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Social Media Is Changing Young People’s Dating Behaviors: Research

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The traditional objective of dating, which is to create offspring, has been replaced by sexual satisfaction, leaving many people confused about their options.

Social media has confused many young adults about whom and how to date, according to recent research.

Conducted by the India-based Ethophilia Research Foundation, the research found that social media has altered normal human behavior, including young people’s relationship choices.

Impulsion and pleasure-seeking now play a critical role in people’s search for a partner, Chayan Munshi, the research group’s founder and executive director, told The Epoch Times.

The traditional objective of dating, which is to create offspring, has been replaced by sexual satisfaction, leaving many people confused about their options when deciding whom to date.

Mr. Munshi attributed the change in dating objectives to the “huge amount of sexually stimulating or attractive content” on social media. “It creates a massive database in the young mindset, which ultimately creates confusion in terms of selecting potential partners,” he said.

His findings stemmed from a survey of 150 youths aged 18 to 30. The preliminary research is presented on July 3 at the Society for Experimental Biology Annual Conference.

Dopamine-Driven Social Media Interactions

According to Tom Kersting, a psychotherapist, author, and television contributor, the confusion and instability in relationships can be explained by the dopamine-driven effect of social media.

“Social media target the pleasure-seeking part of the brain that produces dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical. Over time, things that would previously trigger a feel-good, exciting moment [such as meeting a potential partner] no longer holds the same gravity compared to the constant stream of pleasure coming from screens,” Mr. Kersting explained to The Epoch Times.

The dopamine-driven nature of social media interactions has made relationships more about seeking “pleasure” and “adrenaline rush,” suggested Dr. Andrew Doan, an ophthalmologist specializing in problematic gaming and excessive personal technology use.

Social media platforms “stimulate the brain’s reward system, making short-term pleasures more appealing than building deeper connections,” Dr. Doan told The Epoch Times.

He said encouraging “mindful and balanced use of social media could help mitigate these negative effects on young adults’ relationship stability.”

Seeking a Perfect Partner

Social media and online apps provide “a never-ending stream” of instant gratification and delusion, which can cause people to set too high a bar when they start seeking romantic partners, Mr. Kersting said.

“Hit a button and instantly purchase what you want. Hit a button, order food, and DoorDash will immediately deliver it. Hit a button, and bam, whatever movie you want to watch is right in front of you,” he said, giving examples of how apps immediately give users what they want.

In the case of social media and dating, people can “hit a button, and you can see the most beautiful provocative male or female that you want.

“This instant gratification and delusion can cause young folks to think that they have to find the perfect mate, which doesn’t exist. No one is perfect, and social media creates the illusion that everyone else is perfect, and so is their life,” Mr. Kersting said.

Intimacy Disorders

Counselor Hilarie Cash said that people who grew up in front of screens might develop “intimacy disorder,” which is when a person is unable to maintain an intimate relationship due to feeling emotionally unsafe or becoming withdrawn.

A screen-based childhood, rather than a play-based childhood, does not foster social skill development, Ms. Cash, who is the co-founder of reSTART Life, a residential treatment for people addicted to the internet, told The Epoch Times.

When the child becomes a teenager who lacks good social skills, he or she will feel lonely, and due to rising hormones, they can become socially anxious and withdrawn. Ms. Cash said that this often results in seeking pornographic content online as a sexual outlet.

“Pornography separates relationship and sexual arousal. So your sexual arousal has nothing to do with a real human being with whom you have a relationship … There are so many things working against people maintaining long-lasting intimate relationships.”

Dating Apps Designed to Be Addicting

Dr. Clifford Sussman, a psychiatrist specializing in screen addiction, told The Epoch Times in an interview that many online applications, be they games or social media, are highly addicting because they use a mechanism called variable ratio reinforcement to addict people.

Psychologist B. F. Skinner first discovered it in a famous rat experiment, in which the rat randomly gets a pallet when it presses a lever.

“The more you randomized it, the faster the animal would press the lever, and the harder it would be for them to stop pressing it,” Dr. Sussman said.

“With social media, you scroll through a lot of posts—some you’re interested in, and a lot that you’re not. So you get the same variable ratio reinforcement. And the same thing happens [with dating apps] when you’re looking at profiles of people you want to date; you’re going to see some you like, some you don’t like, and it’s going to create the same dopamine rush. The app, whether or not you’re matching, becomes addictive in and of itself.”

Dr. Sussman agreed that social media is changing people’s behaviors, but not always negatively.

“It allows people who may not be good at dating in the real world to date. For example, somebody in the autism spectrum who may not be very good at attracting the opposite sex based on real-world skills, like making eye contact or being empathic … may be able to meet people with similar interests and date them online.”

Dr. Sussman’s advice for safer and more successful use of online applications is to be more patient and less impulsive.

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