50 Ways Dating Has Changed In The 2010s
When the 2010s began, I was 14, a freshman in high school, and a recent recipient of my very first dance floor makeout (DFMO). My mother had just granted me permission to make a Facebook account, and I immediately friended and poked the guy I liked. After that, I'd BBM my friends about my crush while listening to my iTunes Store Top 10 until I fell asleep. Little did I know, almost everything I thought I understood about dating would change during the 2010s.
As the decade comes to a close, finding your perfect match looks more like swiping until your finger cramps than working up the courage to say “hi” to that hottie in chem class. Making a mixtape for your new flame means curating one on Spotify, not burning a playlist onto a CD. And the question, "What are we?" has become a more common than asking someone to go steady. Between the rise of social media, the explosion of dating apps, and dynamic cultural and political changes, this past decade, the world has witnessed a huge shift in the way people date.
Curious about the evolution of love, lust, and like? Elite Daily put together a list of all the ways dating has changed since 2010 that'll hit you with a pang of nostalgia, a hint of embarrassment, and a good, wholesome dose of the feels.
The widespread popularity of Facebook (the company reported 500 million users in July 2010) changed the landscape of dating forever. Not only did the social network have the ability to reunite old flames through its "recommended friends" feature and bring together new people through Facebook Events and Groups, it also led to new phenomena. "Facebook-stalking" became a moniker for researching your date, venting about your toxic relationship or annoying ex without naming names became known as "Vaguebooking," and becoming "Facebook Official" was the ultimate milestone of any serious relationship. In 2019, the platform even launched Facebook Dating.
The 2010s marked the decade of the "YouTube Couple" — high-profile partners who documented their relationships in scrupulous detail, vlogging everything from their engagements to their heart-wrenching breakups. In 2012, YouTubers Zoella and Alfie Deyes went public with their romance; in 2018, prolific YouTubers Liza Koshy and David Dobrik announced their split in a viral video that amassed over 50 million views; and in 2019, Tana Mongeau and Jake Paul struck a deal with MTV to livestream their wedding. All the while, their fans tuned in and followed along.
Launched in 2007 and popularized throughout the 2010s, Tumblr's microblogging and social networking community created a unique opportunity for self-expression and creative fantasy. Users posted anonymous odes to the object(s) of their affections and curated the erotic mood-boards of their wildest imaginations. In fact, when Tumblr announced in 2018 that it would remove "explicit posts from public view,” including any media that portrayed sex acts, exposed genitals, and “‘female-presenting' nipples," the site faced severe backlash from its audience. Within four months, Tumblr's traffic dropped nearly 30%, according to web analytics firm SimilarWeb.
4. Online Dating
Before Tinder changed dating forever — more on that later — internet-dwellers used online dating sites to find love on the world wide web. In addition to platforms like Match and eHarmony, DateMySchool, a site founded in 2010 by Columbia MBA students allowed college peers to match with each other, paving the way for younger people to embrace digital meet-cutes. As more and more online dating success stories began to emerge, the 2010s became the decade that digital meet-cutes grew less taboo.
2010 was the year Twitter got huge, with nearly 50 million tweets posted per day. The microblogging platform not only was home to the popularization of hashtags, but facilitated "tweet-cutes" for members of different communities with shared interests from all over the world. Additionally, the platform gave birth to the "subtweet," a message that subliminally hints at a person without mentioning them outright.
Netflix-produced original content officially hit the site in 2013 with the premiere of House of Cards. Similar streaming sites, such as Hulu, HBOGO, and Amazon Prime Video, all followed suit. Thus began the streaming age, in which couples would share passwords and have to deal with eventually being logged out post-breakup. But perhaps the site’s most iconic contribution to the evolution of dating is the act of "Netflix and Chill" — a popular euphemism for casual sex.
