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Stop texting and start talking: 5 tips to millennial modern dating

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This article was written by (in creative collaboration with) David Zimmerman, who leads business development for Yeti. He’s from Portland, OR, has lived in Denver, Vail, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Spain. David loves to surf, snowboard, hike, golf, cook, and rap. He’s currently residing in LA, but loves getting back to the northwest to spend time with his family.

Hey, what’s up?

The infamous text message sent millions of times daily from couples, friends, and parents around the globe. But what does this message really mean? You might want to know what someone else is doing at that particular moment. You also may have an interest in what’s literally up (the sky), but that’s not likely. The latter, and most complex of the three ideas, is that you’re asking for attention through this message in order to feel loved… but who’s going to admit that?

You may be thinking, “I would never do that, I’m not lonely.” Think again. Have you ever sent a message to your ex saying “hey,” or reach out to a friend through a text saying something like, “what are you doing tonight?” I’m guilty of doing these things, but have come to realization why I do it. I’m chasing that feeling of connection and closeness with someone that values my attention. By actually saying that you love or miss someone, you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position, and that meaning is so much deeper than a text. We are afraid to be vulnerable, so we reach out our feelers by messaging as many of our contacts as possible when we feel lonely and disconnected… but who’s going to admit that?

While technology has given us the ability to grab the attention of our friends more efficiently than ever, it’s also diluting our message when we do reach out. We receive texts, chat messages, emails and pings on our social media websites of choice all day every day, but it’s become so easy to ignore them because we feel busy and overwhelmed by the volume of attempts to get our attention. Facebook invites go unopened, Evites go unseen, and yet we still feel disconnected. We are losing the ability to enjoy the moment, because we are focused on finding our best options for feeling loved.

So how do we hit the brakes, and check ourselves before we wreck ourselves? Stop complaining about the inundation of technology, and choose to do things a little differently. By opting out of ‘the easy way’ we’re actually improving our chances of a real connection.

Try doing things ‘Old School’

I remember standing by my locker in high school, backpack strapped to my right shoulder. The thought of asking a girl out was scary and nerve-racking, but so exciting at the same time. The potential risk of getting shut down made me anxious, but it was worth the risk for the potential reward — putting myself out there and going on a date with an awesome girl I was into. There’s nothing wrong with having those feelings, it’s natural, and it felt real. The culture of texting, social media, and online activity is so commonplace, we’re becoming numb and indifferent about engaging with people in the moment. Our reluctance to invest in others emotionally is leading us lose touch with the pleasure of building face-to-face relationships based on spontaneous interactions.

How do people date now?

In college, finding a date was pretty easy. You consistently run into the same people on campus, and over a four year period get to know a lot of those people very well. Living in the dorms made this even more simple, because you’re surrounded by peers who are all excited to be living on their own with little to no rules. There’s no one to tell you who you could or couldn’t see, the only thing holding you back was making sure that your roommate wasn’t around when you brought a date back to your room. This scenario was great because you are forced to step outside of your comfort zone, and approach someone that you’re interested in. Even at a bar, restaurant, or class, asking someone on a date was pretty simple.

Now things are a little different. I call this “post-college life.” Many of us are working hard to pursue a career that both pays well and is something we’re passionate it about. One of my best friends from college used to say “you should always work for a company you love, or in a location that you love- if you find both, then you are officially living the dream.” The older I get, the more true this seems.

Sometimes a job leads us to a new location, or an uncomfortable situation where we feel overwhelmed or out of our element. With work taking up the majority of our lives, it can be hard to find time to meet new people. The reality is, you have to work at building relationships, and even then, these new relationships take time to turn into gratifying social support.

This may be why the millennial generation enjoys the passive dating/social media scene, using apps like Tinder, Grindr, Hinge, and Grouper to find people who can potentially fill the void of real human connection and belonging. These platforms generally only serve as a short term solution to avoiding the sting of social isolation, rejection and feelings of awkwardness that come with taking social risks. Chivalry doesn’t have to die, gentlemen. According to Dr. Christina Villarreal, a clinical psychologist who works with a wide range of generation Y folks in the dating scene, women still love to receive sincere compliments, be surprised with thoughtful cards or other personalized gestures, and genuinely feel like they are special to someone. Men still want to know their attention is being well-received, and that their investment of time and effort will pay off in a relationship that feels rewarding. That being said, here are five ways to slow things down and make dating more interesting again.

Here are 5 ways to help:

  1. No Texting – Try to avoid texting when you first meet someone that you’re interested in. It’s amazing how much a conversation can be misconstrued through a message (even with emojis). By avoiding texting someone every 3 minutes the week after you meet them, you will actually be surprised by things they say, and excited to see them for another date!
  2. Spontaneity – I’ve learned a lot from my mother and sister about how to treat women, and I know they love the serendipity of living in the moment (then again, who doesn’t?). I’m not saying you have to launch elaborate plans every time you see someone you’re interested in, but simply pay attention to their subtle cues to make a positive, meaningful impact. For example, if a girl you like mentions in passing that she loves sorbet (the raspberry, gluten free, Talenti brand), then next time you see her, bring over the freakin’ sorbet. Mind blown.
  3. Forget the phones – Take someone out on a date where you don’t need a phone. Go for a hike, explore new terrain, or drive to a part of town you’ve never been before. Getting lost together can help the two of you bond on a deeper level, by working together to solve a problem. Don’t worry, if you don’t document the entire trip on social media, it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
  4. Pay attention to the non-verbal cues around you – Glances in your direction are happening all around you! Better yet, try noticing when someone is deliberating over making a selection in a store, this could be an opportunity to share your experience with something, or ask what theirs has been. The goal is engaging for the sake of connection and the potential reward is huge.
  5. Make a habit out of chatting with strangers – Try exchanging a few casual comments with interesting people around you throughout your day. It only takes a few words to start the ball rolling, but the effect is instant. Suddenly you’ll notice how fostering connections with others in real life feels so much better than another fleeting ‘like’ of your pic, status update, tweet.
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