Ask any single person on social media about dating and they’d likely say that 2023 was the year of the “ick.”
The term, which was first popularized on the U.K. reality show “Love Island” in 2017, refers to little things that turn people off. Its widespread use, alongside other dating terminology like “situationship,” which means an undefined romantic or sexual relationship, and “red flags,” or relationship warning signs, were pervasive across social media this year.
Many daters have said they feel like the current state of dating is hopeless, sharing their horror stories and embarrassing moments online in videos that quickly go viral. But dating experts — several of whom have built large followings as creators across social media platforms — say expectations are changing, and many singles are already taking steps toward creating better dating lives.
For years, people seemed to accept the lack of clarity among their fellow singles, enduring situationships that didn’t fulfill their romantic needs and ghosting, or disappearing on a partner with no warning. Daters have been “normalizing this bad behavior and just calling it dating,” said Tiff Baira, a dating creator, matchmaker and host of the social media series “Street Hearts,” which pairs singles on blind dates.
Now, she said, “we’re admitting that we want love again, that we’re not too busy for love and that we are at least taking steps to hopefully turn this narrative of dating into a more positive one."
While dating apps have allowed people to easily connect for over a decade, singles have been growing tired of them over the past few years. Some dating experts say that is because the apps can also overwhelm people.
“It gives this complex of like, the grass is always greener on the other side,” said Baira. “There’s like a million different options, but you don’t really know what you want.”
Instagram’s 2024 Trend Talk report, which surveyed Gen Z users in partnership with trend forecasting company WGSN, revealed that 63% of Gen Z users are “as single as ever” and their priority for the new year is “strengthening my current relationships,” indicating that young adults are focusing on themselves. Eharmony’s trend report for dating in 2024 found that 47% of Gen Z singles made “dating intentionally” a goal.
The biggest trend in dating will be “putting the phone down and finding love in the real world, no matter how messy it is,” according to Baira.
In hopes of finding better luck, dating experts said that singles are also looking toward alternative methods of meeting people, especially in real life.
Social media shows that revolve around dating have received an uptick of interested participants, including Baira’s show. Comedian Stef Dag, who hosts social media brand Overheard's show “Hot and Single,” also said she's received a lot of applications from people who are earnestly looking for the one.
“The majority of people are genuinely seeking help or hoping this could lead to anything or bring in a new energy into their dating life,” Dag said of the applicant pool for "Hot and Single."
The show, which has over 269,000 TikTok followers and 109,000 Instagram followers, features Dag flirtatiously interviewing single people and inviting viewers to “shoot their shot” with them.
Baira has a waitlist of people who want to go on “Street Hearts,” a show from content studio Fallen Media, which shows her using her matchmaking expertise to connect strangers on a blind date.
In episodes of “Street Hearts,” which has over 239,000 TikTok followers and 111,000 Instagram followers, Baira facilitates a date, asks messy questions about the daters’ compatibility and polls them to see if they want to see each other again.
Many also continue to turn to matchmaking services and singles parties to find potential partners. Even dating apps, Baira said, are recognizing users’ desire to connect more in person, and have sponsored singles events and meetups.
While people are trying to form better dating habits, the most important part of dating is like the age-old adage says: “You can’t love someone unless you love yourself first.”
When people allow themselves to date without clear intentions, it can create a lot of miscommunication. A lot of people have such full lives that they don’t prioritize dating, but they still go on dates, Dag said. This can lead to aimless dating.
“Everyone just has no real intention behind why they’re going on dates or why they’re hooking up and so it’s just a lot of misfires between people,” Dag said.
Lyss Boss, a Spotify podcast creator and host of “Date Yourself Instead,” which has over 408,000 Instagram followers, said that she’s noticed an uptick in self-dating content on social media. She thinks that people are increasingly embracing self-love before getting into relationships.
With her show, she aims to teach her listeners to prioritize self-love in order to form more fulfilling relationships moving forward.
The idea of “dating yourself” means a person should “create a deeper bond with yourself so you can show up in your relationships in a better way,” Boss said. It does not mean swearing off dating and resigning to be “single and miserable” forever.
“When you actually know what it’s like to really value yourself and shift the focus on yourself all the time, you weed out so much of the garbage and you’re able to actually date more intentionally and know what’s right for you,” Boss said.
Ilana Dunn, a former Hinge employee and host of the podcast “Seeing Other People,” which has over 52,000 Instagram followers, said that it’s important for daters to clearly communicate what they’re looking for.
“Don’t be afraid to ask what someone is looking for,” Dunn said. “Because you’d rather know that on day one than date five or date 10. And if you asking somebody what they’re looking for, quote unquote, scares them away, then they weren’t looking for the same things anyway.”