Our generation and the art of feeling nothing
Dating in 2020 in a college setting can make anyone yearn for the days of soda shops and drive-in movies. Today, those simpler traditions are replaced by dating apps, unanswered messages and miscommunication.
Most NDSU students who have attempted to date in college have one or two horror stories to tell, and quite a few of them even include ghosts (get it?). When so much of early romantic interaction takes place on social media and through a screen, people lose their ability to feel in the same way.
Ghosting, refraining from sharing feelings, talking to twenty people at once; these things aren’t exceptional behaviors, they’re par for the course.
We’ve accepted impractical dating habits as the norm out of necessity. Ghosting, refraining from sharing feelings, talking to twenty people at once; these things aren’t exceptional behaviors, they’re par for the course. At the same time, those individuals who are direct, who share how they feel and remind the other person how they feel, we call those people crazy and block them immediately.
How has dating, a practice meant to bind two people together, become a system dependent on proving how easily you can be apart? How has ghosting someone and not considering other people’s feelings become the easiest way to deal with our own feelings? We’ve become shameless in the ways we treat others and in the ways we allow ourselves to be treated, and I can’t understand why.
Perhaps the most disturbing and revealing of practices made by young people when dating is ghosting. Despite the relatively harmless nickname, ghosting involves slowly phasing a romantic partner or someone of interest out by no longer talking to them or ignoring them (i.e. slowly turning yourself into a metaphorical ghost).
There seem to be several reasons people opt to ghost others. The first seems to be out of consideration for their feelings. As a fellow student said, “Why should I tell someone I’m not interested in them and hurt their feelings when I could just not respond to them?” Even if this sounds well-intentioned, the reality is that ghosting is often harmful to the person affected and to our generation as a whole.
Instead of being able to move on with someone new because feelings have been made clear, a person who is being ghosted is often left with unanswered questions and may have trouble moving on. Then, as they do move on, people often question unanswered messages and wonder whether they’re being ghosted or whether someone is just busy that day.
People also seem to ghost others because they dislike confrontation. But, if you’re not able to tell a potential romantic partner that you aren’t interested, then you shouldn’t be looking for a romantic partner in the first place. Basic communication is not only the decent thing to do but the mature thing to do. Yet ghosting has become common practice and expected of both good and bad people.
The Art of Not Caring
Another aspect of modern dating comes with the insistence that we care as little as possible. It’s important to remain aloof, act as if any the person you’re with is unimportant to you. In fact, when people care too much, tell us they’re invested in us and care about us, we run for the hills.
We see this in the way we wait to respond to messages.
“Take at least two hours before responding, or else it might look like you were sitting around waiting for them to respond.”
I mean, of course we were waiting for them to respond. When we like someone we should be excited to hear from them. We should be ready to hang out with them and spend more time with them. Instead, we have to pretend like whether or not we ever hear from them again bothers us little.
The whole point of a good relationship is to have someone there who loves and cares about you, but the only way to get to that point nowadays involves a whole lot of pretending we don’t love and care about someone for fear of scaring them off. Does this sound insane? Because it absolutely is.
One of the biggest plagues on any potential couple has to do with this fear of not finding perfection in a partner. With dating apps that present hundreds of potential dating candidates and going to a school with thousands of students, it can be hard when one potential red flag appears not to think, “Well, I bet there is someone else out there who doesn’t have this fault.”
A truth that most people our age have never learned is that caring about someone means caring about the parts of them that are imperfect, not finding someone that is perfect to begin with. We accept faults in ourselves and in our friends that we would never accept in a potential romantic partner.
We’re so ready to scrutinize and find fault in every little thing we lose the ability to see the beauty and potential in others.
If this person doesn’t work, it’s only a matter of hours before we’ll find someone new, right?
Endless Grey Areas
Most modern dating is filled with labelless grey areas. Having sex with different people is part of college culture, and people shouldn’t have to feel shame about this. However, this sex is usually accompanied by a series of unknowns. An inability to communicate by most people means that those regularly having sex don’t know what their relationship status is.
Even when there is more involved than just sex; regular dates, hanging out with their friends, or even introducing them to parents, people still might be too scared to label their obvious relationship as a relationship.
Young people have become more afraid of labels than they have of losing people they really care about.
Due to ghosting, pretending not to care, and waiting to establish labels, most young people have become dating cynics. When people enter something new, they bring their history of being hurt by others with them into a new relationship.
This means that most people go into a dating situation with one foot out the door to begin with. Yet, when everyone is this way, it’s likely that the ghosting and not caring cycle will only continue on perpetually. That is, unless two people with some level of optimism remaining manage to find each other.
Learning to Feel
The only way to move on from this cycle and these unhealthy behaviors are to deny the social norms we’ve all taken on and hope you find someone else who also has abandoned these principles. Maybe this sounds hopeless or impossible, but it is far more productive than slowly breaking your own heart with a dozen different people and losing the ability to feel once and for all.
Better to be miserable and have a chance than to lack the ability to feel anything at all.