"We live in a generation of not being in love, and not being together. But we sure make it feel like we’re together, because we’re scared to see each other with somebody else." — (Drake, “Doing It Wrong”)
In 2009, Drake’s first single, “Best I Ever Had” exploded onto the airwaves. It was a striking love ballad about a special girl; the anti “cars, bitches, and bling” theme song. Fans loved it, and it propelled Drake into one of top rap careers of the past decade. Unlike his first single, Drake followed up his initial success with a series of singles about breakups, promiscuity, loneliness, and lack of commitment, culminating with his arguably first #1 single “Hotline Bling”, about a past booty call.
While he started as raps “sensitive voice” with Hotline Bling, Drake has solidified himself as the bitter voice of a generation. His transformation resonates with our own societal current; In under a decade, our entire way of dating and relating to each other has changed. Driven by a complex mixture of technology, sexual liberation, distrust of marriage, focus on career, and increasing freedom of travel, we have a relationship climate that looks very little like it did 6 years ago.
Instead of strong, meaningful relationships, we struggle through long series of bad dates and hookups. Instead of meeting people in real life, we’re constantly swiping and messaging somebody new. Instead of telling people how we feel, we just don’t text back. We no longer have people cancel, we get flaked on, and then we flake on other people. We no longer date or commit, we “see” and “hang out” with each other. We are complicit in a dating culture that systematically prevents intimacy — we’ve become a generation afraid of being in love.
Ross and Rachael Take a Break
For millennials with a privileged middle class upbringing, looking at our past is a good starting point to understanding modern dating and hookup culture.
When we were young we were inundated with the concept of true love. It was everywhere; in our Disney movies, classic shows like Friends and Boy Meets World, in our music, even our celebrity idols. For a few glorious decades the U.S. was peaking. Our massive economic success combined with increasing women’s liberation and a growing prioritization of happiness over financial success caused people to quest for self actualization over traditional job security. Our parents finally had the means to find love and seek it out, and marry those that they fell in love with. And they did!
This is the generation that created our childhood media, the generation that projected the image that everyone not only deserves their soulmate, but will find their soulmate somewhere in this world of 7 billion people. This built our collective understanding of what it means to love.
But something went wrong. These supposedly self actualized, committed relationships, began to corrode and shatter. Our parent’s divorce rates skyrocketed, so much so that almost half of us are now children of divorce. So we got the message loud and clear, or so we thought: Love is doomed, so why try?
We picked ourselves up and rushed to college, defiant in our independence and vitality. Our parents failures were pushed to the back of our minds. “We can always worry about love after college” we told ourselves. So we spent our college years blacking out and struggling bleary eyed to class, only to press the repeat button the next night. But without a mission and a purpose for our cross-gender interactions, we segregated ourselves in fraternities and sororities, “bros and hos”, and saw the opposite sex as a means to an end. Fuck a hot girl/guy and you’re on top of the world, start dating and you’re just a sucker that’s missing out on all the opportunities you’re surrounded with. College was a paradise of hot bodies and flowing liquor. Dating could wait until after, right?
Simultaneously, the spectre of technology invaded our daily lives, sapping our limited emotional attention. It’s power to connect drew us in, but somewhere we lost some of our ability to talk to people face to face (when was the last time you called a friend?). Our creature selves desired intimacy, so we filled the hole with feeds, snaps, beeps, and clicks. It’s brand of intermittent conditioning began to control our happiness and our moods in place of real human connections.
We graduated college and moved to cities growing at viral rates hoping to strike our fortunes. Places like San Francisco, New York, LA, Denver, Chicago, Austin, Atlanta, DC; eventually finding jobs that paid us enough to have some financial freedom. Each street was teeming with newly minted professionals out to strike their fortunes in the big city. None of them attached, and everyone struggling to find intimacy in our increasingly connected but disparate world. We landed in the generational post-collegiate primordial soup.
Instead of settling down like the generations before us, we were again faced with the consequences of excessive choice. Why settle when there is always somebody better just around the corner? And then we moved, and moved again, each move getting us closer to our ideal self, or so we thought.
Our Digital Addiction exacerbated this, the blinking red lights streamed pictures into our heads of the people we were missing out on. The Instagram models, the highschool crushes, the pornstars, and even the facebook pictures of the-girl-we-met-at the-party-last-night-who-never-texted-us-back. We have Tinder for the hookups, OkCupid for the dates, and POF, Match.com or Coffee Meets Bagel if those weren’t working for you. Choice was the one commodity we couldn’t do without.