Boston College professor Kerry Cronin recently offered her students an assignment for extra credit. Students were invited to ask a classmate out on a date, with a few conditions: the student had to ask in person, it couldn’t be more expensive than ten dollars and drugs or alcohol could not be involved.
“It’s mostly about social courage and challenging yourself to be a little countercultural, to do something you know you want to do. And to just be okay with being a little awkward, a little vulnerable and asking a little bit of yourself,” Cronin said.
She is justified in believing that it’s time to fix dating culture. Our generation seeks acceptance through technology, avoids awkward in-person dialogue and doesn’t really understand the purpose behind dating. Since we go to Oxy, we don’t have the opportunity to get extra credit for dating — but pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is still important on all college campuses.
When I first read this article, the social justice warrior inside of me was enraged. I started rattling off reasons in my head why this was personal, invasive and inappropriate. I believed Cronin was wrong to stereotype a whole generation as unsociable and uncommunicative. However, after some deeper thinking, I realized she had a point.
Humans spend a lot of time communicating through a screen, forming unrealistic online relationships and catching unreciprocated feelings for others. We get attached to people’s highly curated online personas, rather than their real personalities. I admit that I, too, fall victim to having a different personality online than I do in person.
We all know someone who has an 876-day Snapchat streak with someone but won’t say “hi” to them when they pass each other walking to class. This falsified type of relationship has taken my generation a step back in social interaction. Sure, your post got 700 likes and you talk to 62 people on Snapchat, but if you can’t hold a sincere in-person conversation, it’s all for nothing. It’s not a true friendship or relationship if you can’t even meet direct eye contact and answer personal questions. These are all skills that the influx in technology has degraded.
The idea that you have to be drunk to have a genuine conversation with someone is another common idea on college campuses. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 64 percent of hookups among first-semester college women involved alcohol, with a median of three drinks per encounter. This is sad. Going through the motions of awkward small-talk or holding eye contact — without having to be intoxicated — is a valuable life skill, but it is widely disagreed upon because it’s uncomfortable. Pushing ourselves to reach outside of our comfort zones only allows us to develop new skills and practices, and if we make an effort to get to know each other without being intoxicated, we can bring dating culture back to a more positive place and become genuinely excited to meet new people.
While I understand that some people might not be comfortable with romantic interactions outside the phone because they’re guarded (or lazy), I think it’s exciting to meet new people. I am about as traditional as a Southern girl gets. I love a man who can ask me on a date, open the car door for me, meet my parents as he picks me up at the front door and treat me like a lady. Getting to know someone like this, on a personal level, is fundamental to improving dating culture — it allows us to get to know the person as they really are, rather than as the persona they present online. We have to keep in mind that social media is the highlight reel of someone’s life, and people avoid posting things that make them look bad or bring out their negative qualities. Meeting someone in person allows you to see them as a whole person, including the good and the bad.
Dating is also an individualized process. You like what you like, and that will be different for each and every person. Some people may be more guarded for significant reasons, such as trauma from past relationships or fundamental trust issues, and may not be comfortable with the idea of forcing a date with a classmate. Nonetheless, the underlying message — connecting with your peers — that motivated Cronin’s assignment overpowers these thoughts. Romance or not, there is value in making an effort to get to know your acquaintances.
Although you may not get extra credit for it, ask that cute boy in your CSP to the Green Bean. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone, and get to know someone in person, not through the phone. Improving our dating culture is so important in order to improve society as a whole — the more we get to know the people we interact with every day, the happier our social environment will be. There doesn’t have to be any more awkward eye contact avoidances, unfulfilling Snapchat streaks or extravagant dinner dates; it can all start with a simple smile and wave. Once we get to know each other on a personal level, we can open doors to finding someone who strikes our fancy.
Haley Jones is an undeclared first year. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.