Your Say

The Truth about Dating in the 21st Century


By Tiffany Tay

In this social media age, slang words such as ‘catfishing’, ‘ghosting/benching’, ‘talking’ and such terms have evolved to describe the average twenty-first-century dating culture. These days, girls and boys alike are antagonizing over crafting the perfect response to a text without coming across as desperate or clingy, but sending off enough ‘I’m interested’ signals to invite a reply. Not only that, the introduction of social media has presented a convenient platform for showing off one’s ‘bae’ to the world, thus stirring up the desire amongst jealous single friends to avidly seek romantic relationships. What has happened to the culture of racking our brains to start up a conversation with someone, or making an effort to get to know each other over the dinner table? Our culture these days has evolved into dating platforms and text message conversations. What are the differences between the values of traditional and modern dating, and what dating practices have become obsolete now? In the twenty-first century, dating revolves around technology, and whether we like it or not, we cannot request a return of the traditional dating culture and mindset.

Is chivalry really dead? Travelling back two decades to the time when smartphones haven’t yet been invented. In that case, how did men and women find their partners if Tinder was not a word one would hear back then? At that time, people probably did not set up dates by swiping right, right, and right every time! Also, because video calls are a thing of the present, couples in the past did not have any virtual contact – not even a goodnight text could be exchanged! The nonexistence of social media interactions gave rise to an increased desire for face-to-face contact, and dates were carefully planned activities which were anticipated and enjoyed. Although it could be argued that modern men can be just as chivalrous in opening doors and picking up the bill during dates, many women bemoan the bad habits of their partner who seems to be glued to the screens of their phones. These days, it is not uncommon to see couples engrossed in their respective phones while being on what they claim to be a face-to-face date. Even though young people may not have lived through the age of conventional dating, many women agree that modern men are not as attentive and intuitive compared to the ideals portrayed by the media.

During our parent’s generation, ‘dating around’ was an act that was frowned upon, and it was important to be serious about relationships and their future, with marriage as the ultimate goal. Now, millennials are more laidback with whom they are ‘seeing’. The phrase ‘we’re just talking’ is used to describe a label-free relationship between two people who have not yet made up their minds about each other. Many people these days prefer to simultaneously target many people by ‘casting the net’, and hope at least one person will be interested. People are afraid to put all their eggs in one basket. Many millennials are not committed to any one relationship, preferring not to define the relationship much less plan a future together. Basically, they are leaving the door open for other, more enticing people to enter into their lives. Speed daters take their time with different partners, unsure of what they are truly looking for. The selection pool for partners is overwhelmingly wider now due to the Internet, thus making casual dates more disposable. These people do not like to settle down with one partner, but date person after person. Some enjoy it because they receive validation and bragging rights, but maybe they are just covering up the fact that they haven’t found the right one yet. That is the sad truth of our era, for many people just aren’t that invested in their relationships.

Another ugly truth of modern dating is the tendency for both men and women to play mind games as many people have been brainwashed into believing that the thrill of the chase lies in the wait. “How long should I wait before replying to her text?”, “Text him first? No! He would think I am too clingy and would disappear!”, and “Oh, no! He ghosted me again! Does this mean he does not like me?” are situations in which men and women overanalyse the actions of their partner and jump to false conclusions. Although it is important not to skip the early stages of a relationship where two people leave hints and initiate the chase, it is unwise to keep up a cat-and-mouse game for too long as it would only lead to a lot of frustration and heartache when someone realizes their partner is too insecure and high-maintenance. For instance, communication through texting, although an excellent method of bonding and staying in touch, can be detached and impersonal, leaving much room for misinterpretations and false hope. Another horror of texting as a main means of communication, primarily in the early stages of a relationship, is when a potential partner suddenly stops responding to texts and seems to disappear! The term ‘ghosting’ is used to describe this situation, and the consequences, as one can imagine, are pretty terrifying!

Finally, even though the perks of culturing a social media/Internet persona are numerous, one downside to having social media accounts is that personal information is readily available to the world. These days, anyone can easily look a person up on Facebook or Instagram to view their biodata, lifestyle, and habits. The plus side, of course, is that it gives an indication of a person’s character to a potential date. It is a common understanding that people use social media to publicly advertised themselves, and anyone else could look them up. It is due to this awareness that causes people to portray themselves in a good light and hide their flaws. The downside of being obsessed with social media presence is that the social media feed tends to revolve around superficial qualities like one’s social media ‘image’ and material possessions, instead of portraying who they really are. In many cases, when a person is judged by what they post on their social media, inaccurate opinions may be formed about them.

To conclude, traditional courtship involved a huge amount of strategic planning, courage, and a mutual understanding to keep the relationship going. On the other hand, modern dating may only require two people and a computer/smartphone for a relationship to be initiated. Even though there are many ugly truths about dating in the 21st century, one must not be afraid of trusting more and showing vulnerability within the covers of a developing or established relationship. It is most important first and foremost to build a relationship on a firm foundation, trust one’s instincts, and learn to fall in love slowly. There is no need to be in a rush to jump into a relationship. Of course, these points are just wide generalizations of the modern dating culture and are from my own perspective and observations. Those who still have a firm grasp on the traditional ways of courtship have other expectations of their life partners and may behave differently in their relationships. In any way dating is viewed, being adaptive to the ever-changing cultures of the world is necessary, no matter how traditional one is.