Not a day goes by where I don’t scroll through my Facebook feed and find a new article criticizing “modern dating.” Articles invoking Instagram and Postmates as the reason that we can’t find happiness. Articles that slam us for wanting to hashtag relationships and having second thoughts about someone because of social media. Articles that cry about “almost relationships” that ended because social media creates this anxiety and uncertainty about making choices and sticking with someone — despite their flaws.
The digital age has changed dating, but no matter how in-vogue it is to slam, I’m not sure it has made dating worse.
Yes, we are more reluctant to commit. Yes, we sometimes prefer the instant gratification of hookups or short-lasting flings to forever love. Yes, sometimes we take the easy way out and “bench” or “ghost” someone instead of maturely communicating like adults. But while modern dating comes with thorns, does it come with roses too?
A mentor of mine used to tell me, “Those who fear commitment know how big of a thing it is.” In years past, a relationship often was an easier thing to achieve. You find someone who treats you well, you find cute, and you settle down. You don’t consider your other options, or whether you’ll be happy in twenty, thirty, or forty years. Maybe that’s why the previous generation had some of the highest divorce rates ever — because when you took away old-fashion dependence and stigma toward separating, people were genuinely unhappy in their marriages and wanted out.
Yes, we are careful. Maybe a little too careful sometimes. But that also means we are deliberate.
We don’t want to give our hearts away to just someone who is “nice enough”. We don’t want to wrap someone up into our world if we aren’t sure that’s what we want. We would rather ghost on someone than date them for four months and realize that nothing about our relationship is working. And that’s not to say this is perfect, or that we cannot improve communication, but it does show that “modern dating” is not the problem. We are the problem.
There is nothing wrong with being hesitant to enter a romantic relationship. There is nothing cowardly about being aware of the billions of other potential partners and making sure you want something more than a one night stand or a friend. We are protecting our hearts the best way we can.
Yes, there is something wrong with leading people on or trying to keep people on the hook as we “make up our minds.”
There is a problem with ditching a perfectly great relationship because we see a cute person on Instagram. There is something wrong with being coy and being fickle. But those things are balanced out by the honesty we are privileged when we don’t literally HAVE to be married by a certain date, and end up in pairings that suck for everyone.
After all, what’s worse? Being ghosted on, or spending months (or years) in an unhappy relationship?
Maybe we should stop obsessing over our hatred of “modern dating” and our sassy sideswipes at social media and Snapchat. Maybe we should stop our romanticizing of old fashioned love that had millions of people rushing into relationships that, ultimately, didn’t make them happy. Maybe we should just take every day as it comes, and be confident in our quest to find a long-term partner who brings us long term happiness. We need to learn how to balance being cautious in love with actually taking chances on people. There is no clear-cut formula on how to do this, and “modern dating” is not soley to blame for making it hard.
Maybe modern dating isn’t the problem, maybe we are.