Hookups over heartbreak
Going to the movies and out for ice cream seems more like a scene from “The Notebook” than reality.
At one time, dating was a common practice and college was the perfect place for courtship. But now, college students are redefining the date.
“I think dating is kind of looked upon as something that is quaint and charming, and it’s something that I think so few people do anymore,” professor Andrew Reiner said.
But dating hasn’t completely disappeared. It’s just taken on a new form. So while there are no curfews and courtship, there is a whole new set of rules to learn.
Junior Kelly Langford doesn’t have a boyfriend, and that’s exactly how she wants it.
In fact, Langford isn’t in an official romantic relationship at all.
“I’m at a point in my life where I’m still trying to figure out who I am and I feel like I can’t find that out through one specific person,” she said.
Instead of a relationship, Langford prefers to meet multiple people, without making any commitment.
“I like meeting new people because each time I feel like I’m learning new things about myself and what I want,” Langford said.
And Langford isn’t alone. She is among the many college students who are a part of hookup culture, a phenomenon replacing the typical idea of dating in the lives of young people.
But what exactly is hookup culture?
Reiner said that the hookup doesn’t have a clear definition.
“The whole premise of a hookup is completely open to interpretation because hookup as you know can mean so many different things and it’s by design, it leads to that ambiguity,” Reiner said.
An article in the New York Times defined hooking up as “anything from making out to oral sex to intercourse — without the emotional entanglement of a relationship.”
Reiner, who teaches the course HONR 370: Finding Intimacy in the Age of Facebook, said that this type of lifestyle appeals to today’s youth because it feels safer than dating.
“It’s that there’s detachment that doesn’t commit you to be honest and sincere, vulnerable,” Reiner said. “The only way you create intimacy is by making yourself vulnerable.”
Assistant Director and Director of Clinical Services at the Counseling Center Jaime Fenton said that for many students, like Langford, hooking up is about learning more about yourself.
“In young adulthood, often emerging adults are trying to develop a secure sense of self. And so they look for different things to fill their self-esteem, fill themselves up,” Fenton said.
And while the idea of having multiple partners but no romantic relationship may seem normal for males in our culture, it is becoming more common among females as well.
“The research seems to be showing that men and women feel OK about it,” Fenton said, as long as both parties provide consent.
Love later on
Sophomores Kirby Cole and Mike Amoriello sit next to each other in the lobby of the West Village Commons. They are comfortable with each other, and it shows, Cole throwing her head back laughing at something Amoriello says.
They’ve been dating for two and a half years, since they were both in high school.
But, Cole said she sometimes feels like they are in the minority.
“You kind of feel like the odd couple out. I feel like society kind of wants you to go out and party and have a good time, meet as many people as you can,” she said.
And, according to Fenton, the research shows that fewer and fewer young people are choosing to commit to serious relationships.
“Back in the day, people came to college in order to find a partner, a partner for life and more often now, people are delaying finding a partner and settling down to later in life,” Fenton said.
Fenton attributed the change in commitment among young people in part to the women’s rights movement.
Previously, women were told that their goal was to find a successful mate to marry, whereas now, women are told to find success for themselves.
The new opportunities for women in the work world have changed their focus from finding a relationship to good grades, internships, work experiences and other resume-builders.
“They’re being told that everything is more important on your resume, but what you’re not going to put on your resume that you were in a two-year relationship…Hold off on love, don’t get into the same bind that I [as a mother] got into where I tried to juggle a career and a husband and a family, because you can’t do it,” Reiner said. “You can always get love later on, that’ll be there if you want it, the other things won’t.”
But not just women are holding off on dating.
Scott Miller, a 2012 graduate, said that he never found the right person to date in college. And because of that, he could focus on other aspects of college life.
“I feel like I had time to do other things. Like I was usually pretty good at staying on top of my work and I was involved in different organizations on campus,” he said.
The pressure to fit in with these trends affects young people’s decisions to put off dating.
“Their friends are hooking up or pairing off, I think that they feel a pressure to do it because their friends are doing it and I think that there’s also a degree of competition of keeping up with their friends,” Reiner said.
The idea of “which came first, the chicken or the egg” can be applied to the use of technology and the current state of the college dating world.
Technology and social media have become integrated in today’s dating system, but one did not necessarily cause the other.
“I think that the egg is the trends that started happening back in the 90s, I think what happened predates texting and Facebook. And I think that what happened was this way of communicating facilitated it and took it and ratcheted it up hundred fold,” Reiner said, referring to the effect that technology has on dating.
Today, dating is made up less of going out to the movies and more of talking on Facebook.
“It’s much more common to default to texting and social media, especially Facebook, and to use that by default, which I really think is they kind of become crutches,” Reiner said.
Though it seems that social media is just a playground for those only looking for a serious relationship, Amoriello said it rings true for college students as well.
“If you’re saying , ‘I wonder what so-and-so is doing Friday night’ and you look on social media and they have pictures of their girlfriend, boyfriend all the time, then it kind of alienates you a little bit,” he said.
But instead of steering clear of social media, this only inspires students to cling to it more.
“When you communicate that way, it’s a total safety net. And you risk in your mind the sloppiness of live conversation because talking face-to-face, so much can seem uncomfortable,” Reiner said.
In order to stay in control, students are choosing hookups over heartbreak. But Fenton said that they shouldn’t rule out dating in its traditional sense.
“And what’s interesting is that the research shows that being in a committed romantic relationship that’s positive is better for one’s mental health and physical health and that’s across the lifespan,” she said.
And to do that, Reiner said he suggests stepping away from technology.
“If you really want to get to know this person, you have to put the phone down or you have to stop communicating via Facebook,” he said. “And you have to really literally just talk to them.”
–Carley Milligan contributed to this article