In today's society, those who are roughly in the 18-24-year-old category have grown up with a tremendous amount of technology and also likely had social media in middle school and/or high school. Both of these things, which can be used for the good, often do contribute to mental health challenges with the dating game of this age group.
This may come in the form of unrealistic expectations by being exposed on a frequent basis to unrealistic images or stories.
Some examples might be the use of avatars, many superhero movies or stories where the heroic characters have muscles or bodies that are not realistic or sustainable or it could come in the form of exposure to pornography at such young ages because it’s tough to completely monitor how the internet is used with our kids (there’s probably always going to be a friend who has the internet at their house and shows your kids something they “gotta see.”).
It could certainly be exposed to aspects of dating and relationships that are also unrealistic such as movies and shows that portray more commonly than other generations casual dating and sex that one thinks it is wrong or bad to feel hurt by a dating partner seeing someone else. Or perhaps the opposite where someone meets their partner for life at a young age and lives happily ever after from that point on.
Another mental health challenge in dating is that growing up with social media could offer countless opportunities for unfair comparisons to others. For example, noticing friends or acquaintances who only post certain things on social media and may have the appearance of a perfect life. This can cause anxiety and low self-esteem if we engage in this unfair comparison to others and it’s kinda hard to have the quality dating relationship we want if we are struggling with anxiety and low self-esteem! Social media also lends itself toward causing anxiety and self-doubt when seeing what someone else is doing and noticing a sense of exclusion, loneliness or maybe even betrayal.
Dealing With Difficult Conversations
I’d say one more particularly difficult mental health challenge in dating is dealing with difficult conversations. Technology and social media are two big influences where young adults have grown up with much less face to face or even phone communication than previous generations. As a result, there is more anxiety around something as simple as calling to order a pizza (who would do that when you can order online????), so then it makes sense there is a LOT of anxiety and fear about breaking up with someone or maybe even telling someone you like them. Both things are vulnerable and risk conflict or rejection. Growing up without meaningful ways of being taught these skills has led to the ability for technology to pave the way to ghosting and other harmful forms of avoidance that may be rooted in anxiety and fear. And of course, if you are on the receiving end of this, it’s no wonder when depression enters the picture.
Here is the good news though, this age group is up for a challenge, even those mental health challenges that come up in dating! Therapy can be a great venue to process these feelings and learn the skills to have positive dating experience and fortunately young adults tend to value therapy more than previous generations. There is hope!