What do Gen Zs want in love? Authenticity, with a dash of self-care and mental health, Tinder survey finds (TODAY, June 3, 2023)
EMCC Senior Principal Psychotherapist and Executive Director, Mr Joachim Lee, was interviewed for this article. Read his insights into how Gen Zs behave in their romantic relationships and how it affects them.
Journalist: Gladys Wee
Publication name: TODAY
Published June 3, 2023
Updated June 3, 2023
When it comes to dating, Generation Zs — those born between 1998 and 2007 — believe in being “authentic” while prioritising self-care and mental health. And they hope that their prospective partners do the same.
These were among the findings in a recent survey conducted by dating app Tinder.
The study polled 4,000 actively dating singles aged 18 to 25 between Jan 21 and Feb 7, 2023 — and another 4,000 singles aged 33 to 38 over the same period — in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.
It found that most 18- to 25-year-olds value self-care, authenticity, and mental health when when dating, according to a report released by Tinder on May 23.
“Whereas previous generations invested in building a relationship over time, slowly revealing deeper, more meaningful layers, Gen Z doesn’t have time to peel back the onion,” it said.
TODAY spoke to local Gen Zs and mental health professionals to find out if these views hold true in Singapore as well.
SELF-CARE A MUST
The Tinder poll showed that the notion of self-care is widely celebrated amongst Gen Zs.
“This is a cohort that’s prioritising qualities like intentionality and transparency, with self-love and personal fulfilment being a primary consideration,” according to the report.
“It’s no coincidence that 80 per cent of 18- to 25-year-olds agree that their own self care is their top priority when dating and 79 per cent want prospective partners to do the same,” the report said.
“Close to 75 per cent of young singles say they find a match more attractive if they are open to working on their mental well-being,” it added.
When individuals exhibit self-care, Gen Zs in Singapore that TODAY spoke to agreed that it adds towards a healthy romantic relationship.
Mr Donovan Chew, 23, a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergraduate, said he feels sceptical about starting a relationship that deals with his partner’s “emotional baggage”.
Speaking about his experience on a dating app, Mr Chew, who studies at NTU’s School of Social Science, said he initially “vibed well” with his potential match.
However, he was put off when she shared deeply about her insecurities from the start, but it quickly became “excessive trauma dumping because she believed we had a trusting bond”.
“The emotional trauma experienced from past relationships clouded her judgement of her needs, wants and boundaries in a relationship,” he added.
Sometimes, self-care is so important that singlehood is “embraced more these days”, said Mr Seth Tan, 22, a business management undergraduate at Singapore Management University (SMU).
“They want the full package (for themselves), it’s seldom that Gen Zs settle easily.”
Agreeing, NTU undergraduate Caleb Cheam, 24, added that for their own self-care, Gen Zs are also “more picky and sometimes have idealistic standards for romantic partners”.
For the data Science and artificial Intelligence student, self-care also means “doing your best in school and working out” and “be able to survive whether your partner is present or not”.
Ms Hannah Sim, 21, a sociology undergraduate at National University of Singapore said that self-care “is a big part of the narrative of romanticising being by yourself, glamourised on TikTok especially”.
Examples of this include going to the spa, taking yourself out on a date and treating yourself, she added.
Dr Annabelle Chow, a clinical psychologist at Annabelle Psychology, said that Gen Zs are more aware and deliberate in recognising the importance of self-care.
“Self-care is seen to be in the front and centre, and they organise their lives around these considerations. Gen Zs also verbalise and act on self-care more than in other generations.
“Although not mutually exclusive, perhaps Gen Zs are influenced by Western values of self-care where self-care is contrasted against the needs of the collective. This might create tension in Singapore, where we have to weigh the needs of the many against individual wants,” she added.
ACCEPT ME FOR ME
Tinder’s survey also found that 64 per cent of young singles are comfortable with and welcome embarrassing and awkward situations if they are in service of being “authentic”.
This means that a potential match should be comfortable communicating love and affection, and being assertive about how they express their unique quirks, the report stated.
Gen Zs feel that this is an intrinsic part of being sincere and a fundamental element of building trust with a partner, it added.
For respondents aged 18 to 25, 86 per cent said that a major “green flag” for them was feeling comfortable being themselves with their date.
The Gen Zs who spoke to TODAY echoed similar views about social media that normalises being vocal and unapologetic about one’s differences and unfiltered day to day life, even if it may be unconventional.
Ms Sim brought up the example of more Gen Zs having “Finsta or spam accounts” on social media and posting “dumps” — referring to random compilations of unedited pictures — as a means “to post what really matters and is representatives of their true selves”.
Additionally, Gen Zs place importance on crafting an “idiosyncratic bio” in dating apps that is “specially representative” of themselves, and that makes them stand out from others, Ms Sim added.
Meanwhile, the survey stated that more than half of millennials polled agreed that dating is “healthier for 18- to 25-year-olds today than it was when they were the same age”.
“In fact, three in four 33- to 38-year-olds (73 per cent) agreed that dating games — like playing hard to get, giving mixed signals, playing the field — were all accepted as ‘normal’ when they were between 18-25 years old”, the report said.
Mr Chase Lim, 27, who is studying software engineering at SMU, agreed that it is healthier to date now because Gen Zs prioritise their personal happiness and are not weighed down by social expectations.
On the other hand, millennials might have faced pressure from more traditional parents to settle down quickly, resulting in them “prioritising to meet these milestones even if it compromises some personal happiness”.
GEN Zs WORK ON THEIR MENTAL HEALTH
The Tinder survey also noted that “mental health is a top priority for young singles”.
Thirty-nine per cent of respondents aged 18-25 named working on personal growth and well-being as their top priority, the report stated.
“They’re working to be confident about who they are so they can feel like their best selves and when thinking about their goals in the next three to five years,” it added.
Mr Joachim Lee, 55, a senior principal psychotherapist at Eagles Mediation & Counselling Centre, told TODAY that Gen Zs have no qualms about directly speaking their minds in communicating their emotional needs.
“They are able to set boundaries, they don’t play games and are quick to cut off toxic relationships,” he said of his experience with Gen Zs.
Some are willing to ask their parents along for therapy to “bridge the generation gap, so that they can understand Gen Z struggles”, Mr Lee added.
Ms Sweedy Ngiam, a psychologist at Talk Your Heart Out, added that Gen Zs go for therapy to work on themselves to become better partners.
“Gen Zs do want to work through deep seated personal struggles that might come out during the course of their relationships,” she said.
Dr Chow, the clinical psychologist, also noted that Gen Zs are “generally unashamed and even comfortable about the fact that they have a mental health condition or scars or pride themselves for being different”.
“A common theme I see with my (Gen Z) patients is that, they feel less alone when others are willing to share, understand, and relate with their personal struggles,” she added.