Friends with Detriments

An+illustration+depicts+two+students+who+like+each+other+exchanging+texts+on+social+media.

Illllustrated by Raisa Effress

An illustration depicts two students who like each other exchanging texts on social media.

Iona Lee

It had been three weeks since Doug* and his girlfriend of two months broke up. Doug said he felt nostalgic and upset over his breakup and decided to download Tinder to find a rebound that would distract him from confronting his sadness. As he scrolled through Tinder, swiping left and right on various possible dates, he said he came across a freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Doug said he was looking for someone to have a temporary sexual relationship with after his breakup.

“Post-breakup times are hard,” Doug said. “I wanted to hook up with someone. That was all. You don’t go on [Tinder] for relationships. That’s pretty obvious.”

Though he was seeking a hookup, Doug said he does not enjoy relationships that are devoid of emotion.

“I don’t even like hooking up with people [that much],” Doug said. “That was not a focal point in my past relationships. There’s no point in it, as I don’t get that much gratification from [flings]. I just wanted to have the feeling of someone being there for me. The problem is that if you’re just hooking up with someone, it’s completely temporary and there’s no emotional connection to it.”

Students reflect on relationships and commitment.

Unlike Doug, Chiara Neirick ’23 said she appreciates short-term interactions and low-commitment relationships as they seem more practical for her situation. Neirick said she doesn’t want to feel constrained by relationship labels.

“I don’t see the need to put an inordinate amount of time and effort into a relationship given that I am a senior and [a relationship] is probably not going to work out in the long run,” Neirick said. “I’m going to be graduating soon, so I am definitely more hesitant to fully commit to one person. Also, as a woman, I feel that I shouldn’t have to commit myself to just one guy.”

Although Neirick prefers in-person interactions, she said she uses Snapchat as a means of contacting different people.

“The ‘roster’ is a phrase that my friends refer to as a best friends list with a lineup of guys that are at your beck and call,” Neirick said. “I guess social media almost propagates this idea that you don’t have to be focused on one person and that you could be talking to many different people at once. Personally, though, I would generally prefer to meet a guy in person first. Then, maybe he’ll ask for my Snap, and we will communicate that way.”

Neirick said she finds it difficult to be a woman and maintain her same levels of devotion without retribution or backlash.

“People who prefer non-exclusive relationships get a stereotype that they are hoeing around or just give themselves up,” Neirick said. “I don’t think that is true at all. There’s definitely a negative connotation that comes with that, especially being a woman and not a man.”

Jaclyn Wang ’24 said gender stereotypes should not be an obstacle to forming new connections.

“When making the first move, presumably, girls expect guys to initiate,” Wang said. “I think a lot of girls miss out because they are waiting for a guy to make the move. This perpetuates the gender role of the guy having to wear the pants in the relationship. However, I don’t think this affects me. It’s just an inefficient use of time. If a girl likes a guy and is too scared to say it or thinks the guy should say it at first, it’s just a waste of time and is not beneficial to anyone.”

After entering a possible relationship, Wang said she recognizes a difference between dating and being in a fully committed relationship.

“There’s a difference between dating and being boyfriend and girlfriend,” Wang said. “With dating, you go on dates and are considering each other. If you have an official label, I think it means that you’re committed to staying faithful and are dedicating yourself to the other person and to the relationship itself, which means maintaining the healthiness and getting past problems and solving things.”

Like Wang, Chris Weng ’24 said he does not care for binding titles and is happy in a relationship as long as it is exclusive.

“I’m not too particular with having a specific title or anything like that defining,” Weng said. “Whatever you can agree on [with your partner] is fine, but it does have to be exclusive. I’m not someone who would ever consider a polyamorous relationship, so if I’m in a relationship, it’s got to be committed. How serious and deep the relationship will be is something that you decide with your partner, so that may vary a bit.”

Weng said he feels that relationships should be kept more private and does not enjoy talking about them with others.

“I think its important to set boundaries,” Weng said. “I like to keep [the details of my relationship] more private because I just feel like it’s something for you and your partner to know and for other people to not. People can know your relationship exists or if you’re hanging out, but the private interactions you have outside of school is not something that really belongs out in the open. I prefer to keep my relationships at school as separate from my [social life] as possible.”

Students discuss the retributions of social media in relationships.

Wang said public relationships may be harmful and a drawback of dating is the way it is portrayed on social media platforms as people often feel pressured to get into an official relationship.

“People post and flex their romantic relationships,” Wang said. “It’s good to share but also puts a picture of what an ideal relationship should look like in someone’s head. When people date, they think about this ideal, and being with [the person they like]. It won’t actually live up to their expectations and they will always feel let down. This perpetuates a fantasy in everyone’s head. In reality, couples fight even though that doesn’t exist on social media. This doesn’t affect me now, but I think that if I were 30 years old and single, I’d probably cry myself to sleep.”

In a Chronicle Poll, 94 out of 163 people agreed that social media impacted their relationships. However, Hope Hsieh ’23, who has been dating her boyfriend Grady Ramberg ‘24 for 6 months, said she is not bothered by social media couples as she feels content and satisfied with her relationship with Ramberg.

“I feel pretty secure in my relationships when I’m in them,” Hsieh said. “For me, I don’t feel it’s damaging to look up to a couple [on social media]. I understand that [social media couples] can be damaging because of this idea of a perfect couple. Sometimes, that’s not possible for some people.”

Hsieh said being secretive about a relationship is a sign of insecurity.

“There’s no need to hide a relationship because it seems like it’s a secret or that there is an insecurity element to it,” Hsieh said. “That is not always the case, but that’s how I would feel if that were the case for me. I’ve only ever been in long-term relationships, so I am pretty used to being open about it.”

Students ponder their unconventional relationships.

Hsieh said she is open to being flexible with the boundaries of her relationship.

“I’m largely flexible in relationships,” Hsieh said. “As long as I feel certain needs are being met, I’m okay with whatever the relationship entails. If I’m in a relationship, that doesn’t mean it always has to be exclusive. I’m in a relationship with that person either way. The difference doesn’t matter as much to me.”

Like Hsieh, Nick Barner ’24 said he is open to conventional relationships, but he is ultimately hesitant to commit to a real relationship. Barner said he prefers to develop relationships slowly.

“I’m not really a fan of big relationships,” Barner said. “It’s not something I openly go out and search for. I think that if it happens, it happens. I feel that when you go out searching for [a relationship], you make bad decisions and commit too early to something that does not have the best outcomes. It’s better to just take it slow and keep your options open.”

Though Barner said he usually doesn’t commit to people, he did have a possibility to connect with a girl he met over social media further than a hookup. However, Barner said she was in college, which made it difficult for him to pursue her without lying about his age.

“There was one girl I was hanging out with a lot, maybe five or six times,” Barner said. “It was becoming more of a thing, [and I thought] it’s possible to have a relationship here. I almost did, but I remembered that I [had to] slow down because I’m 15.”

Paul Song ’24, who said he has been in committed relationships before, said a romantic partner should act as a best friend in order to create a fully comfortable relationship.

“First of all, you have to be more than just friends and be comfortable with doing couple stuff,” Song said. “If you’re in a relationship, then the other person should be like your best friend so that you guys are always comfortable sharing what’s on your mind. Communication is really important.”

*Name has been changed

**Name has been changed