Love and its new meaning for Gen Z

By Fabiola Aceves and Danna Miramontes, Feb. 13, 2024

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, the topic of love and relationships found its way to center stage. But it isn’t all hearts and roses, as love is not a topic that is easily defined or easily discussed.

The modern-day idea of love and romance have become a disoriented topic, since social media now plays a part in creating and defining what a relationship is. Social media has introduced lingo like “situationship,” “hard launch,” “soft launch” and “the talking stage.” A “situationship” is often defined as two people who seem to do couple like activities without having the label of a couple. “The talking stage” is also part of that term since it happens when two people are exclusively getting to know each other but without the label of a couple.

“Soft launch” is when a person will subtlety post their significant other on a social media platform without fully revealing the person. “Hard launch” is a public announcement of their relationship with their partner’s full identity shown.

Belem Acuña, a gender, ethnic and multicultural studies student at Cal Poly Pomona believes the idea of a romantic relationship derives from attraction and the willingness to get to know another person.

“A romantic relationship I think, first, is that you are attracted to one another and then from there I think it also ties into personality and if you get along with your partner,” said Acuña. “Love means that you’re willing to be there for someone and get to know everything about them.”

Reflecting on his field of study, CPP psychology professor Alejandro Morales said love is not a popular topic to study. It is studied as a construct with a focus on interpersonal relationships and familial bonds. When considering a scientific approach to the discussion of love, he noted it differs greatly from a psychological point of view.

“Some people don’t realize that when you meet somebody and you’re starting to have feelings for them, your brain is actually releasing this hormone called oxytocin,” Morales said. “And I think that’s why psychologists may have different ways of looking at it.”

Not many young people factor in this hormone when thinking of their relationships and love in general. Instead, some believe it to be a much simpler concept.

“You fall in love because you love that person and they love you back,” said Tori Umeda, a gender, ethnicity and multicultural studies student . “You’re kind to each other, you care about each other and you respect each other.”

Morales also share on some differences he noticed with this generation. Unlike their predecessors, Generation Z does not shy away from seeking what they want from a relationship.

“It’s not like the previous generation didn’t know what they wanted,” he said. “It was like they didn’t know how to say it like there were all these rules and protocols to follow.”

In mentioning these rules and protocols, Morales explained this incentive to be dishonest by foolishly leading someone on or playing hard to get, but Generation Z has made strides in breaking away from those rules and protocols. They are bolder in asking the most important questions about relationships and partnerships.

“I see it with my students,” Morales said. “There’s more conversations about what do they want from each other? What are they? Where do they see this relationship going?”

While there are some complications from the current dating culture that make it difficult for people to find their significant other, trial and error through dating apps allow Gen Z and more specifically college students to be confident in what they are looking for in a relationship.

“On those apps, I realized people are on those for different reasons,” said Acuña. “I would meet different people and what they wanted didn’t align with what I wanted.”

Love today is very different from past generations. Formerly, the standard was to date, marry, start a family and live together until death do you apart.

Past generations inhabited the days where romance and love were a simple concept where the thought of a boy showing up to the window with a boombox in hand like John Cusack’s character in “Say Anything” seemed plausible.

“Back in our grandparents’ time, it was like you get married for survival or to have kids, and then they can have their own kids when they get older,” Umeda said. “There are differences you should actually have a connection with that person.”

Love is complicated to talk about, and complicated to define. It morphs depending on likes and dislikes, but it is something that everyone seeks.

“Everybody wants to feel connected; everybody wants to feel loved,” Morales said. “And I think what you see now is that love is manifested in many different ways.”

Feature image courtesy of Lauren Wong

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