How timely is it that this article by Anne Helen Peterson on Buzzfeed was published while I’m working on my series about millennials killing things?
The essay, titled “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” is insightful, emotional, and in my opinion, spot-on. I highly recommend it. I may have to write my own essay that responds to the ideas presented in it.
And with this essay in mind, I continue my series on millennials killing things. This time the topic is millennials killing relationships. According to this article on SheKnows (Hirschlag), and this one on USA Today (Miller), millennials have set their murderous sights on traditional romantic partnerships.
Let me start by saying that if this sentiment holds true, I’m an exception to the rule. I am newly married, and my husband and I dated for 5 years before tying the knot. So maybe I’m not the best person to be addressing this issue. But at the same time, my experience as someone who is “taken” has given me a unique, contrasting perspective on what it is like for those still in the dating game.
What I Agree With: I can agree with the fact that ideas of relationships and dating have changed rapidly in the last decade or so. From a more obvious perspective, the introduction of dating apps has completely changed the dating process for many people. Traditional ideas of courtship and gender roles in dating are generally fading away.
What I Don’t Agree With: The article on SheKnows attributes millennials killing relationships to our desire for convenience and instant gratification. Although this might play a factor in how dating has changed, I think this is a great oversimplification of the issue.. Meanwhile, the USA Today article seems to equate getting married later with “killing” relationships. Couldn’t the fact that we are getting married later mean that our relationships are stronger and more secure, rather than dead?
My Take: Trying to meet people “organically” is no longer the number-one concern of young relationship seekers. As a concept, dating apps are neither purely good or bad. Like most other apps, they are a tool that can be used for positive or negative purposes. However, they do change the rules of dating. Dating through apps is similar to creating a resume or a “personal brand.” You show what you think others should know about you, and you seek out the things you want in others. But your profile on an app can only go so far to portray who you are as a person—most people don’t easily fit into checked boxes or preset categories. Then again, the boxes that we use to filter potential partners, for example, physical appearance, age, or religious affiliation, are checked off before you even meet someone in person. Whether that’s a positive thing or not probably depends on the situation.
Here’s where I think millennial’s relationships troubles lie:
Many millennials are (contrary to popular belief) seeking very deep, meaningful relationships. Although some are only looking for fast sexual gratification, or someone to have on their arm at the next party, many are looking for someone that they can connect with, laugh with, and share their joys and struggles with.
The problem is, in the minds of many millennials, meaningful relationships seem to be less about shared experiences and more about checking off a list of qualities that the ideal partner should have. It is good to know what you want in a partner, but it is also good to be open minded to how connections can be made between even the most opposite of people through experiencing life together. And there is no such thing as the perfect partner (sorry babe)! But there are many, many people who are worth it, warts and all. And that is hard to see through the cracked screen of your smart phone.
All of this withstanding, I don’t think we need to sound the alarm over millennials killing relationships just yet. Plenty of similarly aged people around me are still dating, making friends, meeting new people and even getting married. Plenty of millennials are making smarter relationship choices in order to try and avoid the mistakes of those before them. And plenty of millennials are single, but still fostering meaningful friendships and other relationships in their lives.
Now, about the broader implications of referring to “millennials” or “millennial culture”…
As stated in the Buzzfeed article I shared above, a lot of references to millennial culture actually only refer to white, middle-class millennials. There are some traits that cross socioeconomic lines, but there are many that do not, and that is why I wanted to end this short series with a word of caution against talking too much about millennials as a monocultural group. It is important to recognize that different millennials have different struggles. The more we can learn about the struggles of others, the better.
What are your thoughts on millennials killing relationships?