How Did Single People Feel 40 Years Ago Compared to Today? This Video Might Surprise You

Maybe Tinder hasn’t changed the lives of single people as much as we thought.
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Maybe Tinder hasn’t changed the lives of single people as much as we thought.

These days, we're pretty quick to blame the Internet for a lot—our dating challenges ranking especially high on that list. But a new video project from the New Yorker is a testament to the fact that the Internet really hasn't made being single today that different. Specifically, the video suggests that despite digital connectivity, singles today have almost the exact same fears, emotions, and ideals as our parents did when they were single decades ago. 

Video producer Sky Dylan-Robbins of the New Yorker decided to take a video that her mother, Ellie Dylan, produced for ABC in 1979 called "Single City Slickers" and contrast it to today's modern dating world. Both Dylan and Dylan-Robbins were 27, single, and living in the vast metropolis of New York City at the time they did their respective filming. What Dylan-Robbins' video proves is that technology may have changed, but our feelings have remained. 

The video from 1979 says point-blank: "To almost everybody, falling in love and finding the happily ever after is the ultimate—the best!" The video from today says there are more than 120 million singles in the world. So, what are the things we all have in common with not only each other but also the single love-seekers of our parents' days? Let's take a look.

01. We All Want Someone 

Then: "You hope to meet somebody; you really do. It's very disappointing when you go to these places and you see you're all dressed up for nothing."

Now: "I wonder if I'm going to be single forever. I just want to find that person."

These quotes from the video reveal that singles across the decades relate to the fear that they might not find that certain someone, and this is perhaps the most enduring emotion singles experience. But dwelling in the unknown of what lies ahead can make us crazy. As A. Nicole Poole wrote for Verily, "The best thing I ever did for myself was to put to rest the idea that my life has to be about finding my soul mate and getting married." Once she accepted that, her life felt less like a race and more like a Sunday afternoon drive along the scenic route. And who wouldn't prefer that view?

02. The Pressure Is Real

Then: "My mother wants me to get married so bad. She's always pushing me."

Now: "I just don't want a white picket fence."

Whether the pressure is from your parents directly or is a passive pressure you experience because a lot of your friends are settling down, single people have to contend with outside influences constantly. Today, the image of a traditional couple has changed a bit, but the idea that marriage puts you a leg up on the universal "success" scale is still there. When Maria Walley wrote about "The Five Lies Twentysomethings Need to Stop Believing" for Verily, she brazenly said, "If your self-worth is riding on success, you’ll be left questioning your life when that crashes—which it will." When it comes to love, the same certainty applies. Singles would do well to let themselves off the hook. Let go of all the shoulds, and focus on yourself. That's the only thing you have control over right now—and always.

03. Putting Yourself Out There Is Hard

Then: "I'm your basic coward. I can't just go up and ask for their number."

Now: "I think everyone is scared to go up to each other."

No one ever said finding Mr. or Mrs. Right was easy. Sure, some people seem to have a storybook romance, but as one of the women in the 1979 video said, "The fairy tale of this whole thing just does not exist." Yes, that's a bit pessimistic, but it's also how a lot of people feel. If you find it especially hard to brave a random swarm of people, try relying on your friends to help you. Mary Claire Lagroue shared some of her best dating tips passed on from her mother with Verily. One of them was to use your social circle to your advantage. "Don’t be afraid to ask your friends to play matchmaker," Lagroue wrote. "Trust their discretion, and accept setups with grace." If you're definitely not one to strike up conversations with strangers, this tip will serve you well. 

04. Work Seriously Gets in the Way

Then: "I now devote all my energy to the job." 

Now: "Work is nonstop . . . so it's hard to go out and date."

We like to think of work–life balance as a problem more acute for our generation. But the writing is on the wall, and the video shows that, especially in New York City, work has interfered with dating for decades. If getting married, however, is equally as important to you (or more so even) than establishing your career, you can't let work dictate everything about your life. This is why hobbies are the single person's best friend. Sandy Lim wrote for Verily: "When work gets busy and stressful, it’s often tempting to disengage, unwind, and become a passenger in your own life independent of others. Sure, it’s vital to switch off every now and then. But equally important is making time for your passions and not feeling bad about it." Schedule in time each week to pursue a hobby. You'll feel more in control of your life and schedule, and you just might meet someone at a group class or activity who—bonus!—has the same interests as you. 

05. Superficiality Can Be Defeating

Then: "Being single and meeting new people . . . it's all done on a much more superficial level."

Now: "It's like that MTV show, the Next show. It's like getting on and off the next bus all the time."

In this new-age jungle of Tinder and every other not-so-personal way to meet people, singles feel like they're suffering. But as this video proves, the sometimes disingenuous nature of dating isn't entirely the Internet's fault. Forging connections is hard! We know this to be true no matter what the circumstance. But as Verily cofounder Kara Eschbach pointed out, there are ways to up your chances of finding (and maintaining) something good in the future. As she wrote, "Those women who had the most together married lives didn’t magically transform after marriage. They worked really hard to be that way while they were still single." Heed this advice, and spend your single years bettering yourself so that you're ready should that fateful meeting happen.

Things have certainly evolved for the dating among us, but it's true that a lot of how we feel deep down about finding someone is similar to how our parents felt. That's not to say singles are stuck in a rut but rather that anyone who wants to find love should take comfort in knowing they aren't alone. 

Photo Credit: Shannon Lee Miller