Fourth-year University of Minnesota psychology student Avery Yang was disappointed when things fizzled out between him and an employee at his favorite bagel shop, whom he affectionately referred to as “bae-gal” after they corresponded via text for a few days.
Though Yang said his relationship status is currently “single,” research shows he is not alone. A General Social Survey released late last month showed that 51 percent of those ages 18-34 – the highest amount ever measured by the survey – did not have a steady partner.
In an effort to learn more about the dating experiences of his peers, Yang then decided to produce a podcast, Dating to Discover, centered on college student dating.
“I wanted to create a community where we could talk about that kind of stuff and not feel judged or criticized for whatever we’re pursuing. It’s about having honest conversations about vulnerability, self-reflection and authenticity,” he said.
About six months ago, Yang started to satisfy his curiosity of what dating was like for other people his age. Still in its developmental stages, Yang asks students about past relationships.
From interviewing multiple students for his podcast, many have encountered difficulties in dating. Jackson Birmingham, a sophomore studying computer science, could attest to this.
“I do find it difficult to go out on dates and date more regularly. I think it’s because of the rise of online dating,” Birmingham said. “I started using Tinder and Bumble after high school, and it kind of took away the need to actually go out to a girl and ask them out on a date.”
Ania Scanlan, a couples therapist at Empowered Relationships, also thought some of the major barriers for healthy relationships among young adults were social media and technology.
“One of the big reasons that many young adults are single is social media and the reliance of people on social media,” Scanlan said. “You have to meet face to face and have a conversation – and not just about the weather, not just small talk. You have to get to know the other person to feel comfortable sharing more with them.”
Ellie Radovich, a first-year University student studying environmental sciences, policy and management who identifies as “hopelessly single,” agreed that dating apps have negatively impacted dating among young adults. She said she’s met men from Tinder who, after being charismatic online, aren’t quite so in person.
“I think people often ‘sculpt’ themselves online. They try making themselves more attractive and more appealing and aren’t always completely honest and upfront about everything,” Radovich said.
Scanlan also said that online dating and communication can lead to a breakdown of traditional forms of communication, like respectfully disagreeing.
“It’s OK for people to disagree, because people are different. It’s just about learning how to gracefully convey your feelings, ideas and thoughts in a respectful manner without imposing it on someone else,” she said.
Radovich said she’s seen other breakdowns of communication when out and about, such as couples that are on their phones at the table or awkwardly avoid eye contact. According to her, younger people also haven’t mastered the art of gracefully exiting from a relationship.
“Ghosting is a little immature, because it’s better to communicate if you’re feeling like moving on, but I realize that can be hard to do,” she said.
Though Yang said his bagel consumption habits have taken a hit from the experience, he remained optimistic about his podcast and about dating, both for himself and those he’s interviewed.
“When we think about dating, we think of it as a very individual pursuit,” he said. “But if you combine all of our individual experiences together, we’re actually in this culture of dating. It’s a communal experience. Everybody just wants honesty and communication – and to be loved.”