Millennials and Gen-Z grew up post the commercialization of the internet and came of age during the peak of the growth of social media. Therefore, has social media influenced the dating and dalliance of young people in a town of supposedly “Victorian” values?
Joshua, 21, who grew up in a traditional and very Catholic household identifies as bisexual, reflects on his days as a schoolboy, “Growing up and figuring out one’s sexuality is a daunting experience. I wish our schools were more open-minded with discussing matters related to sex and sexuality as it goes a long way in helping a person understand themselves.”
Joshua struggled to come to terms with his sexuality and dated women until recently when he started hooking up with men on Grindr. “Unlike with women, there are lesser strings attached,” he says.
He doesn’t think his bisexuality is that huge a deal. “If the Pope (Francis) says he is in no place to judge a person because of their sexuality1, then I think we can all learn something about being self-righteous.”
Megan, 18 who is dating her boyfriend she met on social media, observes similarly. She says that though dating is accepted, it’s however expected to only be a courtship. “The popularity of the church has increased the stigma that comes to premarital sex, so it becomes a taboo,” she adds. “We also should not judge a person as promiscuous because they engage in sex.”
“It is an unprecedented time in the history of human sexuality,” remarks Daewon Nongrem, a teacher of psychology in a city high school. “Today’s media suggest that uncommitted sex or hook-ups can be physically and emotionally enjoyable and occur without “strings” because it sells.”
The growth of social media has ushered in irrevocable changes – the way we communicate, learn and even shop has transformed. But, perhaps, it has been more pervasive in matters of dating and relationships.
Tinder, one of the most popular dating apps with more than 37 million users, reported a spike in the number of users during the periods of lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic. According to statistics from Tinder, daily conversations have been up an average of 20 percent around the world. In India, conversations have been up an average of 39 percent and the average length of conversations is 28 percent longer.
Social media is no longer just a platform to communicate with friends and family. But also, an increasingly important platform where people seek and base their romantic relationships. As per a study by the Pew Research Centre, 59 percent of social media users say the platform makes them feel more connected with what is going on in their significant other’s life. It is interesting, however, to point out that social media use is different for men and women. In a paper by psychologists Muscanell and Guadagno, they found that young adult men will engage in achievement orientated activities like internet games, whereas young adult women would concentrate on communication and inter-personal relationships.2
Have social media and dating apps influenced young people in Shillong to be more sexually active? Roney Lyndem, a clinical psychologist based in the city opines, “Active sex life has always been the case especially with young adults even before, but it just feels more active with today’s generation as it is out in the open.” He says, “The exposure however has taken away the importance of sex to a person and has made it into an activity without understanding the baggage that comes with it.”
Garnet, 23, who is in a clandestine relationship says, “I haven’t told my parents about my boyfriend, but I am also not engaging in sex,” she adds. “Premarital sex is not a taboo, but being single or a virgin is. I really wish staying a virgin was normalised.”
“Values like chastity until marriage are declining”, says a priest who chose to remain anonymous. “The onslaught of technology and pornography has changed the lifestyles of young people. I really hope they understand what they are getting into.”
Rev. Kyrsoibor Pyrtuh differs.
“The clergy here (in Shillong) are still stuck in the Victorian way of seeing things especially on dating, marriage, and sex,” he says. “Premarital or casual sex is detrimental in economic terms only if it leads to pregnancy at a young age where partners would be unable to financially support themselves.”
Though people are talking about sex openly and seem accommodative, it is not the same for everyone. For example, Garnet and Kordor, 17, who choose to remain virgins say they sometimes feel pressured and embarrassed about their chastity.
Jo, 21, who identifies as queer and was assigned female at birth says they are not represented in our conversations about sex. “Sex is not only about straight people” adds Daphi, 20, “It’s ironic that we say we are progressive and talk about sex but discriminate against the LGBTQ.”
The erasure of sexual minorities is not the only problem when it comes to our discourse on sex in Shillong. As per the data collected by Half and One, consent emerged as a glaring issue. 18 percent of the interviewees stated that they’ve experienced non-consensual advances. Therefore, it reiterates the need that discourses on sex should also be coupled with the teaching of consent. As Roney Lyndem states, “there is a need for age-appropriate sex education at all levels, from schooling up to pre-marital and post-marital counselling”.
“A skirt is not an invitation,” Jane, 25, a victim of sexual abuse adds to the discussion. “Remember that consent is important.”
1 BBC World News,“Pope Francis indicates support for same-sex civil unions”, 21-10-20
2 Muscanell and Guadagno, “Make new friends or keep the old: Gender and personality differences in social networking use”, 2012.
Data depicted by the piechart may not be absolutely representativen as a limited class size of urban residents was studied.
Author: Joel Kyndiah
Joel B Kyndiah is an Editorial and Marketing Intern. He is also Lead Coordinator of Fridays For Future Meghalaya, a youth-led environmental campaign advocating for intersectional climate justice, and an aspiring lawyer and academic.