Ask.FM is an anonymous question-and-answer platform founded in 2010 in Riga, Latvia that allows users to ask each other questions about their crushes, former flames, and sexual history. In 2013, Ask.FM had 65 million registered users and was growing by approximately 300,000 new profiles each day. However, the site came under fire that same year because of a link to teenage cyberbullying and suicide. Ask.FM employed a number of moderators to patrol the site.
Chatroulette, a site that pairs random users via webcam from all around the world, was created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student, from his childhood bedroom in Russia. In February 2010, three months later, 35,000 people were on Chatroulette at any given time. In March 2010, Ternovskiy estimated the site to have around 1.5 million users. The New York Times called the site "intensely addictive," but warned against the algorithm's inability to censor nudity and lewd behavior. In fact, the majority of the time, users ended up screen-swapping with a plain old penis — according to a 2010 study conducted by RJMetrics, one out of eight spins would yield a masturbating man. But many a love story began on Chatroulette, a site uniquely positioned to bring unlikely parties face-to-face.
9. Dating Apps
No doubt about it: The 2010s were the decade of the dating app explosion. Tinder launched in 2012, followed by Hinge in 2012, Bumble in 2014, and many, many more. The dating app craze normalized using technology to meet people, and were particularly game-changing for queer people and people living with disabilities. While there has been some debate about whether or not being plugged into digital dating 24/7 can lead to burnout, due to the larger pool of potential partners and the ability to pick and choose dates from the comfort of your couch, dating has never been more fun.
Where would the world be without Instagram? The photo-sharing app was launched in 2010, and gained rapid popularity: 1 million users were registered in two months, 10 million in a year, and 1 billion as of May 2019. On the dating frontier, the app took on a life of its own, inspiring users to Instagram-stalk their crushes until they were ready to slide into someone's DMs. Once they were officially together, they'd become "Instagram Official" by posting a photo to their grid (until, that is, "Close Friends" came along), and once they began snapping photos of each other, they earned the title of "Instagram Boyfriend" (regardless of their gender). Instagram also blew up the virality of proposals, even inspiring couples to create wedding hashtags so their guests and followers could track the experience. Oh, and don't even get me started on finstas.
Originally released in 2011, Snapchat was intended as a platform that would allow users to send pictures and messages that were only available for a short period of time — in other words, the perfect landscape for sexting. But Snapchat shaped the dating world in other ways — its Stories feature, which predates Instagram’s, was the first platform on which users could "Gatsby" their crushes. Exchanging Snapchat handles and "Snap flirting" became a primary way for Gen Z to start relationships. And the invention of Snap Maps made tracking your crushes' whereabouts even more commonplace, especially on college campuses.
Released in June 2010, FaceTime is a proprietary videotelephony product developed by Apple which allows iPhone users to video-chat each other using their phones. The app has made long-distance relationships more accessible by allowing users to take their significant others on the go with them, simulating an in-person experience.
13. Yik Yak
Launched in 2013, Yik Yak gave users space to anonymously communicate with people nearby. Based entirely on GPS location, Yik Yakers were able to write, respond, and vote messages up or down. The app became a platform for anonymous confessionals, especially for users in smaller communities like college campuses. If you had a crush on someone in your Medieval History class, you could anonymously profess your feelings. Similarly, if two friends were rumored to have hooked up, Yik Yak was the place to anonymously leak it. However, the app received criticism in 2017 because of its potential to contribute to cyberbullying.
14. Ride-Sharing Apps
Uber launched in 2009, officially starting a chain reaction of ride-sharing apps like Lyft, Via, Juno, and Gett. The apps make traveling to a one-night stand or a FWB more accessible. Additionally, the apps have the propensity for bringing people who would have otherwise never crossed paths: Many couples have reported finding love in a Lyft Line or Uber Pool.
Venmo, the mobile payment service app owned by PayPal, was founded in 2009. By 2018, the app reported handling $12 billion in transactions. Known for its user-friendly features and its social media feed-like design, the app also allows you to watch the payment transactions of others. Venmo has not only made it easier for couples to split costs in real time. It's worth noting 21% of divorces are caused by money-related disagreements, but it has also made stalking your crush's or your ex's expenses accessible. (Why is Lexi sending Jake the shell emoji every Monday at 3:00 PM?)
