All across America, marriage, sexuality and relationships are on the steady decline among young people. According to a new Pew Research study, 63% percent of men aged 18-29 report being single. That means the number of single young men is nearly twice that of single young women, indicating a large breakdown in the social, romantic, and sexual lives of American men. The big question is: Why?
One would think that making romantic connections would be easier than ever in our digital world, but the opposite is true. Our culture of convenience has paradoxically made dating more difficult for men as they are forced into a hyper-competitive, superficial environment that emphasizes instant gratification over true human connection. While there are several potential culprits causing this relationship breakdown, none have done more damage to the dating landscape than dating apps, social media and pornography.
Let’s start with dating apps. The advent of relationship websites started with Match.com in 1995 and evolved into the swipe-based platforms we know today with Tinder and Hinge releasing in 2012, and Bumble in 2014.
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According to a survey of 6,034 adults, 53% of adults ages 18-29 have found someone to date through an app or site. However, new Census data shows that the U.S. marriage rate hit an all-time low in 2019. For every 1,000 unmarried adults, only 33 got married. This number was 35 a decade ago in 2010 and much higher at 86% in 1970. So, what gives?
It’s easier for men to date thanks to technological conveniences, yet this technology has created a counterintuitive situation leading them to have a fickle attitude toward relationships, constantly searching for the next thing instead of committing to one person.
With the abundance of choices on dating apps, young men are finding it difficult to build deeper connections with a single person due to that sense of constant availability. When a minor red flag appears in a relationship that is otherwise going smoothly, why stick around and work it out when thousands of other choices are right at your fingertips? Young men are making that calculation every day on dating apps and are siding with the latter. How can you blame them with the constant programming coming from social media?
With social media today, men can scroll through their feeds and popular pages to view more beautiful women in one sitting than most men would see in their lifetime a hundred years ago.
Social media vies for people’s attention leading women to commercialize themselves, which gives men an unrealistic expectation of the dating pool. On social media, people are encouraged to only show their best (even if it’s fake!). With the advancements in facial recognition technology, many times men are looking at women through heavily-filtered and airbrushed lenses.
While women reap the benefit of the online attention, men are left wondering how the dating pool has gotten so far out of reach. Consequently, those same women marketing themselves as something they’re not are left without a partner wondering where all the good men have gone. Through social media, both sexes are conditioned to treat themselves as a number instead of embracing true human connection and partnership.
Maybe I’m just old-fashioned but to me, flirting face-to-face leaves a bigger impression on the potential for a relationship than reacting to girls’ Instagram Stories with the flame emoji. Coupled with the barrage of women on dating apps, the culture of constant comparison fostered by social media makes it hard for men to commit to a relationship and settle down. If that wasn’t enough, now even men’s greatest source of dating motivation has been co-opted by pornography.
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There is no doubt that lust, which is carnal in nature, is the strongest driving motivation for men when it comes to dating. It sparks initial attraction and passion and draws people together. Ultimately though, lust may fade but the emotional connection typically built upon that initial sense of attraction is what can determine a relationship’s success.
Pornography, however, completely destroys this dynamic because it shifts men’s reward system to simply being carnal and physical in nature but lacking the emotional connection necessary for healthy relationships. Today, pornography is easier than ever to consume. Forty million U.S. adults regularly visit pornography websites and 10% of U.S. adults admit to having an addiction to Internet pornography.
Research shows that about 67% of 13-year-old boys have seen at least one pornographic image on some sort of digital device in the past year and by the age of 18, that number rises to 90%.
In porn, finding a “relationship” is effortless. With porn, this digital partner has nothing else to do but wait for you, please you, and give you exactly what you think you want. If this partner ever fails to keep you entertained, they can be exchanged with a single click. Why waste your time dating, flirting, and putting in effort when men can have their deepest sexual desires met online?
Today, men in their 20s are more likely than women to be romantically uninvolved, sexually dormant and friendless. Studies have shown that men are more likely to engage in risky and violent behaviors when they lack a stable relationship, leading to higher crime rates, substance abuse and social unrest. Single men may also be less invested in building strong social networks, leading to isolation and a lack of community engagement.
Simply put, the breakdown of relationships between men and women is startling and it is detrimental to a healthy society. The good news is men can fix this and the remedy is easier than we think. Leave dating apps, stop watching porn and go talk to girls in real life.