‘Hardballing’: How young people are getting what they want from online dating
A new trend of being explicit about what you are looking for from the moment of joining a dating app is taking hold thanks to Gen Z users
Many of us these days use dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid to meet people for various purposes. It has revolutionized the dating world, but one of the problems with apps is how easy it is to lie. Indeed, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Communication, almost two-thirds of the lies that appear in dating profiles are about the person’s appearance and/or their availability (e.g. whether they are single or in a relationship already).
Enter “hardballing:” the new trend of being explicit about what you are looking for from the moment of joining a dating app.
Gen Z on the apps
This change in dating app user discourse is attributed to Generation Z – young adults aged 18 to 25. More than half of the users of Tinder, for example, are people in this age group, many of whom joined the network while confined to their homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, looking for contact with others even if it was only online.
These users tend to have a more honest and sincere way of relating to one another on apps, which has given way to the notion of hardballing, in which the user writes honestly about what they are looking for in a relationship, such as a temporary hook-up or a long-term relationship. This is preferably also expressed before meeting in person so as not to waste anyone’s time.
In this, Gen Z users can be distinguished from millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996, according to the Pew Research Center), who seem to prefer to “ghost” if they find they are not interested in a person. Gen Zs, by contrast, like to get straight to the point from the beginning, to avoid disappointments and false expectations.
“The first thing you ask is, what are you looking for?” explains Beatriz, 21. “If it’s not the same as me, I pass on that profile straight away. That way, you don’t waste time, and you don’t end up getting tired of talking to people who don’t want the same thing as you.”
The honest generation
The advantages of saying what you’re looking for up front seem obvious. So why did Gen Z have to arrive in the world of dating apps to prove it?
Sexologist and sex education expert Raquel Graña tells EL PAÍS that young people are simply being educated differently from past generations. Gen Z has “more awareness of what a healthy relationship is,” she explains. Further, they are more aware of the advantages of “going to therapy, being transparent and communicating properly.”
This generation are also digital natives, who have made their own rules for interacting and forming relationships online, says Graña. “In the sex education classes I teach, college students especially will tell you they flirt through Instagram interactions, mainly through reacting to stories, giving likes, etcetera,” she adds.
The question is whether sincerity on networks is just a trend or really a change of model that will eventually take hold. “I’m confident that it will and that we will all put it into practice. Those of us who have social networks and dedicate ourselves to therapy place a lot of emphasis on this, because it influences us enormously,” the psychologist adds.
So is being sincere on the apps just a trend, or does it represent a major change in communication in online dating that will take hold completely?
Graña says yes, especially among people of all ages who are undertaking therapy for self-awareness and to improve their happiness in life. “I’m confident that we will all put it into practice.”
Killing connection with ‘sincericide’?
Communication skills are key to successful hardballing, as sincerity can be as hurtful as a lie if it is poorly expressed. Psychologist Enrique Vázquez Oria says that honest communication still needs to be empathic and sensitive to the other person.
To avoid “sincericide,” hardballing needs to be practiced in an assertive and empathetic manner: express your emotions, be pleasant, don’t be too hasty or excessive. In other words, successful hardballing is not just about being honest but about practicing it in a way that yields positive results.
The best relationships, says Vázquez, are those that “simmer,” which do not reveal absolutely everything at the beginning. Dating app users can show “care and tact” in the first chats and meetings online, without lying, but also without being so direct that “the necessary rite of seduction between people” who are looking for some form of intimacy cannot take place.
The expert reminds would-be hardballers that being patient and calm is just as key as being honest about what we are looking for with another person. We are “just that, people, with our strengths and weaknesses,” he says, as, most likely, is the person “on the other side of the screen.”