“Hey, Can You Set Me Up?”

Recently, a friend tried to set me up. Initially, I was confused, intrigued, and admittedly resistant. Yet it sparked a realization: why have we moved away from setting friends up? As a self-described "boy sober" twenty-something, I’ve had many discussions with friends about my recent aversion to romance.

And a recurring theme emerges: I struggle to feel a genuine connection with people I meet on dating apps. To a former hopeless romantic and person in Gen-Z, a serendipitous encounter that’s set up by a mutual friend feels like an idyllic yet fading art form. Perhaps our romantic lives might greatly benefit from the personal touch of friends who know and care about us, rather than leaving our precious love lives to the whims of an unfeeling algorithm.

It's Convenient!

I, like most of Gen-Z, downloaded Tinder at the ripe age of 18. By the time I graduated high school, dating apps were normalized so it was natural to download them. So, I downloaded Tinder and started swiping. And to my surprise, I began to get matches! I didn’t date through high school; I was awkward, school-focused, and generally disinterested even in flirting.

I was (unfortunately) convinced that the star hockey player or quarterback would pursue me, we’d fall in love, and I’d lose my virginity on prom night — a completely plausible scenario in my mind. When that didn’t happen and nobody waltzed up to me in my college library to sweep me off my feet, I took the hint.

Dating apps became convenient to me, no matter if I was looking for someone to date, or I just needed validation that I was actually attractive. Although I’d downloaded dating apps for a while, I didn’t go on a proper date (with the help of Hinge) until I was twenty-one. Directly after that, I moved to New York, and started dating consistently solely at the behest of dating apps. So, yes, they’re omnipresent and incredibly convenient, but at what cost?

The Infamous “Situationship”

At the onset of the dating apps era they quickly became a useful tool in hookup culture. Unfortunately, it’s pretty taboo to reveal that you’re looking for a committed relationship through the apps–so, I present the “situationship”. For those living under a rock, a “situationship” is a non-committal relationship where you behave as if you’re dating but there’s no label. Generally, this is when one person wants a relationship and the other person is just not that invested. As a generation, I believe GenZ wants to move away from the situationship. But nevertheless, it exists.

Imagine this: you’re looking to resume dating, so you hop onto the apps to swipe through and find someone to go on a date with. You find a cute person who seems cool and fun, so you swipe right, and a few hours later, you match!

You set up a date to meet, go for drinks, have a fine time, and after the date? Crickets. You thought the date went well, so what went wrong? After three days of stressing about why they haven’t said anything, they finally text a measly "hey” and you’re genuinely ecstatic.

So, you plan another date, and the cycle repeats for about three weeks (or, in some cases, a few months). They’re amazing in person — reassuring, complimentary, even funny — but when you’re apart, they hardly seem to think about you. And bang out of nowhere, it’s over. And a week and a half later, you notice that they’re hard-launching a fresh relationship on Instagram.

The bottom line is that people aren’t clear about what they want on dating apps, and if they are, it’s viewed as too much. A situationship is essentially one person waiting for something better to come along.

Dating apps enable this bad behavior; people can swipe and swipe until they find someone they idealize as the perfect one for them. Due to the abundant access dating apps provide, it seems like everyone is endlessly caught up in finding something better.

A Proclamation of Defeat

Many trends on TikTok make light of the situationship. One that I see often is the sentiment that some of the best minds of our generation have been destroyed by a three-week situationship. While I believe this to be a bit dramatic, the social media comments and the culture around it definitely puts a damper on romance. For me, it only took a few of these runarounds to stop dating in general and focus on my passions and who I want to be without relating everything to another person.

Others started a movement known as "standing on business,” which means that after that first meeting, if they take over three days to respond, we don’t entertain them; we move on to the next person. But I’ve never been someone who lets go so easily. Regardless, this Gen-Z phenomenon of non-committal relationships is disheartening and makes some of us believe that romantic love doesn’t exist the way it used to.

@bloodsoakedsocks #failedsituationship #3monthsituationship #thiscountry #kurtan #viralmeme #capcut #foryou #viral ♬ original sound - erin

The Light at the End of the Tunnel (In Theory)

In an attempt to rid myself of such cynicism, I wanted to fix this problem without completely cutting off the possibility of love. On a recent Wednesday night, I was enjoying happy hour in a midtown bar when one of my friends asked if I wanted to be set up, and it hit me. What better way to mend the romance problem than to start setting our friends up again?

I’d heard a lot about people who have longevity in their relationships because they met their match through mutual friends. But I never considered it as a theoretical solution for this issue. Your friends know you better than most, and if they suspect that you might get along with someone, the chances are you just may. Plus, it’s a great way to find out about the person’s last relationship and whether they’re ready for another. I’d say your friend is far better at spotting your type than an algorithm.

In other words cut out the middleman, which is the façade of a curated profile, and insert someone who has your best interests at heart.

This, I know, is an idealistic solution; but it could be just what GenZ needs in order to fix the painstaking romantic situation we’ve gotten ourselves into. In no way am I saying that relationships generated through dating apps aren’t valid or aren’t as beautiful and romantic, but it takes a certain kind of luck to find that through an app. In the words of two of my closest friends, “It’s a numbers game.” And for some people, that numbers game simply isn’t worth it.

No matter if you meet someone on an app, in a dive bar, through your mom, or on a Reddit thread, people can be dishonest about their intentions. But it feels like there’s a film of protection if you’ve got a longtime friend who has your best interests at heart by your side.

@dearmedia Help a friend out! 👏 #settingup #setupdates #setupfriends #relationshipadvice #relationshiptips #everythingisthebest #podcastclips ♬ Sunshine - WIRA

On Second Thought

I haven’t been dating seriously for close to a year. And it took the act of a genuine friend offering to set me up to get me to reconsider my stance on relationships. I spoke with my parents about it as well — something that’s near and dear to their hearts — and my mom said, “I wouldn’t have married your dad if it wasn’t for the people closest to me vouching for him.”

So, if you’re afraid of jumping back into the dating pool, I’d suggest being open to your friends if they offer to set you up. There’s nothing like a recommendation from someone who wants the best for you — someone who just wants to see you happy. You never know what could happen!

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