Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 22, 2024

How dating expectations change in college

By CLAIRE BEAVER | February 14, 2019


The act of dating is complicated, to put it lightly. To text or not to text. To Snapchat or not to Snapchat. To wait a certain amount of time before responding to the text so you seem like you’re not on your phone 24/7 and have a very cool life or to not. These decisions feel monumental in the moment, creating a pressure that other generations just don’t understand.

Everyone has different experiences with “dating in college,” and yes, many consider it a much different art form than “dating in real life.” As one leaves behind their high school lover for something more mature, we seem to almost digress. How can a simple text message make us feel so wanted or unwanted? I myself have spent undisclosed amounts of time checking my phone and have seen my friends do the same.

Looking back on times that I’ve felt stress and excitement over sending a goddamn text message seems ridiculous, but this shared experience is what makes “dating in college” so interesting. Other people just don’t do that. 

Sure, people will send a text to make plans or say something quick, but the long-form conversation seems to be exclusive to college students. I would bet that almost everyone you know can relate to the feeling of waiting, of finally asking that one person you’ve kind of been texting to hang out, of hoping to pass them in Brody and giving the coy kind of smile saved for someone you have barely spoken to in real life (yet).

Though I can dream of curating the perfect Instagram and a clever yet not over-thought bio, I know that I am someone who is better in person. I am too easily overwhelmed by my online image and who might look at it and what they might think of me, so I have recently tried to step away from social media. I believe doing so has helped me in my relationships, both platonic and not-so-platonic. 

Everybody knows that when you’re waiting for a text or a Snapchat, minutes can feel like excruciatingly long hours. But something amazing that I’ve recently discovered is that when you’re talking to someone you care about in real life, hours can feel like minutes. I recently sat at a cafe for three hours, assuming it had been only 30 minutes, because I was actually engaged and not looking at my phone every five minutes. The cool part is that there’s no need to check your phone obsessively when you’re actually with the person, or people, you want to talk to.

To me, expectations are dumb, especially in regard to dating. How can everyone expect the same thing, the same flirting form, to work with every new relationship or “friends with benefits” or “thing,” whatever the fuck that means? Hopkins is an environment rife with anxiety as it is, why add to it by forcing yourself to conform to friends’ methods and what you think you need to do?

Something I hear often at Hopkins is that “everyone here sucks.” Which is just an absolutely insane thing to say and definitely something I’ve uttered, but I’ve come to find out that it isn’t true. Sure, there are people who suck, and I’m sure many people classify me in that category, but what your mother said was true — when you stop looking, you’ll find someone you genuinely like.

Discussing dating pressure can’t be done without including that dash of peer pressure. College essentially requires us to compare ourselves to that couple that met freshman year in the AMRs and have been dating ever since, as well as to that cool friend who goes on Tinder dates and has a new beau whenever they want. Discussing our love lives is all fun and games until you realize the last time you had sex was over a year ago or not at all or yesterday, and somehow every answer seems wrong. 

The pressure to conform to what your friends are doing is so aggressive in college because you live on top of everyone you know and get close to people so quickly. This setting is great for getting to know people rapidly and bad for jumping into things you might not be ready for. 

The fact that college kids are pressured to date, hookup or do whatever their friends are doing is enough to overwhelm anyone and can make it too easy to fall into something you wish you hadn’t. Dating in college isn’t necessary, contrary to how it may seem.

In my attempt to avoid turning this article into unsolicited advice about love and sex in college relationships, all I can really say is stop checking your phone every second. Or don’t. Just do what feels good for you, and if those Snapchats are stressing you out, delete the app.

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