Why Young Adults Are Seeking More Genuine Connection in Their Dating LifeReading Time: 4 minutes
What really matters in life? That’s a question people of all ages are asking themselves right now. As we gradually emerge from the stress and anxiety of the past year, it feels more important than ever to focus on the things that bring us joy. And for most people, making real connections with others is at the top of that list.
For Gen Z, this shift in priorities is already showing up in their dating behavior. Romantic relationships at this stage of life are often fleeting and casual—but that appears to be changing as a result of the pandemic. Data from around the country shows that young people are reconsidering what they want from their relationships, and are seeking more genuine connection when dating online and in person.
A New Focus on Making Real Connections
Recent surveys on the positives and negatives of online dating illuminate this new trend. For example, the dating app Bumble reported a higher number of “quality chats”—determined by the length of the messages people exchange and how long their conversations last.
Furthermore, a survey of 5,000 single people across the United States, conducted by Singles in America, found that over half of online daters are prioritizing their search for a meaningful relationship more than they did before the pandemic. Here’s a look at some of the additional data from the survey.
- Half of Gen Z singles are having more meaningful conversations before meeting in person
- 61 percent of Gen Z are focusing less on physical attraction
- 69 percent are being more honest with potential partners
- 53 percent are changing the qualities they look for in someone
- 44 percent are having more meaningful conversations with dates
- 63 percent are spending more time getting to know potential partners
- 58 have shifted toward more intentional dating online
- 76 percent believe it’s important to share the same political beliefs with their partners—a 25 percent increase from 2017. In fact, one in 10 Gen Z dates want to know a potential partner’s political views before they even start a conversation.
A recent poll on the dating app Tinder reflected similar trends. Specifically, Tinder members—half of whom are young adults—were more truthful and vulnerable during the pandemic about their experiences and who they are. The use of the word “anxiety” increased by 31 percent, and mentions of “normalize” increased by 15 times. Moreover, thousands of young people submitted profiles revealing their authentic selves in response to Tinder’s “Put Yourself Out There” challenge.
Genuine Connection: The Antidote to Loneliness
While young adults typically have more connections than older adults, they also tend to find those connections less satisfying. Even before social isolation and remote school and work, loneliness was one of the top mental health issues for Gen Z. Close to two-thirds of young adults experience serious loneliness, and 43 percent report increased loneliness since the pandemic. Moreover, loneliness has been a significant factor contributing to depression over the last year.
Social media and platforms for dating online can bring young people together—but they can also make them feel more alone than ever. The superficial nature of the apps tends to increase loneliness, creating a sense of virtual isolation. Trying to present themselves online in a totally positive light, rather than being authentic, can make young people feel as if they’re never seen for who they really are. And scrolling through posts of others engaged in what appear to be happy relationships often leaves them feeling lonely and left out.
Hence, young adults are craving genuine connection. In the face of challenges like climate change, political strife, and the economic and public health repercussions of COVID-19, this generation is searching for meaning and hope. And the research is clear that supportive relationships can help provide that. Positive social connections are proven to be one of the most important ingredients for happiness.
5 Keys to Genuine Connection
The process of making real connections is one of the most important experiences for growth as well as happiness, because it requires looking honestly at yourself and shifting your patterns of behavior. For young adults wondering how to form a genuine connection with someone, it’s helpful to know the five essential elements of creating these authentic connections.
- Congruency—when what you feel inside is consistent with how you act and what you say to the other person
- Taking responsibility for our reactions—when you are triggered, noticing if it’s really about the way the other person is acting, or if it’s about your own fears and past experiences
- Transparency—being honest and direct about what you’re feeling, while remaining caring and respectful
- Active listening—listening in a way that demonstrates that you are truly hearing what the other person has to say
- Practicing compassion—recognizing that relationships can be difficult, and offering compassion and forgiveness to yourself and to the other person
Authentic, genuine connection involves revealing our true self to another person. That means being honest and vulnerable in our communication and interactions.
PhD, LMFT, LADC, Newport’s Chief Clinical Officer
Healing Through Authentic Connection
Newport Institute’s approach recognizes that authentic connection—with self, others, and one’s larger community—is an essential aspect of healing. That includes repairing connections with family and learning to distinguish between healthy connection and codependency, while building greater self-understanding and self-compassion.
During their time with us, young adults form supportive peer and mentor relationships through individual and group therapy, experiential activities, and shared experiences during treatment. Ultimately, they address the loneliness, trauma, and lack of self-worth underlying anxiety and depression, and gain the tools they need to establish genuine connection and communication in their relationships.