Newsflash to olds: Yes, dating is different now than it was in your day. It was different in your day than it was in your parents’ day too. That is how things work. Communication is especially different, since now we have cellphones and social media — we do indeed use those things to communicate. And yes, changing gender roles mean that women don’t have to sit around waiting to be asked out, and that we get to pick what we order for ourselves off the menu. Certain aspects of dating are more casual, because people date for many more years before getting hitched. We tend to date many more people. We’re more mobile and often live away from our parents, which means we cultivate local “families” in our social circles. We don’t just want to see how well our partners get along with our biological families; we want to see how well they get along with our friends, and if we share the same values and social preferences.
It’s easy to look at that and conclude that because things are different, they’re worse. But I’m not convinced that’s the case. Are some things surely worse for some people? Definitely. Are other aspects of these changes really overwhelmingly positive? Yes. People who delay marriage until they’re in their 30s or later (and, one assumes, end up dating a wider variety of people) tend to have happier and more stable marriages once they do get married.