As of October 2019, Spotify reports having 248 million monthly active users. The music streaming service has dominated the industry, outperforming online music retailers, like iTunes, and competitors, like Soundcloud, Apple Music, and Tidal. Additionally, Spotify has changed the game when it comes to sharing music with your crush. Instead of making them a mixtape or burning a playlist onto a CD, you can now make the object of your affection a customized playlist, and share it with them virtually.
17. Find My Friends
Find My Friends, the location-sharing app, launched in 2011, as a safety precaution for iPhone users. Similarly to Snapchat's Snap Map feature, it also has a secondary function: It allows users to keep tabs on those close to them, including their partners. In fact, Find My Friends contributed to many a cheating scandal over the last decade, but has been folded into a new app, Find My, as of 2019.
TikTok, a video-sharing app designed by ByteDance, has taken Gen Z by storm. Although initially released in 2016, the app became the most downloaded in the United States a mere two years later. As of December 2019, the app has 500 million users and counting, and has contributed to many dating challenge trends, including but not limited to "No Nut November," "I Can Take Your Man," "I Kissed A Girl and I Liked It," and "Clown Check."
No, texting wasn't created in the 2010s, but it did get a lot more complicated. The Atlantic dubbed the 2010s "The Drunk-Text Decade," forever designating "u up?" a horny hookup battlecry. Apple's introduction of read receipts led to the phenomenon of "having receipts" (i.e., having screenshots of texts), and being "left on read" (having a message read with no response). On the risqué end, sexting got a revamp with the new cult-favorite slogan, "send nudes." And on a more wholesome note, regular ol’ flirting got an upgrade as well: The 2010s were the decade of sending your crush memes and GIFs that summarize your feelings when words simply fail.
At the start of the decade, "What's your pin?" was basically synonymous with, "What's your number?" Founded in 2005, BBM was the original "mobile-first" messaging service. But by the end of the decade, the Blackberry feature had been beat out by its competitors, announcing in April 2019 that the company would discontinue the BBM for consumer service globally. As of May 2019, the feature was pronounced "dead." RIP, BBM-flirting with my high school crush.
In 2010, the launch of the iPhone 4 introduced Apple's first front-facing camera to the world and ignited the spark that began the decade's selfie revolution, with apps like Instagram and Snapchat contributing heavily to its popularity. The invention sparked many pop cultural phenomena, including the Chainsmokers' hit single "#SELFIE" ("But first, let me take a selfie" might ring a few bells), ABC's 2014 TV show Selfie, and the popularization of the selfie stick. Most notably in the dating world, the creation of selfies led to the introduction of "thirst traps," much to the delight of horny f*ckbois everywhere.
Although the term was first logged into Urban Dictionary in 2006 in the context of digital interactions, the term didn't enter the cultural zeitgeist until 2014, when writer Hannah VanderPoel created a parody music video called “Ghoster’s Paradise" on YouTube. The phenomenon was later popularized through a string of celebrity relationships (see: Charlize Theron and Sean Penn). In layman's terms, when you've been seeing someone and they stop communicating with you out of the blue (refusing to answer your calls, texts, and DMs), you know you've been ghosted. The 2010s were full of heated debate over the ethics of ghosting, with some defending the trend as the easiest way to exit casual relationships and others denouncing it as rude.
The earliest Urban Dictionary definition for breadcrumbing was entered in 2010 as "the act of sending out flirtatious, but non-committal text messages (i.e. 'breadcrumbs').” But as social media and technology evolved throughout the decade, breadcrumbing surpassed misleading text messages by incorporating sliding into the DMs and sending a Snapchat every so often — just enough to leave you hungry for more.
Named for the epic parties Gatsby threw to catch Daisy's attention in The Great Gatsby, Gatsbying was coined in 2018 by model Matilda Dods, who described the dating trend as "posting a video, picture or selfie to public social media purely for a love interest to see." The phenomenon exploits the performative nature of features like Snapchat and Instagram Story, which allow users to post intimate moments to attract mass audiences, then track who tunes in.
