7 Dating Tips From the Generation That Grew Up on Apps
From the ways they spend their time to the ways they communicate (hello, TikTok!), members of Gen Z lead very different lives than the rest of us. But as HelloGiggles' Generation Next explores, there's a lot we can learn from them—whether it's their need for mental health support, their drive for self-expression, or their commitment to making the world a more inclusive place for all.
Over the past two years as a single, 24-year-old Gen Zer, I've been catfished, dumped over text, ghosted (and—guiltily—have ghosted others), given video speed dating a whirl, met countless Hinge dates, and swiped through hundreds of prospects on dating apps. Through all these ups and downs in the dating game, I've learned a lot—like how to avoid said catfishing, how to sniff out weirdos on dating apps, how to confidently ask for what I want, and above all, how to not take my love life too seriously.
Having only ever dated in the digital age, we, Gen Zers, are accustomed to sliding into a crush's DMs, Snapchat flirting, and sexting up a storm. These dating tactics are old hat for us, but the constant communication can be confusing, surface-level, and downright exhausting. However, with these bumps in the road comes a playbook full of lessons learned—and we could all use a peek inside.
"Gen Z is more comfortable with breaking the mold with dating than all of the generations that came before," Queer Dating Coach Ariella Serur, tells HelloGiggles. "They have less shame around sex, they embrace gender expansiveness, they are queerer than ever before, and they question what society has taught them about love and relationships." On a daily basis, my friends and I dish the deets on our sex lives freely and we welcome new perspectives on what it means to be in a romantic relationship.
If you're single and looking for love—no matter your age—turning to others for advice is always a good idea. So, to help navigate the rocky waters of dating today, we asked 6 Gen Zers (aka, the most tech-savvy and youngest generation currently in the dating world) for their top tips. From when to define the relationship to where to creep on dates before meeting IRL, step up your dating game with these seven tips.
1. Be open to where a first date can lead.
It's easy to head into dates with one of two goals in mind: to start a relationship or to land a good romp in the sheets. But often, Gen Zers are game for a variety of possible outcomes—a hookup, a casual fling, or even a platonic relationship. None of these results are off the table when we go on a first date.
"You have no way of predicting where a date will go until you give it a shot," Max Palmer, a 24-year-old gay man from Minneapolis, tells HelloGiggles. "I've met so many good friends, a few enemies, and plenty of short-term lovers from the dates I've been on. Be open to whatever the result of a date might be. And also, don't shame others if they just want to hook up—we all want different things."
Serur agrees with this fluid mindset, noting, "We don't need to date for marriage; we can date for exploration or learning. The idea that we need to enter into the dating pool already knowing exactly who we want and what we want isn't true. We can find out what turns us on and who we feel connected to by meeting new people."
2. Communicate your needs clearly.
It's no secret that putting yourself out there in the dating world (at any age) requires some balls, TBH. But according to the six Gen Zers we spoke to, having a fearless attitude in their love life comes naturally.
"If you're looking for a monogamous relationship, you're allowed to say that," Lucia Gallipoli, a 23-year-old bisexual woman living in New York City, tells HelloGiggles. "While it doesn't have to be in your first [DM or text] message or on the first date, knowing yourself, being confident in your desires, and communicating your needs is attractive. It doesn't make you needy or high maintenance. You would actually be saving yourself and your date time."
And when it comes to monogamy, most Gen Zers are loosening the definition of the term. "I still have that storybook fantasy about finding my one true love," Palmer admits. "But just because I might find my one true love doesn't mean I can't find other people attractive or still want to drunkenly make out with a complete stranger in a club to a Robyn song."
Sticking to their interest in self-exploration, Serur says that Gen Z is fluid about the stereotypical relationship statuses older generations are accustomed to. "Gen Z is open to exploring alternative relationship orientations like non-monogamy and polyamory so they can find what suits them best," she says.
3. Take advantage of dating apps without shame.
When dating apps first rose in popularity around 2010, many Millennials were reluctant to adopt this new avenue of meeting love interests, groaning, I just want to meet someone in person. And while that desire is still prevalent, Gen Zers have largely embraced apps as part of the reality of dating in 2021.
Plus, the convenience factor of meeting a date online isn't lost on Gen Z—particularly those in the queer community. "Apps eliminate tricky questions that arise IRL, like the ever-confusing queer girl conundrum of 'Do they actually want to go out with me or do they only see me as a friend?'" Megan, a 23-year-old lesbian from Brooklyn, New York explains. "When I see someone I'm interested in on Tinder, I already know that they're into women and they're looking for something more than friendship."
The sooner you accept that dating apps are no longer taboo, the more luck you'll have meeting a love match, according to dating coach Connell Barrett. "To a Gen Zer, swiping or sending a dating-app opener is as normal as a Baby Boomer saying 'Come here often?' at a bar back in the day."
4. Creep on your date's socials—but don't judge them too harshly.
Let's be real: We all Google our dates before meeting them. "I think anyone would be lying if they said they didn't stalk someone's socials before going on a date," Sydney Lundin, a 21-year-old straight woman, reveals. Curiosity is natural—and may be smart. Catfishing happens all the time, so don't be ashamed to do some research before you meet someone IRL for safety reasons.
