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Gen Z desire social causes – not travel – when looking for love

Millennials want to march up Machu Picchu with a love interest. Gen Zers want to march in a climate change protest with a partner.

That’s the quick takeaway from Tinder’s 2019 annual dating report.

Gen Z — those born in 1997 and later — not only make up the majority of the dating app’s user community, but they also romantically bond over changing the world, a major about-face from the previous generation.

Social causes were the top-trending terms between January and November 2019 among those aged 18 to 25 — the most racially and ethnically diverse generation of Americans to date — according to conversations and activity compiled by the global in-app. Millennials, by contrast, were three times more likely to tout travel than causes.

“Gen Z has really come of age at a time of heightened awareness around social and environmental causes,” Jason Dorsey, author of “Zconomy,” a book on Gen Z, told Cashay. “And it's part of how they're selecting colleges, how they're selecting employers where they want to spend money and so forth.”

Social causes like climate change were the top-trending terms among Gen Zers on Tinder, the dating app. (Photo: REUTERS/Pierre Albouy)
Social causes like climate change were the top-trending terms among Gen Zers on Tinder, the dating app. (Photo: REUTERS/Pierre Albouy)

‘Volatile’ world

As polarization further divides the country, building a relationship — platonic or romantic — with someone who agrees with you can bring modicum of comfort, Kimberly Seltzer, a dating expert and therapist, told Cashay.

“Look at how political and volatile the world is ... global warming, all these things are instilling fear in [Gen Z],” she said. “I think they're looking for a sense of security. And the world doesn't have a lot [of security] right now.”

Climate change, social justice, environment, and gun control topped Tinder’s list of causes that Gen Z was most interested in. But their passion may be more of a reflection of the digital world that has become a home for young people to share their beliefs, Dorsey said.

“There seems to be this idea that they can engage around social causes with a much lower barrier to entry,” he said. “Instead of having to actually show up to the protest or swipe a credit card to make a donation or attend a rally, they can immediately engage through social media in particular, and through apps.”

Will Gen Z ‘show up’ in the 2020 election?

For the first time in a U.S. presidential election year, one in 10 eligible voters will be members of Gen Z, according to Pew Research. How the generation’s passion for causes will translate to the polls is unclear.

Simply getting Gen Zers to the polls on election day might be a challenge for these nascent voters, Dorsey said.

“The barrier to physically driving or commuting or getting to a voting location in states where you have to appear in person to vote ... is extremely intimidating,” Dorsey said.

As polarization further divides the country, building a relationship —platonic or romantic — with someone who agrees with you can bring modicum of comfort, said Kimberly Seltzer, a dating expert and therapist. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
As polarization further divides the country, building a relationship —platonic or romantic — with someone who agrees with you can bring modicum of comfort, said Kimberly Seltzer, a dating expert and therapist. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

At some polling locations across the country, voters must contend with long lines, campaigners, exit pollsters, gruff election volunteers, and news crews that can sour the experience. Verifying your identity, following the ballot’s wordy questions, and casting your vote also isn’t a seamless experience.

“We're unsure if this step of this civic engagement for Gen Z is going to happen, but we absolutely believe that if it does, they're going to vote in alignment with the social causes,” Dorsey said. “We just don't know yet if they're going to show up.”

‘If you're not with us, you're against us’

Swiping left — Tinder lingo for declining a potential match — on someone’s profile because of their views further exacerbates the polarization and deep divides Gen Zers are hoping to escape. Eliminating or filtering those who disagree with you erases the possibility of healthy debate and discourse.

“We need to have young people be able to have civil disagreements and civil conversations with those who have viewpoints that happened to be different than theirs,” Dorsey said.

It’s possible to disagree with someone in a civil way and become or remain friends.

“The unfortunate part is that that is not being modeled now by the older generation,” Dorsey said. “Making things as binary as ‘if you're not with us, you're against us,’ I think does it, in the long run, doesn't get us where we want to be.”

Stephanie is a reporter for Cashay. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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