Orbiting first graced the internet in the form of a YouTube video in 2017 as a sibling to ghosting, but was defined in its current form in a 2018 Man Repeller article by Anna Iovine as being “close enough to see each other; far enough to never talk.” Orbiting refers to the experience of being watched on social media by a crush, a flame, or an ex. Instead of contacting you directly, the user "orbits" you by watching your Instagram Stories, liking your pictures, and retweeting your jokes. The term perfectly captures the painful experience of living in digital limbo. Very cool!
Although the concept of catfishing has been around for decades, the modern term originated from the 2010 documentary Catfish, which explored the reasons why people use fraudulent identities to build connections with online users and went on to become a hit series on MTV. As online dating evolved into the explosion of dating apps throughout the 2010s, catfishing continued to be a problem during the digital age.
The earliest Urban Dictionary entry on the subject was written in 2015 and defines a F*ck Boy (also known as “f*ckboi” or “f*ccboi”) as "a guy with the body of a man and the mind of a perverted teenager. He has no heart — just a penis that he uses to paint the town." In essence, a f*ckboi is the 2010s’ take on the word "player," and is an amalgamation of misogyny, privilege, and a "basic b*tch."
28. Friends With Benefits
Although the concept of friends with benefits (FWB) predates the 2010s — the earliest Urban Dictionary for the term was entered in 2002 — the decade saw a revival of the slang through the production of two concurrent movies: 2011's Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached. The phrase can be defined as two single friends who have casual sex with each other, without any intention of starting a relationship.
The term "ship" was first coined in 1995 by fans of The X-Files (to describe their love for Mulder and Scully), derived from "relationship." It has been long used by fandoms (notably Daria and Harry Potter) but was reclaimed over the past decade when millennials shipped Robsten (Kristen Stewart and Rob Pattinson) and Larry Stylinson (One Direction's Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson). Now, Gen Z-ers are asking their Instagram followers, "Who do you ship me with?”
Big Dick Energy (BDE) was first coined in June of 2018 by Twitter user @imbobswaget, who used the term to eulogize Anthony Bourdain. The tweet went viral, and just weeks later, when Ariana Grande tweeted that her then-fiancé Pete Davidson's penis was about 10-inches long, user @babyvietcong clapped back. "Pete davidson is 6’3 with dark circles, exudes big dick energy, looks evil but apparently is an angel, and loves his girl publicly the only thing wrong w him is that he’s a scorpio but anyway.....id married him within a month too," they wrote. BDE has since been defined by Urban Dictionary as, "Subtle, sexy confidence; confidence without cockiness.” In other words, the aura of having a big penis.
Trends That Defined The Decade
31. Casual Relationships
There's no doubt about it: The 2010s were the decade of playing it cool, with everyone vaguely asking, "What are we?" With your next hookup a swipe away and Instagram and Snapchat providing you with 24/7 FOMO, relationships were presumed casual unless otherwise discussed through a “DTR” conversation. The past decade was obsessed with the shift away from traditional relationships and toward less structured connections that were all about living in the moment.
32. Galentine's Day
Celebrated on February 13, the day before Valentine's Day, Galentine's Day was coined in 2010 by Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation and is a holiday dedicated to the love you share with your lady and femme-identifying friends. Galentine's Day is now a widely-recognized holiday and beloved tradition.
33. Sharing Pronouns
Sharing your gender pronouns became a more widespread practice this decade. For trans and non-binary people, sharing pronouns in Instagram bios, on dating apps, in email signatures, and when meeting new people became a way to avoid being misgendered in conversation and subsequent dysphoria. And for allies, sharing pronouns helped to normalize the practice so the burden doesn't fall on the queer community. “They” was even named Merriam Webster Dictionary’s 2019 word of the year.