"If I'm chatting with someone and they tell me where they work, I usually try to verify that with LinkedIn," Palmer says. "It gives me peace of mind going into a date, because so many of my friends have been catfished." Cassidy Kohls, a 24-year-old straight New Yorker, seconds the LinkedIn check, and even takes on the detective role for her single pals, saying, "I do it for my friends to make sure that even if they don't want to know, I have a little bit of info before their date to be safe."
However, take this information with a grain of salt; just because you see where your date has vacationed or where they currently work, no one is exactly who they appear to be online. "What's funny is that my expectations going into a date are often reversed," Palmer explains. "If I think someone is super hot from an Insta stalk, they never quite compare in person, and if I'm just meh about someone going into a date, my heart usually drops with infatuation when I see them."
The bottom line is this: Don't let your perusing of a date's socials create false expectations—unreasonably high, or low, pre-date. "Sometimes, folks have a tendency to put potential dates on a pedestal after seeing their profiles," Serur explains. "They'll think, 'They seem perfect! I have to make them like me!' Or they could dismiss someone when they use a weird filter. Give their profile a light peruse, sure, but try to learn about the person on the date, not through your investigative work."
5. Get flirty online.
Before social media (or even smartphones, for that matter), chatting with a crush could be done one of two ways: in-person or over the phone. But now, daters have countless forms of communication at their fingertips: Snapchatting, Instagram DM'ing, messaging over dating apps, the list goes on. And although these avenues can cause confusion (he liked my post but didn't respond to my text—what does that mean?), for the most part, these options open the door for casual, fun flirting.
"Gen Zers are just as likely to ask for a crush's IG or Snapchat handle rather than ask for a phone number," Barrett explains. "These cool, flashy platforms let you show off for a potential date: They watch your videos, hear your voice, or see photos that you post. It's a multi-media way of communication rather than just swapping text messages over the phone."
Most recently, TikTok has entered the chat, so to speak, as a dating platform all its own. "Spend one day on queer or lesbian TikTok and you'll see a 1-3 minute montage of two Gen Zers' story of commenting on each other's videos for weeks and then deciding to meet in person," Serur says.
Plus, reacting to an Instagram story or commenting on a post is a low-stakes way to show people that you're paying attention to them. "I can't live out the gay agenda without Instagram flirting," Palmer says. "The emoji reaction to a sexy gym selfie or a picture at the beach is so natural, I barely think about it."
If you're feeling extra ballsy, Nailah Coffey, a 21-year-old fluid woman, suggests liking old posts on a crush's Instagram profile to be upfront about your interest. "I like three to five older pictures to show that I think they're cute," she explains. "And if they don't get the hint, that's on them."
For younger Gen Zers like Lundin, 21, Snapchat reigns supreme as "the number one flirting app." "You're able to send a picture of your face to remind them what you look like and swap flirtatious [photos] back and forth," she explains.
Snapchatting with a crush offers a more authentic visual glimpse into your life in the moment, rather than through filtered and edited photos on your Instagram feed. But even though this intimate communication is fun, Lundin says to proceed with caution: "If the person actually wants to get to know you on a deeper level than just a hookup, they'll text you."
6. Don't hesitate to define the relationship if you're feeling it.
Now comes one of the biggest questions every single in a situationship mulls over at some point: When should you define the relationship? When you're really excited about a person, it's scary to lay your feelings on the line with the inevitable chance of rejection. But true to form, the Gen Zers we spoke to said to kick this fear to the curb and go for it.
"When I'm super into someone and I know that feeling has been expressed mutually, I don't feel the need to talk or see or hook up with anyone else," Palmer explains. "So, I'm not afraid to say, 'Hey, can we not see anyone else while we explore this together?' It helps focus on building a relationship with that person."
Keeping in line with their open-minded attitude, most of us Gen Zers have learned that having a DTR conversation doesn't always have to end in either heartbreak or total commitment.
"After having a few honest and mature conversations and experiencing the different ways that relationships can flourish, I know that defining a relationship means whatever you want it to at the moment," Megan explains. "The boundaries you agree upon at first can always be subject to change after more communication."
7. Avoid ghosting at all costs.
If you're dating in 2021, it's inevitable: You will get ghosted. But just because you'll likely be the ghostee, don't stoop to becoming a ghost-er yourself. To put it simply, it's a shitty thing to do.
"I've ghosted guys I've talked to on apps," Kohls admits. "But if I've gone on a date with them IRL, I don't do it. It's so easy to say, 'This has been fun, but I'm not sure it's what I'm looking for right now.' Being ghosted sucks because it makes you feel like you don't deserve the respect of a simple text or call."
When it comes down to it, treat people how you'd want to be treated. If you're not into someone anymore, suck it up and be honest. "Telling someone you don't want to see them frees them up to think about and see other people," Serur points out. "Plus, wouldn't you want to know what's up instead of having communication just fall off?"
However, there is one exception to the no ghosting rule, according to Palmer. "The only acceptable time to ghost is when someone's being super obsessive and or creepy; that definitely gets a ghosting green light," he says.
To elaborate, Serur agrees that ghosting is the only answer in certain scenarios, like when someone isn't respecting your boundaries. "If you went out with someone and afterward explained that you didn't feel a connection but they're still pressuring you to hang out again, it's okay to not respond when you've been clear and someone isn't able to honor that," she says.