Young Love and A Communication Breakdown

The New York Times January 11th article entitled “The End of Courtship?” by Alex Williams reveals that today’s generation lacks the communication skills needed to find true love and commitment. Thanks to a new “hookup culture” and constant online communication, many 20-somethings are not enjoying the human contact needed to experience empathy, intimacy and understanding – attributions necessary to cultivate healthy relationships with potential life partners.

The article talked about how this generation is looking for love in a “post-dating” landscape, a term mentioned by The Gaggle, a popular dating commentary and advice site. What is a post-dating landscape? Well, according to Williams, it includes group dating, texting, casual meetings, the non-date, online dating services and internet spying.

Gone are the days of the first date when you got to know someone during an intimate dinner or over coffee. Today, Mr. or Mrs. Right is perusing your background, education, politics and cultural tastes on Google and Facebook.

They’re making on-the-spot assumptions about who you are and if you’re right for them. According to a February 6th, 2o12 CNN Health article on the pitfalls of online dating, the abundance of online profiles may also make daters too picky and judgmental. This online spying has become the first date— more like a non-date! No dinner, no chance to talk about your plans for the future, no romance, no mystery and sadly no anticipation.

The End of Courtship also references how young women lament dating in a “hookup culture” fueled by alcohol and spontaneous flings. While hookups may work for college students, many 20-somethings are looking for more serious relationships and they’re lacking the skills required to offer potential mates engaging conversation and technology-free rendezvous.

Donna Freitas, who teaches religion and gender studies at Boston University and Hofstra, paints a grim picture for the generation in her forthcoming book entitled “The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy.” There’s no dinner and a movie; instead, a date involves hanging out together, usually with a group of friends and often spontaneously with no planning, no anticipation of what to wear, and no sweaty palms or racing hearts. “Hooking up” is taking away from the excitement of waiting for “his call” or the ring of the doorbell.

I’ve also found that many young people are unable to initiate “small talk”. This is concerning as this type of informal conversation offers many opportunities for meeting new people.The smart phone and its abbreviated forms of communication make it impossible for people to express their feelings or thoughts during one-on-one intimate conversations. But, more importantly, young adults are unable to give their attention to another person, really caring about what the person on the other end is saying, and sincerely listening. This type of two-way communication is vital to becoming a healthy individual capable of feeling. A smart phone will never connect us on a deep emotional level. At some point, this generation will need to unplug to find love.

Tips for Unplugging and Connecting

1. Unplug from technology. When meeting for a date, share a cup of coffee, not an Instagram moment.

2. Skip the non-date. Enjoy a first date. Don’t jump to conclusions based on a social profile. When Facebook spying, you may find that your potential date is voting for the “other guy”. It’s healthy to respectively debate political hot topics. You may just learn something new. Or, not. Take the chance, or you will never know the result.

3. Be safe, but take a risk. Be willing to spend time with someone you might not have chosen for yourself otherwise. Everyone that you meet is a potential romantic relationship, and a new friend may be your six degrees of separation from Mr. or Mrs. Right.

4. Ask open-ended questions. Learn how to have a conversation, and listen as well as ask questions. For example, if you’re attending a party at a friend’s home and are overwhelmed by a sea of unfamiliar faces, put down your smart phone, and approach someone; start the conversation by asking how he or she knows the host. Ask them where they’re from, then listen and respond. Share a bit about yourself as well. The conversation will casually and comfortably progress from there.

I also recommend that you read “How to Talk with Practically Anybody About Practically Anything” by Barbara Walters, which was first published in 1970 and continues to be a go-to resource for shy conversationalists to eager journalists.

It’s also up to parents to teach young children how to effectively communicate before they are grown up and are looking for love in all the wrong places. Nothing replaces talking and touching in non-sexual ways, and by teaching children to slow down, unplug, talk more, and text less, they’ll develop deep, fulfilling relationships throughout life.

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