Did Millennials Kill Traditional Dating?

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Before we go into answering the titular question, it feels important to define our terms. Specifically, we will begin by defining who is and is not a “Millennial” and what could be considered “traditional” dating.

Defining “Millennial”

Some people like to fling this term around as a pejorative, a term used to denigrate the younger generation. The truth is that the years which classify someone as a Millennial vary by the particular group of researchers and demographers one looks at:

  • Most researchers and demographers cite Millennials being born in the 1980s into some time between 1994 and 1996.
  • A recent poll defined Millennials as individuals born between ’81 and ’96. The years chosen were indicative of “key economic, political and social factors.” This would mean Millennials were anywhere from 5 to 20 years of age when the terrorists attacked the United States on September 11th.
  • Other groups define Millennials as those born anywhere from the mid-90s into the early 2000s. The Census Bureau and Chambers of Commerce for the United States define Millennials as anyone born between 1982 and 2000, closely mirroring the term’s definition within the “Merriam-Webster Dictionary.”
  • William Straus and Neil Howe, the demographers responsible for coining the term, used it to describe anyone born between 1982 and 2004. Howe cautioned that the distinction between the Millennials and Generation Z is unclear and subject to history’s view of the two demographics.
  • One major reality show ran with the subtitle “Millennials vs. Generation X.” All of its Millennial contestants were born between 1984 and 1997.
  • A demographic subgroup emerges in the people born within the murky overlap in years between Generation X and the Millennials. These people, born between 1978 and 1983, have gone by demonyms like “Xennial” and the Oregon Trail Generation; the latter of which alludes to the massive popularity of the “edutainment” video game in school computer labs.

In short and in accordance with most of the acknowledged age ranges, “Millennial” applies to any adult under the age of 40.

What Constitutes Traditional Dating?

Traditional dating is basically any form of dating that has two people meeting in person, rather than online or through an application like Tinder, without the pressure of speed dating. Another way of defining traditional dating would be according to how things were done in the 1950s, well over half a century in the past. Back then, girls were supposed to be reactive, waiting for the individual she fancied to come to her, and boys were expected to be proactive, showing boldness by asking an individual out and paying for all aspects of the date.

In a traditional date, the usual activity is an outing and a meal, usually dinner. One of the ways people most often decide to go out on a traditional date is coincidence; two people bump into each other at work or a college club and decide to get to know one another if there is a sense of chemistry.

So What Percentage of Adults Under Age 40 Date Traditionally?

This is a rather nebulous question to answer as even a general consensus of how many Americans pursue traditional dating is hard to gauge. While one source claims that America has over 110 million singles between the ages of 20 and 60, 20 million have used one or more internet-based dating services. A decade earlier, half of the online dating pool was between the ages of 18 and 34, meaning that at least some of those people would be considered Millennials. When assessing the activities of the remaining 90+ million singles who eschew online dating, these people are either happy being single, uninterested in dating or pursue organized excursions like speed dating sessions.

How Do Most Millennials Prefer to Date?

The modern world of dating is usually done over the internet. One benefit to this approach is that potential partners can gauge their compatibility with each other without the distractions of the physical world. Another benefit is that these people can look over a far larger pool of dating candidates than one could encounter in person, or even over a lifetime.

Some Millennials understand that time is more precious than money but would prefer to interact with people in the physical world. These individuals will pursue speed dating. Speed dating is a group activity where each single takes a name tag and is paired up for 5 to 10 minutes, just enough time to feel out a potential candidate and draw a general conclusion about the other party. After a pairing concludes, each participant indicates whether or not she would like to reconnect. Should both parties indicate a willingness to go on a traditional date with the other, the event organizers exchange their phone numbers and leave them to their own devices. While speed dating combines the face-to-face experience of traditional dating with the expanded dating pool offered by an internet dating service, the limited allotment of time makes it hard to gauge someone’s compatibility and prospects for the future.

So Did Millennials Kill Traditional Dating?

At best, the Millennials wounded the concept. Millennials still make face-to-face connections that lead to dates, sometimes even more than once with the same person. For a Millennial, a date may be nothing more than a brief jaunt at a cafe, catching a panel at a convention of mutual interest or going to see a film. That said, when it comes to dating relationships, it’s important to be intentional about spending time together. It’s less about how you meet and more about how you spend time together once the date begins. 

Millennials have not killed the concept of the traditional date. While they are more likely to prefer speed dating or internet dating sites over face-to-face encounters to find a partner, Millenials are perfectly fine with a traditional approach to subsequent dates with the same partner.

For more cultural news, check out our culture section.


Beware The Dating Scammers | Psychic 2 Tarot

Defining generations: Where Millennials end and post-Millennials begin | Pew Research Center

4 Tips for a Better Date Night | Life.Church

How Online Dating is Changing Society | Rewire

7 Cities to Move to if You’re Single and Ready to Mingle | All Storage Online

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