Spread across her living room floor, Samantha Coblentz anxiously waits for the lights to go on. Pressed up against the TV as if about to win the lottery, she makes her predictions for the number of matches the 20 singles on MTV’s reality dating game show “Are You The One?” will get tonight. When only three out of 10 beams of light go on, Coblentz and host Terrence J are not surprised whatsoever. “Wow, they suck, they’re never going to find their matches.”
Even though 20-year-old Indiana University student Coblentz is already married, she still wants to be in a relationship. Okay, to clarify, Coblentz is only married in the virtual reality game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.” Her Wednesday ritual of watching “Are You The One?” and playing “Kim Kardashian” is fun, but like other millennials, she wants something more.
“I want a relationship. I just want someone to be there, and cuddle with, and we can do everything together,” Coblentz said. “Someone to text me, someone to make me feel loved.”
Despite stigmas of a “hookup culture” where millennials only want to have sex, many actually want to find love and be in relationships. Millennials are much more interested than other generations in finding love, with 125 percent more likely to admit they’re addicted to the process of making a love connection, according to Match’s Singles in America 2016 survey. Pop culture influences and the accessibility of social media pressure millennials into finding love in 2017.
Fairytales for Millennials
Reality dating shows are nothing new, but the number of romance programs on TV has increased over the past 15 years, according to Insider. From 2001-2015, The Washington Post reported that 30 shows on love and dating. This means people- 16.53 million reality dating show viewers according to Statista.com to be exact- are interested in the process of finding love, or rather watching others find love.
Lindsay Geller, associate editor at APlus.com and relationship advice columnist said reality shows like The Bachelor do influence millennials to want relationships, but for the wrong reasons. “I think the shows do pressure people to date because they showcase and tour this false ideal of what a person’s romantic life should be like,” she said. “And if yours doesn’t mirror that, then there must be something wrong with you — which there absolutely isn’t.”
Fifty-eight percent of people say supposedly spontaneous dating shows like The Bachelor are scripted, according to Yougov.com, but watch anyway. As an escape from reality, 20- year old New Yorker Margot Cohen only watches The Bachelor for fun, knowing the premise is unrealistic. “I think it’s very scripted and I think that it’s supposed to show a ‘perfect love,’” Cohen said. “It just makes no sense that 15 guys are competing for one girl. That’s just not how it works. It’s usually zero to one guys. There are never 15 guys competing for one girl’s attention. I just don’t think that happens.”
Cohen said shows like The Bachelor give no relationship advice or real experiences. Geller would agree, saying, “It’s all about this fantasy fairytale illusion, which is not what real relationships are like. The best relationship in the world is not a fairytale, or even a rom com, but that’s what reality shows like The Bachelor attempt to sell people.”
The Bachelor gives people an escape from reality, and the possibility of creating their own love story. “I think these shows do instill some kind of hope in people that they can find love. Like if they see it happen to someone else, then why can’t it happen to them too?,” Geller said.
Director of Client Success at the digital dating site eflirt.com, Krissy Dolor said millennials feel pressure to date because of the relationships they see on TV. “Shows like The Bachelor might pressure people to date because they show a lavish path to finding love. Even though situations like these are completely unrealistic, it’s easy for singles to see that on TV and desire a relationship,” she said. “These shows are entertaining, but they also gives viewers something to aspire to.”
Social media and dating apps have created easy access to people, constant updates on people’s lives, and instant gratification, pressuring 20 year olds to find love. Dolor said, “Since we are now connected in ways that allow us to see every life update someone in our social feed shares with us it’s hard to not compare your life to others’, or desire what you see elsewhere if you don’t have it in your life.”
Julie Spira, online dating expert and CyberDatingExpert.com CEO, said as opposed to other generations, millennials are more pressured to make connections. “Dating is an obsession these days. Since millennials are spending a lot of time on dating apps, the need to connect instead of just hooking up becomes a pressure point,” she said.
Technology has changed the way people meet and date, giving them more options but also holding them back. “In a way, dating apps and sites have made it harder for people to find love and/or date because of the paradox of choice,” Dolor said. “It can be harder to focus on the person in front of you, whether you’re on a date or swiping through on an app, when you know there are tons more options to go through. On the flip side, dating apps and sites have made it easier for people to meet others they wouldn’t normally be able to connect with.”
Apps like Tinder and Bumble allow you to connect with people in your area; in similar ways you would meet someone in a bar or at the supermarket. Voted by her friends “most likely to meet her husband on Tinder,” Coblentz said millennials rely a lot on technology to find love. “There are so many dating websites and apps, and social media makes it so much easier to connect with people. It’s kind of fun.”
Options and hiding behind a screen can influence people to want to date, Geller said.
“It’s helped a lot of people who might normally be too shy to approach someone in an impromptu social setting. Dating apps, in particular, also help people know whether someone is interested in them immediately.”
So What Are We?
Spira said because of lack of experience and more access to technology, millennials feel the pressure. “Millennials are often single and have not had a serious relationship, where other demographics have been in long term relationships or have gotten divorced,” Spira said.
Cohen said she doesn’t feel pressure to date right now however because none of her friends are in relationships. Similarly Coblentz said if she saw all her friends in relationships she’d “be sad.” But because they are still in college, they aren’t ready to commit, or their “friends with benefits” aren’t ready to admit it. “I hear a lot of stories from girls in my sorority I live with. They talk about how they slept over at a guy’s house, but ‘it’s nothing.’ Obviously it’s something,” Cohen said.
Millennials are stereotyped for just sleeping around and not wanting anything serious, but based on Match’s Singles in America survey, 30 percent are more likely to want a relationship this year. “Older millennials are getting bored of ‘hookup culture,’ and it’s not surprising millennials are more likely to want a relationship,” Geller said.
With the number of dating apps out there, Geller believes millennials get “a bad rap as sex-crazed fiends who think everyone is disposable.” However, that doesn’t make them any different from other generations, who have also slept around. “I think millennials want relationships, it just may not always seem like it because we date around a lot before finding the right person. Once we do, however, it makes sense millennials are more likely to want a relationship with that person.”
Millennials Want Lasting Love, Too
When scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see all your friends getting engaged, you might feel inclined to have that relationship too. After watching every season of The Bachelor, you might wonder when your fairytale love story will happen. Whether on an iPhone screen, on TV, or in real life, everyone wants to feel wanted by someone, especially millennials.