Finding love in an urban metropolis like NYC was never easy even before the digital age. The rise of dating apps speeds up our worst behaviors and magnifies our frustrations of this so called “modern romance”.
By now, I have officially interviewed 20 millennials about their dating experience in NYC and also gathered about 15 stories and various opinions on modern romance through unofficial conversations. It has been fun listening to people sharing their dating stories and hugely rewarding learning that so many millennials as well as the generation before us love talking about their love lives. Re-visiting all the audio and written notes I took from those interviews has made me realize that many of us have exceptionally similar frustrations with dating in digital age NYC as online dating become the norm.
Two of my interviewees who identified as LGBT are the only two out of many who have completely positive experience with online dating. One of them told me, “Dating app is the best thing happened to the gay community and the worst thing that happened to the straight community.” As a straight millennial, I was a bit surprised to hear someone expressing zero trace of frustration of finding love online. It made me wonder if we, straight millennials, are simply bad at using dating apps.
When I asked my straight app-user interviewees/friends how they feel about meeting people through dating apps, most of them responded that they have more positive than negative experience. The common duration of physically seeing someone from online varies from one to three dates that took over the course of one night to one month. None of them seemed to last long. The longest relationship my friends have been in in the city varies in between three months to one year. Those were usually with people they met through friends or at parties. There is an impression with dating apps that people on there aren’t searching for anything long term but pure joy and fun. The same also applied to people they met offline yet far less often. However, whether online or offline, most of my friends didn’t want merely short term fun but experienced difficulty in expressing what they want but also acts cool as well as figuring out what their love interest’s expectation is.
Compelling facts I observed from the straight millennial community include:
- Most millennials prefer using the word “seeing” over “dating”. Dating seems a bit too strong to use when you weren’t sure what love interest’s expectation is.
- It is not cool to label yourself as a “boyfriend/girlfriend hunter” and hence most millennials present themselves as being open minded to any kinds of relationship.
- Clarification talks, such as “Are we in a serious committed for-real relationship?” are scary and don’t usually end well so most millennials avoid the conversation until one party initiates it (confrontation often took place right after something bad happened)
- It is difficult to fully bridge the gap between a person and his/her online profile. In other words, it is challenging to not only see that person as someone from Tinder.
Those facts about our current dating culture are causing a lot of problems that make our love life ultra complicated.
Problem 1. Millennials are trying too hard to play cool by not being upfront about what they want. Most of us carry the attitude of “let’s go on a date and see what happens”. And when love is involved, we don’t want to face our feelings and give up on other options we have.
Problem 2. Effective communication is difficult especially when we have different understanding in vocabularies. A conventional relationship that you refer your partner as your boyfriend/girlfriend is now being referred as a “exclusive relationship”, “sexually exclusive relationship”, “serious relationship”, “very seriously committed relationship” or all of the above combined. Simultaneously, there is also “casual relationship” and some people also regard “exclusive relationship” less serious than a “serious relationship”. You never know which relationship you are in and hence it is difficult to figure out your expectations.
Problem 3. Dating apps have low stakes. Many people treated dating apps as a platform for sex and/or short term emotional company. They swipe through profiles like going through a catalog. App-users do regard dating apps that require user to fill out more information such as OkCupid and Hinge less of a hook-up app than Tinder. Some people also regard the second wave of dating app like Raya, a virtual SoHo House, a possible solution to build a common ground for strangers with similar social status.
Problem 4. Probably the most common and serious one — A lot of people don’t know what they want. They are confused and hence screw each other over.
After this interview process, I attempted to speak to my Google Home about love. I received interesting responds regarding definitions for casual and serious relationship. However, when I asked for something more abstract such as “what is love” or “tell me a love story that happened in 2018”, Google Home would give a generic answer or would not understand my command. Questioning Google Home these romantic situations made me realize that I want to make this project as a reflection of myself and my friends instead of a scientific study on our culture. I find it more meaningful to create intimate stories that draws inspiration from personal experiences that are somewhat unique yet relatable to others. I decided to try out two different types of executions:
Prototype 1 — same as what I wrote in my thesis statement, a Google Home who you ask to tell a love story based on the frustration level of your choice. Hey Google, can you tell me a mildly frustrated love story?
Audrey the first — told in first person perspective
Audrey the third — told in third person perspective
Prototype 2 — a comedy show hosted by two Google Homes (Audrey and Evan) conversing frustrations regarding dating they heard from their owners. I am currently working on how to make the interaction between the two happen but the content will be a conversational mix of my observations and examples delivered in a humorous way.
A: Ohhh, millennials are always straightforward with commands such as asking me to switch off the light, to check the weather or if paper towel is composable yet they are so confused when it comes to question about love and romance.
E: Yeah. That seem to be a girl problem.