Digital dating has gone mainstream globally. These three charts tell the story of how young Europeans are tech-first daters…
- Gen Z and Millennials are changing the dating landscape as singledom gets extended, casual dating becomes the norm, and digital dating goes mainstream
- The majority of young Europeans have done digital dating activities such as asking someone out via text or social media and dating people they met online and on social media
- Millennials and young Germans are the demographics using digital dating the most
There are many reasons why dating and relationships have changed significantly among Gen Z and Millennials today, not the least of which is the effect of isolation and health concerns due to the influence of COVID. Our Finding Love Post-COVID trend research last year dove deep into some of the ways the pandemic altered dating for these gens, including the spike in dating app use and the delay of finding a partner. But the truth is that dating was changing for young consumers long before COVID hit. For years now, young people have been creating a new stage of life by delaying marriage, a topic we explored in our 2019 Extended Singledom trend report, where we found that Millennials were still looking for “the one,” but that their higher standards have led to an extended period of solo living.
Now, our recent WE dating and relationships behavioral report found that many of those changes are sticking for Gen Z and Millennials in Western Europe as they continue to approach dating in a unique way—and as apps and social media continue to alter the dating rules of old. These days, marriage is optional, casual dating is the norm, hook-up culture is NBD, and dating apps are used as much for entertainment as for finding ”the one.” Our data shows that nearly half of young Europeans are single, and that nearly a third of this single cohort is not looking to date. And yes, digital dating has something to do with this. Here are the top tech-first data activities young Europeans have done—and what it says about dating today:
The majority of young Europeans have asked someone out via text and social media as well as dated someone they met on social media and online, underscoring just how integral technology is to their dating lives these days. In fact, nearly a quarter of young Europeans have used dating apps to date or flirt, and when we asked 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe the open-end question, “What’s one thing your generation is changing about dating?” by far the number-one answer was (unsurprisingly) “dating apps / online dating.” Indeed, digital dating has been credited with changing the way we fall in love to transforming the very fabric of society, and young people are adapting to this new reality quickly. In fact, nearly half of young Europeans have researched a potential date online, dated someone they met through an app, and had a video call with someone before meeting them in person. Meanwhile, around a third have been party to the less-than-noble digital dating trends of breaking up via text, “ghosting” someone, and being ghosted, and a quarter have lied about themselves on a dating app.
But while these may be fast-becoming dating norms, Millennials are more likely to say they’ve engaged in all of these activities:
When looking at Millennials, more than half have done the majority of these digital dating activities, and more have done almost all the rest than Gen Z. Gen Z is only slightly more likely to say that they’ve ghosted someone, indicating that Millennials are definitely dominating the collision of dating and technology. Of course, the main reason for this is that most 13-20-year-olds are still too young to be dating seriously, and those who are old enough are likely finding their dates and partners through school and their social circles while Millennials are more likely to be in the stages of their lives where these encounters are less likely to happen—especially in the COVID-era. But looking at Gen Z’s digital dating behaviors, it’s clear that while they may not be on the apps quite yet, their phones are prevalent players in their dating lives. More than half of 13-20-year-olds in Western Europe have asked someone out via text and through social media, and nearly half say they’ve dated someone they met through social media. YPulse data has repeatedly shown that Gen Z is using social media more than Millennials, and that it plays a more important role in their lives. Meanwhile, TikTok—a Gen Z favorite—is being used by some young singles as a way to find dates, and new dating apps are increasingly mimicking TikTok (and other social platforms’) functionalities to attract Gen Z daters. As Gen Z ages up into their real dating years, it’s likely that both social media and apps will continue to be a part of their dating lives, along with all the other digital dating activities that surround them.
Along with differences between Gen Z and Millennials, digital dating behaviors also differ across regions:
Young Germans are the most reliant on technology when it comes to meeting and asking out potential dates online. They’re by far the most likely to say they’ve asked someone out via text (75%) and to say they’ve dated someone they met online (66%), and are also the most likely to have asked someone out via social media and to have researched a potential date online before meeting them in person. Spanish and Italian consumers are also doing many digital dating activities more than other young Europeans, while less than half of British and French consumers have done any of them. Overall, however, it’s clear that dating has moved online, and as these behaviors become increasingly normalized, we’re likely to see more young Europeans across regions engaging in them.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Dating & Relationships behavioral report and data here.
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