In 2014, when Nicki Minaj's released her ass-centric single "Anaconda," and Kim Kardashian "broke the internet" on the cover of Paper by baring it all, it became official: This was the decade of the butt. Women ran to surgically enhance their booties, with 227,000 Americans between the ages of 13-19 receiving cosmetic surgery in 2018. But let's be clear — the Kardashians did not invent big butts. The family’s collective aesthetic effectively appropriated black bodies, according to The Washington Post. “Why does a black butt only look good in white skin?” journalist Yomi Adegoke asked. Finally, according insights from PornHub, between the years of 2009 to 2015, search inquiries for anal sex videos went up by 120%. There's no ifs, ands, or butts about it — the last decade was full of American assteria.
35. Mainstream BDSM
The kink community also made its way into the mainstream over the last decade, with songs like Rihanna's 2011 banger "S&M," which featured lyrics like, "chains and whips excite me," and the E.L. James' 2011 book and movie trilogy, 50 Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Freed, and Fifty Shades Darker. Suddenly, discussing bondage and safe words over iced matcha with your friends didn’t seem so taboo.
What NPR dubbed "the new sexual revolution" unfolded over the course of the last decade: According to a 2017 survey of 8,700 single adults in the United States, more than 1 in 5 people have engaged in consensual non-monogamy at some point in their lives. Additionally, in a 2014 survey, 4-5% of Americans reported being polyamorous.
37. Advances In Sex Tech
According to The Guardian, as of 2018, sex tech is a $300 billion industry that's growing 30% each year. The 2010s witnessed a new wave in female pleasure-centered sex toys, like Dame's 2017 clitoral vibrator Eva II and Unbound's 2018 vibe Bean. Both are further proof that sex tech isn't just working hard — it’s working toward closing the orgasm gap.
38. Cuffing Season
In 2017, Collins Dictionary put "cuffing season" on its shortlist for word of the year — and for good reason. Ever since rapper Fabolous released the song “Cuffin Season” in 2013, the slang term has been synonymous with the trend of settling down during the colder months. And there's some truth to the phenomenon: According to a 2018 Elite Daily study of 119 participants ages 18 to 38, the best month to start a relationship is October — 60% of participants said they've met their partner between Oct. 1 and Feb. 14, and of those people, 48% said they met their partner during October.
39. Hookup Culture
According to a 2012 study published by the American Psychological Association (APA) titled "Sexual Hookup Culture: A Review," 80% of college students reported engaging in casual sex outside of relationships. Hookups defined the 2010s, with dozens of potential matches available at your fingertips, and ride-sharing apps making travel more accessible. Hollywood even glamorized the trend through shows like 2011’s Girls and 2016’s Fleabag. But while the 2010s was indeed the decade of destigmatizing hookup culture, it also asked a pertinent question: Do people really enjoy it?
40. Reclaiming Slut
It all started with 2011's SlutWalk in Toronto, Ontario, during which 3,000 women dressed in revealing clothing, proudly decrying that they "dressed like sluts." The purpose of the movement was to protest slut-shaming, a topic which further sparked conversation when Emily Wolfe published a controversial 2013 essay in Slate titled, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk,” around victim-blaming which led to a debate over the reclamation of the word "slut."
41. Rise Of The IUD
A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that between 2002 and 2017, IUD use increased from 2% to 14% of women who use birth control, and the number of American women taking oral contraceptives had dropped to 22%. Additionally, a 2018 survey of 2,000 women by Cosmopolitan reported that 25% of participants had an IUD or were considering getting one. From copper to hormonal, this decade saw the rise of the IUD.
42. Single Self-Care
Do you remember that scene in 2001’s Legally Blonde, when Elle sampled Godiva chocolates while wallowing to a rom-com alone in her dorm room after Warner broke her heart? Yeah, that's not single self-care looked like in the last decade. The 2010s witnessed a shift to wellness, whether that meant downloading a meditation apps like Headspace, doing a face mask while drawing a bath, deleting dating apps, taking care of plants, buying a new set of crystals, and setting positive intentions. This was the decade of celebrating and bettering your personhood, not your partnership.
