From ghosting, situationships and catfishes, Gen Z have had their fair share of dating mishaps, but with predictions for 2024 being the ‘year of the self’ are we on the road to a dating renaissance?

“No, no, no, no,” 20-year-old Leo mutters languidly as his index finger swipes left after left. With a swarm of more “no’s” and a singular “maybe” thrown in for good measure, we find him in the midst of completing his daily ritual: assessing Hinge’s array of prospective suitors catered to his very own preferences and desired radius.“Hinge is for dating. Tinder is a middleman: some people just want to hook-up, others want something more,” Leo assures with the utmost assurance in his tongue-in-cheek candour.


Such casual perusing of dating apps has become more so a habit for Leo as well as many other Gen Z singles out there. Why the word ‘casual’? For Leo his relationship with dating apps is simple: “I just go on them to pass the time. I want to meet someone in real life (IRL). I’m old school. Bring back blind dates and speed dating, I say.”


It comes as no surprise that Leo and many other youngsters are taking dating apps with a pinch of salt if you will. The search for someone on a dating app who isn’t solely after sex, isn’t a complete catfish nor makes their mum do their washing (even though they moved out four years ago) feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. Not to mention the ghosting epidemic sweeping our beloved apps, with 76% of people claiming to have been ghosted, showing that ghosting is very much still, ironically, alive and kicking.

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What has to be adhered to is that Gen Z have never had it easy dating: they’re the first generation to have internet connectivity from birth, being surrounded by frenzies of social media at every twist and turn of their lives. An online presence is a ‘must’ if you want to stay up-to-date with your friends and family’s lives, especially if you want to succeed in the dating world nowadays. What was once a taboo—meeting someone online—is now par for the course.


But change is brewing. The crying return for ‘real life connection’ and the abolition of casual dating culture is coming to fruition, with 90% of Gen Z feeling frustrated with dating apps. Major apps like Hinge and Bumble are grappling with drastic stock plunges, whilst interest in in-person events like speed dating is on the rise.


The crave for IRL connections is well received by 22-year-old Evan whose stint on dating apps became too much to bear leading to his deletion of the platforms. “I got tired of dating apps, because it felt like a game. It’s hard to show personality on there. It felt like I was playing top trumps”, he says. As a result, Evan has “sworn off” dating apps, setting his sights on meeting someone naturally to “see if there’s a spark in-person, then trying to force a relationship through a screen.”


Even though not every Gen Z singleton has brought themselves to depart from the apps like Evan has, it’s expected that users will alter their use of the app; with a emphasis on forging deeper long-lasting connections, rather than solely using the platforms for hook-ups. Bumble predicts that Gen Z will make it the ‘year of the self’ with expectations of more people looking inward at their values and dating more intentionally. Not only did Bumble cast such predictions for the year, Tinder followed suit exclaiming that Gen Z’s revitalised approach to dating—building meaningful connections and excluding time wasting—is leading to a dating renaissance.

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Doing exactly what Bumble and Hinge predicted, 21-year-old Aliona, has reaped the fruits of her effort, forging a connection with a prospective suitor because she prioritised doing it in a “meaningful way.” Even though she admits to not being a big user of dating apps, constantly navigating her love/hate relationship with them—because they “gamify the dating process”—her recent situationship did in fact stem from Hinge. “Going into it I dropped all of my expectations. It helped make our dates feel more organic. Our relationship hasn’t been rushed. It feels very natural now,” she says.


Another youngster set on embracing heedfulness when it comes to dating is 22-year-old Ellen, whose 2024 reinvigorated approach is all centred on “mindful attentiveness.” She explains, “I’m taking dating very seriously this year and just seeing what happens. I have the mindset that if I go on a date, it’s for dating’s sake. I only hope to see them again, rather than looking for anything superficial.” This year Ellen makes it crystal clear that hook-ups are not on her agenda, steering clear of one-night stands as she has noticed a flurry of wrong intentions displayed loud and clear on dating apps. “There’s lots of users that have the tendency to be very outspoken with their intentions, which completely puts me off using the app,” she relays.


If Gen Z continue their palpable shift towards intentionality and authenticity, it could make strides towards dismantling the casual hook-up culture rife in today’s society. Yet it could be argued that being so plainspoken when it comes to voicing their dating wants, is not so plain sailing for other Gen Z’s. Spending the ‘best years of their life’ couped up inside the four walls of their houses during COVID, the effect it’s had on their dating confidence is hefty. It’s reported that 44% of Gen Z daters have little to no dating experience, with an overarching 95% worrying about rejection.


Yet it seems like Gen Z are on the road to changing those statistics. While Hinge reports many Gen Z grappling insecurities when it comes to dating, Hinge also report more hopeful statistics. From Gen Z daters being 30% more likely than millennials to believe there’s a soulmate for each person to considering themselves 39% more romantically idealistic, it’s clear Gen Z are on the path to self-discovery, dismantling the outdated dating scripts with newfound clarity.


Like Aliona and Ellen, Gen Z are putting themselves first. They know what they want, and they’re unapologetic about it. Yes, they may have to navigate the choppy waters of romance to find their perfect match but, to them, it’s worth it. As Leo succinctly puts it, “We know what we want. And we’ll endure our fair share of awkward dinners until we find it.”