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Gen Z Dating Trends

What’s love got to do with it?

Generational differences can often be seen most prominently in the realm of relationships and dating. The youth of the 60s and 70s, for example, absorbed the lessons of the sexual revolution. As Boomer and Gen-X women entered the workforce en-masse in the latter half of the twentieth century, their focus often shifted away from dating and marriage.

For today’s young people, known as Gen-Z or simply Zoomers, dating and romance are once again subject to transformation. From the rise of dating apps to changing attitudes around commitment, Gen-Z’s attitudes towards dating and relationships present plenty of insights to any marketer hoping to understand this elusive audience.

Time to Update Your Dating Profile

Common sense would seem to indicate that dating apps like Tinder and Hinge are the most important channels to discuss when it comes to Gen-Z dating. After all, is this not the “Digital Native” generation, stereotypically glued to their phones?

Research suggests otherwise, however. Compared to the slightly older Millennials, Gen-Z are less reliant on dating apps, and tend to use them more for casual dates and hookups. This difference can be seen especially when it comes to married and engaged couples. Only 16% of Zoomers in committed relationships met through dating apps, compared to over 25% of Millennials. Instead, the most common way for engaged Zoomers to meet is in school. This may be due to their relatively younger age, but it is certainly an interesting trend considering their reputation as Digital Natives.

Now, this is not to say that Zoomers never use dating apps: nearly half of them do. They make up the most critical user groups, however, and many report frustrations and dissatisfaction with their experiences on these apps. In one Vice article on Zoomer dating trends, participants claimed that they found dating apps shallow – and over 20% no longer use the apps that they are signed up for. In addition, Gen-Z reports a general feeling that social media can have a negative impact on their dating life. Common reasons for this include social media “creating unrealistic expectations and standards,” as well as “confusion and mixed signals,” according to a study at Elon University.

Still, despite their reservations, digital technologies do play an important role in the dating life of Zoomers. During the pandemic, video chat applications like Zoom and Facetime enabled Zoomers to continue dating in spite of lockdown restrictions. Other, more creative alternatives also emerged, such as apps like Teleparty or Houseparty which allow users to virtually share a movie or a game. Although Zoomers are eager to get back to in-person dating, the rise of these digital dating alternatives show that there is always room for growth despite – or even because of – adverse circumstances.

Social Distancing’s Effect on Dating

COVID-19 has changed Zoomers’ dating habits in other ways too. Some of these are obvious – 53% of Gen-Z, for example, reported that the pandemic negatively affected their dating life – but others are more subtle. Whereas prior to the pandemic Gen-Z respondents claimed to use dating apps mostly casually, the increased restrictions on physical contact may be changing this.

The extreme circumstances of the pandemic have inspired some Zoomers to put more effort into building meaningful relationships, and not waste their time on casual flings. For others, however, the pandemic has had the opposite effect, causing them to “live in the moment” more and engage in more casual sex. While these trends may seem to be contradictory, they remind us that Gen-Z is far from a monolith, and any marketing strategy should take the diversity of this generation into account.

4 Trends Defining Gen Z’s Relationships

COVID-19 is far from the only factor shaping Zoomers’ attitudes toward dating. Research indicates that, in general, young people have different priorities than previous generations when it comes to their love lives. Some of these shifted values include:

  • Less stigma on being single. While their parents and older siblings may have struggled against intense pressure to pair up, many Zoomers feel comfortable by themselves. For Gen-Z, being happy, well adjusted, and in the right relationship is more important than simply not being alone.

  • Focus on career. Financial independence and career stability are more important to Zoomers than being in a relationship, some studies show. This may in part be due to the precarious economic situation Gen-Z grew up during, and general uncertainty about the future.

  • No rush to get married. Like Millennials before them, Gen-Z does not feel as compelled toward the traditional institution of marriage. While most Gen-Z feel that they will be married by 27, the actual marriage age in the country has been pushed to 32.

  • Politics matter. As with so many other areas of life, Gen-Z considers political issues when deciding who to date. Skewing liberal, Zoomers report a desire to have their partner share views on such issues as feminism, racism, and climate change. Many Zoomers are even sharing their opinions on politics, mental health, and consent in their dating app bios.

Dating is a highly individual activity, and obviously every member of Gen-Z is going to differ in their preferences and behaviors. That said, there are certainly trends worth paying attention to, from dating app fatigue to the relative importance of financial stability compared to being in a relationship. Marketers should pay attention to the ways that Gen-Z are similar to, and different from, previous generations in their approach to relationships and dating.

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