For the dating/courtship assignment, I interviewed two people that grew up in two very different generations: the 1980’s and the 2000’s. The most apparent difference between the responses to courtship norms was the role of mobile communication and social media.

For the person that grew up in the 80s (let’s call them Person A), the meaning of dating was very clear. According to Person A, it was fairly easy to know if someone was interested in you if they went out of their way to talk with you and get to know you. They added,

“You often knew [the person that was interested] and had seen them often at school or work or met through mutual friends.”

For the person that grew up in the 2000’s (Person B), however, dating was a much more complicated subject. Person B explained ‘dating’ as a strange word with a very wide range of different definitions.

“I’ve seen people use the term ‘dating’ in many different ways, and usually people need to explain exactly what they mean by it. It’s just a weird concept for some reason, I don’t know why.”

Troy, a 21-year-old junior in college, simplifies the situation.”Nobody dates, ” he says. “After we’re good and drunk, we hook-up. Everyone just hooks up.” According to Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel, authors of Hooking Up, a dating relationship requires additional, complex negotiation [1].

For both Person A and Person B, the process of letting someone know they were interested in them was not clear-cut. Overall, it involved spending quality time with the person and showing that you enjoy their company. Person B, however, added that both mobile communication and social media has put a strain on the ability to develop meaningful relationships. The lack of nonverbal cues often prevents people from accurately relaying their thoughts and feelings about another person. Person B mentioned,

“[Through social media], people are able to take more time to think about their responses in order to sound more appealing, which makes conversations a lot less genuine.”

Person B expressed their disappointment in the fact that the most common way of expressing interest is through text or social media, and wishes that face-to-face conversations were more prevalent.

Person A mentioned that kissing on a first date was an acceptable courtship activity, but only if you knew the person well. They said that while some of their friends followed these norms, others did not. Person B did not define acceptable courtship activities, and said it is just dependent on the type of relationship and people involved. Person B explained that many of their friends look to social media, Instagram likes, and Snapchat for courtship purposes. They feel that technology has convinced their generation that any form of communication outside technology is strange. They added details about their personal relationship as well:

“My friends think that my relationship with my boyfriend is weird and unhealthy because we don’t communicate via technology very often. I think to them it seems like we may not be ‘invested in each other because we don’t talk all the time,’ but we like it a lot. We can wait until we’re together to talk about our days and express our emotions, and to me that’s really important.”

In the reading, Normalizing Sex Violence, Heather Hlavka discusses the threat of sexual reputation and social derogation and explains that many girls are fearful of being labeled a “ho” or a “slut” [2]. Kalish and Kimmel also mention that young women often worry about getting a reputation based on their hook-ups [1]. Over the past decade, technology, specifically social media, has made it much easier for people to completely demean someone and falsify or exaggerate their actions. With one click of a button, it’s possible to tweet a spiteful lie on Twitter or release another’s personal photos or messages for everyone to see. The fact that one’s reputation can be completely flipped upside down so quickly and effortlessly forms a barrier to rape reporting. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, reports of sexual assault have risen sharply – more than doubled from 2001 to 2013 – on college campuses [3]. It is possible that while technology has inhibited reporting in certain situations, it has also provided a platform for people to report incidents and talk about them in others.

Undoubtedly, mobile communication and social media has  transformed people’s perspectives on relationships, dating, and courtship, and it was good to get a better understanding of that transformation through these interviews.

[1] Hlavka, Heather. Normalizing Sexual Violence. Marquette University.

[2] Kalish, Rachel and Kimmel, Michael. Hooking Up. Australian Feminist Studies.

[3] Korn, Melissa. “Reports of Sexual Assault Rising Sharply on College Campuses.” The Wall Street Journal.