Its that time of year once again. When day becomes longer than night. When brown becomes green. When what’s dead becomes alive. When we open long-shuttered windows. When there is love in the air. It is spring! For the younger among us that means Spring Break; the end of a school year; the hope for an endless summer; and perhaps finding true love. But in their search for that love, traditional courtship has started to look much different. What was once a quest for someone special to spend your life with has turned for many into settling to “hookup” with someone sexually for a single night. Why, and what is this growing trend doing to the psyche of this generation born between 1980 and 2000?
While there is much debate on the exact definition, “hooking-up” is generally understood to be engaging in flirtatious or sexual activity with someone they met casually at a party or event. Most claim later to have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to research published in Science Daily by Amanda Holman and Alan Sillars hooking up may involve anything from kissing to intercourse and high-risk sexual activity; however, it usually involves little or no emotional attachment and rarely evolves into a long-term relationship. The study found that “students who engage in hookups may find encouragement in the belief that the practice is widespread, as suggested by the observed association between self-reported hookups and the estimated hookups for the average student.”
You may think this is nothing new. Perhaps the intent has been there all along but technology is allowing for these connections at a rate never imagined. One of the fastest growing match-making mobile apps is called Tinder. It uses your Facebook profile and the geo-location technology in your phone to give you options to match with anyone that is within a certain distance. According to their website, 50 million active users on Tinder check their accounts eleven times per day and spend an average of ninety minutes per day on the app looking for strangers to meet and hook up with. Perhaps no accident that “tinder” is normally defined as dry, flammable material used for lighting a fire. Lighting a fire indeed.
Boston University religion professor Donna Freitas in her book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled and Confused About Intimacy, said that a “large portion of youths, 41 percent of those surveyed, were not only ambivalent but expressed ‘sadness’ and ‘despair’ about such brief intimate connections.”
Donna found that “the sheer amount of repression and suppression of emotion required for living in the context of hookup culture teaches young adults (or tries to teach them) not to feel at all.” She writes, “In pretending that what happens after dark on campus doesn’t matter, we are failing these young people and fooling ourselves about our roles as educators and parents.”
So what is our role as parents? Maybe you have a son or daughter in their twenties that seem to be constantly surrounded by intimate friends of the opposite sex but have no apparent interest in a long term relationship (LTR). Here are some ideas that might help you navigate the topic.
First, it is important for all of us to remember that we are wired for relationship and engagement. We are a natural outpouring of the relationship found within the triune relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit. We have been chosen and set apart to have a seat at that table. God created us to be in relationship (John 1:10-13). Rather than avoiding relationship we should cherish and celebrate contact with others within the biblical framework that God designed.
Second, we are special and should not settle for any relationship less than that afforded the child of the Creator of the universe. In Psalm 139 we learn that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. We were each knit together to be unique in God’s eyes. He wrote our names on the palm of his hand before we were born (Isaiah 49:16). Why should we ever settle for a relationship where that identity is not respected and cherished?
Third, we should each always be a safe haven for our friends and family to share their thoughts and feelings. Often in the span of a single day we feel a time to weep, and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance (Ecclesiastes 3:4). As a parent and friend, always be a place where those feelings can be shared. Share the good news of a loving God that knows and examines our heart (Jeremiah 17:10; Psalms 139:23). Nothing surprises him.
We each fall victim to a “hook up” mentality when we find our refuge in idols and things of this world. We “hook up” when we seek our identity in anyone or anything other than the single relationship we were designed for in the triune God. He is our refuge; he is our hiding place (Psalm 91:2).