obligation after sex, no obligation to reply to a WhatsApp from the person you have slept with. If you want to date like a millennial remember that, unlike in other parts of life, having the last word is the ultimate weakness as it means being the person who doesn’t merit a response.
I have met a guy a few times. He’s nice enough but I find him quite boring. We have very little in common and very little to talk about. I don’t know that I can be bothered to see him again. I am currently debating whether to tell him that it isn’t really working for me, or just not to reply to his messages. If I were really dating like a millennial I would just ignore his messages – ‘ghosting’ it is called. ‘Ghosting’ somehow feels wrong, so I will tell him.
To date like a millennial you need to have a thick skin and a cold heart!
Now don’t get me wrong. Dating like a millennial has its advantages, especially for me as a single mum who doesn’t have time to meet someone and then nurture a relationship. I know that, by dating like a millennial, if I have no plans for Saturday night when Cygnet is with his dad I could get on an app and meet someone for a drink. The drink will lead somewhere if I let it. I can have an evening of escapism. It is easier than ever before to meet up with someone and I have said before that I can see the merits in an unconventional relationship.
The thing is though, I am not sure that my skin is thick enough, nor my heart cold enough to date like a millennial much of the time. After a while I hanker after some good old-fashioned courting.