The media has never been subtle about its stereotypes of millennials, especially in regard to casual sex. Either we’re having too much, and putting ourselves at risk of STI’S, or we’re not having enough, because we’re too immature to deal with sexual relationships. For me, growing up very close to the inclusive and open atmosphere of Brighton, hook-up culture has never been a big deal – as a queer woman, it was one of the more liberating ways of exploring and establishing my sexuality. But there are also issues with young people’s attitudes to sex and relationships: casual dating apps like Tinder help to exacerbate our fear of uncertainty, and this is arguably more harmful than any one night stand.
Social media has a huge impact on the love lives and sexual relationships of young people. Allowing instant connections that would otherwise have been difficult or impossible, the rise of apps like Tinder, or the more visceral Grindr, give us much more choice over who we want to sleep with than any previous generation. And while it’s certainly useful being able to meet people so easily, that power to sort the wheat from the chaff with just a swipe of a finger can go to your head.
Of course, we can be just as shallow in real life; after all, checking people out at a bar is equally superficial, but there’s much less chance of being told that ‘you have a mouth that’s just built for blowjobs’ in public. Using Tinder gives you the opportunity to copy and paste one-liners, jokes and strange sexual imagery to anyone you match with, and talking to at least four people at the same time is the norm. But however much it’s useful for establishing quick connections with potential hook-ups, this attitude can help to solidify a way of thinking which sums up the mindset of many of my generation today: the greener grass syndrome or ‘there is always someone/something better to do’.
Young people have a big, big fear of commitment. If we find ourselves committed to just one person, we are constantly afraid of missing out on a party to go to or someone we have yet to meet. We are obsessed with keeping our options open, and with prolonging clarification of our relationship statuses for the sake of our feelings. This will leave people ‘talking’ to each other for months on end, while still seeing other people, thus keeping something constant (and even boring) on the back burner for later should anything go wrong. The complete contradiction of wanting to get to know people but also to avoid ‘catching feelings’ for them may seem strange, but it is actually one of the only ways in which people feel that they can protect themselves from uncertainty. Deeply rooted in our Fear Of Missing Out on someone or something more exciting, the intoxicating power of FOMO runs rampant throughout social media. Merely by checking your phone for five minutes makes it easy to become obsessed with what everyone else is doing – or to think that your night to remember won’t be quite as memorable as someone else’s.
This is reflected in relationships too. That angsty adolescent yearning we feel about having someone in our life is juxtaposed with the fear of being with someone who’ll take up too much of your time, and prevent you from living up your wild and free single life. An obvious solution to this is a friend with benefits – someone to have sex with whenever you want, without all of the complicated aspects of a committed relationship. By having your cake and eating it you’ll be able to explore other, more promising prospects, if you so choose. It sounds ideal, and it works for a lot of people. However without good communication (often still difficult for millennials to achieve, despite the myriad devices we have) it can become extremely precarious, especially if feelings start to change.
This is where young adults’ tendency to over-analyse becomes dangerous. Although we’re fully aware that everything online is subject to interpretation and context, it doesn’t stop us from making guesses and generalisations. We are so wound up in our own solipsistic emotions that they can be extremely hard to explain to others. In this way, we become more and more irrational in worrying about the possibility of the person we’ve reluctantly developed feelings for leaving us for someone else: someone we couldn’t compete with.
And that’s the feeling that millennials love to hate. If we think we’re being given up by somebody for someone better, it makes us fear commitment and point all of that emotion towards a person, rather than deal with it as a problem about ourselves; this can be rather limiting. Moreover it draws us into a vicious circle of repeated self-doubt, misinterpretations and generalisations, which coupled with our social media induced hyper-awareness makes for a difficult entrance to the world of supposedly adult relationships.
Maybe all that everyone needs is a good shag to take the stress off… if it weren’t so stressful to obtain in the first place.
featured image: @tindernightmares