43. Queer Visibility
The 2010s also observed a rise in queer visibility in pop culture, including shows like 2013's Orange is the New Black’s casting of Laverne Cox, a trans woman of color, and the overwhelming popularity of 2009's RuPaul's Drag Race, which brought drag culture into the mainstream. By the end of the decade, America had been blessed with revivals of Queer Eye and The L Word, non-binary representation on shows like Netflix's The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and the Politician, Hulu's The Bisexual, and more.
44. STIs Spike
According to a 2019 report by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the United States reported syphilis and gonorrhea cases at an all-time high since 1991. Additionally, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are disproportionately affecting young people, with the CDC estimating that Americans ages 15 to 24 account for half of the 20 million new STIs that occur in the United States each year. This makes sense: Only 13 states require sex ed to be medically accurate, contributing to the misinformation about sexual health.
From looking up your crush's chart so you can calculate your astrological compatibility to figuring out how your zodiac sign factors into your approach to sex, dating, and relationships, the 2010s were the decade of looking to the stars. With apps like Co-Star and The Pattern making astrological analysis more accessible and horoscopes getting a glam update from Instagram astrologers, love has never felt more celestial.
46. Reproductive Healthcare Attacks
As of 2019, the President Donald Trump’s administration’s revisions to Title IX have not only caused hundreds of reproductive health clinics to shut down due to the loss of federal funding, but also forced Planned Parenthood to leave the federal family-planning program, leaving 1.6 million patients who received coverage through Title X without care. According to a 2019 study conducted by Power To Decide, there are currently 19.5 million American women living in contraceptive deserts, and of these women, 1.6 million are living without access to a single health center.
47. Sex Workers' Rights
Trump's 2018 FOSTA/SESTA anti-sex trafficking legislation, which makes it easier for the government to monitor social media platforms, impacted Backpage, a website sex workers used to protect themselves. This forced many sex workers back onto the streets and into dangerous conditions, and led to a larger conversation around the fight for decriminalization of sex work in the United States, which has become a topic for debate amongst the Democratic candidates in the 2020 election.
48. Legalization Of Gay Marriage
In June 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in favor of nullifying all state bans on same-sex marriage, effectively legalizing the practice in all 50 states. Additionally SCOTUS required states to honor out-of-state same-sex marriage licenses, an issue debated in the 2015 case, Obergefell v. Hodges. In the 2010s, the world witnessed love winning.
49. Trans Rights Threatened
Although President Obama ended the ban on transgender service in the U.S. military in 2016, President Trump announced his initiative to reimpose it in 2017 with a tweet, defying years of military research. In 2019, the U.S. Department of Education repealed protections for trans students, the Trump administration threatened to define "transgendered" out of existence, and the Supreme Court debated whether civil rights law extends to trans workplace protections. And throughout the decade, lawmakers debated the trans “bathroom bills,” which would allow people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify, instead of the one they were assigned at birth.
50. The Decade Of Consent
The 2010s were the decade of consent education and sexual assault awareness. In 2014, Columbia University student Emma Sulkowicz made headlines for her performance arts piece titled, “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight),” in which she carried around her mattress in protest of being allegedly raped in her dorm room by a student who was not held accountable by the university. Just weeks later, California passed its affirmative consent law, “Yes Means Yes,” sparking a conversation about the meaning of active consent. In 2017, the groundbreaking New York Times exposé about Harvey Weinstein led to the resurgence of the #MeToo movement, a call to action started years prior by activist Tarana Burke, revolutionizing the discourse around what constitutes sexual misconduct. And in 2018, Christine Blasey Ford testified in front of SCOTUS, accusing then-Supreme Court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, a rebel yell for survivors everywhere, which facilitated a larger conversation around the reporting process. This debate has had an enormous effect on college campuses, where many students are actively discussing consent, though sometimes out of fear of being “#MeToo’d.”