Saturday, February 24, 2018

How do we redefine relationships for college students?

JESSICA CHOTINER `19
CONTRIBUTING WRITER

When I hear characterizations of our generation or read articles about “Millennials”, they usually make me cringe. The one that really gets my goat though, is the phrase “hook-up culture”. That is such a misnomer –– are we really anymore interested in sex than the 20 year olds of 50 years ago? I don’t think so, because humans, along with other animals, are sexual beings; not to mention, 50 years ago was the middle of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Anyway, the term ‘hook-up’ implies an interest in non-committal sex, and what we are really dealing with in our generation is an interest in non-committal relationships. We don’t date; we “hang out”. Really, when was the last time you, my fellow Millennials, asked anyone out on a date? Or when were you last asked to do anything other than “hang out”?

By and large we don’t date, not in the formal, four-letter, sense of the word. In college, I have been asked to ‘hang out’, ‘watch a movie’, and ‘Netflix and chill’ –– all of which are generally code for “ Please come to my dorm room and entertain the idea of amorous relations with me”. To my notion there are at least two contributing factors to the “hang-out” culture of our generation. One is our tendency to linger in adolescence; the other is our reliance communication by proxy.

Searching for ‘millennials’ on the Internet will bring up several titles that are something like “Why Can’t Millennials Grow Up?” While the implication there is semi-insulting, members of our generation do seem to mature at a slower rate than our predecessors. Often, we move back home after college, we stay on our parent’s insurance and cell phone plans for longer, we marry later, and in general are slow to become independent. This is not to say that these trends are negative, or that they are rules, but they do exist.

It is my thought that our lagging maturation and our proclivity towards “hanging out” are related. Members of our generation are under no pressure to form a long-lasting relationship at a young age. In fact, despite criticism of the “hook-up” culture, adults often give the contradictory advice to ‘get to know’ ourselves, explore all of our options, and not be too involved in a relationship during college. We are left with the sense that we have all the time in the world to find a partner, and assume that something that “adult” can be saved for later –– when we are maybe like 30. If we even choose to find a partner one at all, that is.

Maybe we don’t date because dating is a departure from our youthful independence. Is a date too much commitment? Is it too formal? Informality does tend to be key in the social mores of our generation, in our style, our language, and our social interactions. Through a variety of social media, we are able to communicate our every thought to whomever we choose. None of those platforms of communication, however, require face-to-face confrontation, which makes truly owning our emotions unnecessary. Someone might send me a nasty text, but he does not get the pleasure of watching me cry over it.

Apps like Tinder or Bumble, streamlines the partner-finding process, and while they do encourage casual, short-term relationships, they also serve as a buffer for rejection. Tinder only sends positive match notifications. Through these conduits, we can consolidate the ‘dating’ process: cut out the rejection and find like-minded individuals without having to hunt them down. Yet if a Tinder match doesn’t work out, or if a night of “Netflix and chill” and ends poorly, not much is lost. After all, even though the romantic intent might have been there, it was not a date. No obligations, no loss.

So maybe we shy away from the idea of a date because it requires us to express our explicit intentions and feelings. That’s a very vulnerable place to be, and social vulnerability is a sensation our generation tends to strategically avoid.

Leave a reply