The single life is sold to us as a time full of life, laughter, fun, and of course… SEX. A time to sow your royal oats (Coming to America reference anybody?) and live it up before you settle down. Many of us follow this pattern on our journey, but instead of happiness we find quite the contrary. For so many, it is a time of self-defeat, seclusion, and distress.
And yet, somehow, the promises of this lifestyle scream so loudly in our culture.
Whether it be in high school, college, or while living the single life thereafter, many fall into this trap. Culturally, it is promoted and in reality it is happening all around singles pulling them in, making the temptation to follow suit tough to overcome. ‘Dating’ apps like Tinder and the internet in general make it extensively easier to hookup with someone. Excessive screen time has created a weird, uneasiness in actually going on a date with someone. For some youth and campuses, hookups are threatening to become more normal than sitting down for coffee or food. And many would argue it is fine, quite normal, just happy young singles being single, having fun. But what if I told you that instead of making us happy, it is actually leading us to depression?
Research is showing that hooking up and casual sex are not making us happy at all, but contributing to young adults struggling with feelings of depression and isolation.
Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, reports, “participants who were not depressed before showed more depressive symptoms and loneliness after engaging in casual sex.” Other studies discussed by Whitbourne detail those “who recently engaged in casual sex reported lower levels of self-esteem, life-satisfaction, and happiness compared to those who had not had casual sex in the past month and… higher distress scores as indicated by levels of depression and anxiety.”
Depression, loneliness, and anxiety… Not exactly what we signed up for when ‘living it up’ and being single and young, huh?
Nonetheless, our culture continues to promote and exalt this culture of hookups. But many of us have felt what the research confirms. We don’t feel good the next morning. We feel broken. We feel alone. As I wrote in one of my poems, “we feel the immediate deformity of conforming to the world’s majority.” We cannot escape it. As loudly as the world screams, it cannot change the reality that as humans we desire intimacy, connection, and real love. Sex is great, but without those more dynamic things it is empty and leaves us empty.
With so many singles roaming the world, being fed the falsehoods and lies of our culture, we have to fight for these truths to be highlighted, whether it be the scientific stats or the personal anecdotes of living through that depressive state. As for me, I never felt joy on those empty mornings after long nights. And for so many others, it is the exact same story. We feel broken. We feel disconnected. We feel ashamed or dirty. In our truest moment afterwards, alone, we feel a sense of displeasure within ourselves. The reward we were promised by living it up is absent. In its place: self-defeat. Somehow though, this reality and narrative is silenced.
We have to make the reality and the negativity that comes with casual sex louder than culture’s Tinder and hookup narrative. A difficult task because unfortunately, culture is loud and culture is constant.
Culture’s narrative will pull us in every direction, promising us the fun, promising us the freedom, promising us the bliss. It will go as far to tell us monogamy or intimacy are boring, impossible endeavors, ones that will lead to an unhappy life, unfulfilled.
The other side is a bit quieter. Reality and human emotion will tell us we long for intimacy and that hookups leave us longing for much more. We long to know another human being on a deeper level. We long for sex with someone we love.
There are two stories being told. Which one are you going to believe? Which narrative do you want to believe?
Does swiping right for hookups lead to happy times.
Does swiping right assist in loneliness and depression.
Which one is true?
It is the latter. Science has identified it. And likely, through experience, you have identified it as well. Let’s not continue to buy this lie the world is selling us.
And maybe… Let’s delete our Tinder app and go have coffee.