“Modern Love”: Dating with the Teens of Today

     Cupid bows and teddy bears and chocolate hearts, oh my! With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, you’re sure to see more of your fellow high schoolers participating in romantic activities… and who knows, maybe you’re participating in the festivities yourself!

     But, how many teenagers actually date in high school? And how is dating now different than it was for the teens of the past?

     The research done by Linda Brannon for her book, Gender: Psychological Perspectives, dictates that 57% of teenagers are regularly dating. Moreover, over half of today’s teenagers have been on at least one date… 63%, to be exact. Believe it or not, this percentage decreased from 84% between 1990 and 1994, according to research by Jean Twenge and Heejung Park.

     So, what happened? Some experts speculate that the cause for dating changes is derived from the introduction of digital technologies and media.

     Back in the day, before social media and smartphones, dating would involve napkins containing numbers, hopeful phone calls, and waiting for dates you didn’t know would arrive. As Aaron Goldfarb wrote for MTV Life, “It seems shocking in retrospect that we, as humans, could actually keep relationships going before cell phones. When you were apart and out of the house, you had no way to check in on each other. No way to know what was going on in your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s life. No way to send “thinking of u” messages. Back then, you kind of just had to wonder and feel distant.”


Dating in the Digital Age


     Today, dating is usually intrinsically intertwined with the bustling world of digitization. According to the 2020 Pew Research report, “Dating and Relationships in the Digital Age,” by Emily A. Vogels and Monica Anderson, “Younger Americans in relationships are especially likely to view social media as having an important role in connecting and keeping up with their partner,” which is a big shift from what dating was like previously.

     The report shares how many adults believe that social media can be used to “navigate and share information about their romantic relationships,” while at the same time, “social media can be a source of jealousy and uncertainty in relationships – especially for younger adults.”

     For the younger populations, there have been more love-life-related social media posts. But is social media good for dating, or does it cause more harm? “Even as younger Americans value social media as a place to share how much they care about their partner or to keep up with what’s going on in their partner’s life, they also acknowledge some of the downsides that these sites can have on relationships.” Some of these downsides include feelings of jealousy and relationship uncertainty.

     There’s also the concept of online dating. According to Kelly Campbell Ph.D. for Psychology Today, some of the biggest downsides of online dating include “overemphasis on physical appearance,” a “disposable view of relationships,” and the “risk of deception.”

     On the other hand, online dating can come with some benefits, such as acting as a resource for queer people. Paige Leskin writes for Business Insider that, “While straight people may have an easier time meeting others in person, the LGBTQ community faces a set of unique challenges that often impact their ability to do the same… Because of this lack of acceptance and fear of violence, many members of the LGBTQ community find it difficult, or even dangerous, to look for partners and romantic interests face-to-face. That’s not to mention that queer identity is often not obvious and visible, making it even harder to know who is LGBTQ outside of queer spaces.”

     Some other benefits include quick communication, better matches, more privacy, and the ability to maintain long-distance relationships. Research shows that the increase in modern technology has increased long-distance dating, as well.


Contemporary Courting: Teenage Edition


     Though from quite a bit ago (2015), a Pew Research report details that 35% of teenagers have had at least some experience with dating (18% being in a current relationship).

     The report also contributes survey results on teenage relationships and their connection to social media, showing that “One in five (20%) of all teens have used their social networks to find new partners by following or friending someone because a friend suggested they might want to date them.” The authors of the report, Amanda Lenhart, Monica Anderson, and Aaron Smith contribute that, “Social media interactions, along with in-person flirting, are among the most common ways for teens to express romantic interest in someone.”

     And while the plethora of information about someone on social media seems beneficial, it can also be harmful. The same paper writes, “Many teens use social media as a venue to flirt and interact with potential romantic partners, but for those on the receiving end of those advances, social media flirting can often turn in a much less desirable direction.”

     Trying to navigate romance in the digital world can be extensively difficult, so it is important to take precautions to protect your online presence, like refraining from posting sensitive and personal information, being cautious of communication with strangers, and trying to protect your identity.


The (Dating) Secrets to Success


     Katherine Nguyen Williams Ph.D. for Psychology Today suggests that teens should “live their best in real life,” by switching to in-person communication to practice intimacy and connectedness. “Being able to communicate difficult emotions and topics face-to-face is paramount to being able to move beyond a superficial online relationship,” she explains.

     TeensHealth describes the most important characteristics of a healthy relationship are respect, trust, honesty, support, fairness, separate identities, and — good communication.

     It is important to share real-life moments with your significant other, not only to boost communication and to take a break from social media, but to deepen your connection.


Closing Thoughts


     To sum it all up, the introduction of digital technology, and more specifically, social media, has forever changed the dating landscape. Especially for teenagers, these changes can be over-prominent. It is important to be aware of what makes a healthy relationship, as well as how to stay safe online. And, if you’re part of the alleged 43% of teenagers who are going to be single for Valentine’s Day, don’t sweat it. You have your whole life ahead of you. And trust me, Valentine’s Day can still be fun, even if you are single! So, happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.


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Jim Marsoobian
Jim Marsoobian
Jim Marsoobian is the editor-in-chief for The Diablo Dispatch. Besides writing, she also loves cats, movies, mysteries, collecting, and listening to music! : )

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