• Wed, Mar 16 2011

Is Facebook Destroying 20-Somethings’ Sex Lives?

Fun fact: no one I know is on coke right now that I can see. Also fun fact: everyone I know having sex is in a monogamous relationship.

So, half of those facts go along with Nate Freeman’s piece on “Sexless and the City: Web Warps Libido Of Coked Up Careerists.”

If you haven’t heard, 20-somethings aren’t having one night stands anymore. Rather than breakfast we’re now having a few lines at Tiffany’s and then going home so we can get up at 6 to log on to Facebook before going back to work.

Up until now I’ve always attributed this to my friends’ general lameness. And my general lameness. Because I’ve watched TV shows from, say, 1982 and everyone is having sex. With everyone. In a way that always makes me wonder “how? How did they manage that?’ Meanwhile, when I’m not in a relationship my weekday schedule consists of the following: go to TheGloss office. Eat. Leave TheGloss office. Go to a post-work networking thing OR go to pilates OR go for a run. Shower. Go home. Eat. Work on freelance projects. Watch an episode of 30 Rock on Project Free TV/whatever is on AMC. Call my mother. Read for half an hour. Go to sleep.

This is all I do.

I’m quite happy.

It’s because I’m so lame it would frighten you.

I’m 24, and a little worried that my lifestyle is the norm. A little worried and a lot excited! Maybe it’s not just me being totally lame. Maybe it’s all of us being in this together because Facebook and Twitter ruined everything! Or…did they really ruin it? What exactly did they ruin? And what did we get in return?

According to the Observer:

The platonic cliques spend all day tweeting at each other, forming exclusive @-reply feeds that appear only to them, and at night flock to the same bars, clubs and after-parties. It’s harder to go home with someone knowing that you’ll be seeing their avatar the next morning and every morning after that…Sex is antithetical to the way they socialize, disruptive to the larger plan, a gateway to chaos in a digitally ordered world.

I’m loathe to say this applies to all 20-somethings, but things do seem to have changed since 1982. But I know that back there, somewhere, there was a period of socially acceptable one-night stands. To use Larkin and Zuckerberg as a vague pinpoints, let’s say it lasted from 1963 until 2003.

What happened in 2003? Facebook.

More interesting question: what happened in 1963? The march in Birmingham, Alabama, the assassination of Kennedy, Beatlemania, The Feminine Mystique,  The Kinks, the beginning, in short, of counter-culture, and the end of the idealization of small town America. Traditional judgements began to fall by the wayside. People started hitting the road (though it was published in 1957). They left the small, watchful towns of their birth and struck out to make it in the big city free from the puritanical judgements of bygone days.

And for a while, there was anonymity. There were no Peyton Place type neighbors to check in to see who you were dallying with, because it became accepted that you might be dallying with someone. Though, providing you didn’t go around posting pictures of your conquests outside your apartment door, and you were at least somewhat subtle, no one needed to know exactly who or how or when.

You’d think that the AIDs epidemic would have halted things in the 80′s and 90′s, but anyone who has read Candace Bushnell’s early work or Bret Easton Ellis’s or Jay McInerney knows that it didn’t.

Though it may have been slightly less wild and crazy than the world depicted by Jackie Susann.

A few weeks ago I was talking about Jackie Susann novels with a fairly glamorously friend of mine, who, back in the day, might have fit the mold for one of Susann’s characters. If you’re not familiar Susann’s novels (which feature more female masochists than you’ll find in DeSade) they chronicle beautiful, 20-something women bed hopping their way through Manhattan while popping prescription pills. During the late 60′s and early ’70s, when they were written, it all seemed very liberated. These days, not so much. “They’re just so sad,” said my friend, “it’s so odd to think that anyone lived like that. They just seem so lonely. I mean, you keep wondering, where was their community? Wasn’t anyone watching out for them?”

In Susann’s world, the female characters could “ball studs” they met at a party while high on acid and never hear about it again. These days the pictures would be up on Facebook before 6:00 the next morning, and the stud would want to confirm you as a friend on LinkedIn. And sure, your friends wouldn’t morally judge you for sleeping with someone. But you can be certain you’ll have 10 odd comments on your Facebook wall either making fun of you or asking you for specifics. Hooking up with a near stranger just isn’t worth the inquisition likely to follow.

And we want this. No one is forcing any 20-somethings to buy into Facebook or the myriad of other social networking sites we log onto with frightening regularity (I check Facebook at least 5 times a day – how else would I know what everyone I’ve ever met is doing?). Perhaps in response to that brief period where there was no one watching out for us, we’ve created a world where everyone we’ve ever seen at a party is watching out for us.

It’s not that we’re close to our Facebook friends, exactly. But we’ve created a community where near-strangers can fill the role that used to be taken by nosy 1950′s-style neighbors. For all politicians have raved about a return to small-town decency and morality, it seemingly took a socially awkward, hoodied kid from Harvard to make it happen. On Facebook, 20-somethings have re-established small towns for ourselves. And people are behaving accordingly.

Oh, except for the drugs. I guess no one cares about the drugs.

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  • Eileen

    I had a drunken one-night-stand a year ago, and my friends STILL tease me about it.

    That said, one of my housemates regularly goes “soulmating,” which loosely translates to “gets men to buy her drinks at bars and then picks one to go home with.” (this is generally done in tandem with a female friend)

    Actually, now that I think about it, most of my friends have had at least one or two casual hookups that I know about (me included). I don’t know how far everyone’s going, but it does happen.

  • colette

    I wonder how many of us are alive today because of this delightful little trend in the 60′s-80′s. Maybe we’re just more cautious… I have yet to hear about facebook resulting in a money- draining, sleep-depriving lifelong commitment. Unless you count the whole The Social Network thing

  • G

    I am 24, and equally as lame. I thought it was just me until me and my friends had a similar conversation and then I read this article. I don’t know whether to be comforted or disappointed.

  • Leah

    I have chills – I think my life may be a carbon copy of your’s Jennifer. We could very well be the same person living in a parallel universe. My daily schedule is exactly the same, but I go to my own office job and I do yoga, not pilates (but I know I should). I am also 24. I never thought I was lame though, I thought I was being responsible! But I guess that’s the point…

    • Jennifer Wright

      You know, it’s easy to say that we’re lame because it’s hard to be like “yeah, I’m housebound! Like a rock star!” but I really don’t feel like I’m missing out. Does anyone still want to be a Jackie Susann character? Or a sex and the city girl? Doesn’t it feel like that whole way of being has just gotten kind of old? As a society we’ve been there, done that.

  • Lindsay Cross

    “Sexless in the City”…. Really? That’s the best he could come up with, a tired play on an obnoxiously over-referenced TV show? There had to be a better alternative. Or he should’ve just used the last bit about Libido and Coke.

  • Mae

    I kept trying to have casual hookups in my early twenties, but they kept turning into long-term relationships. The only people judging me or commenting on the “casual” part were from older generations. Now I’m 26 and married. Not where I thought I’d be a few years ago, and a far cry from my idealistic teen years. Sexual liberation is awesome, but a lot of the rampant promiscuity that dominated previous decades just seems irresponsible now.

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  • O Nose

    Wow. Now I feel like a whore.

  • Daily Sinner

    It’s easy to say we’re destroying morality and decency, but those are nothing more than intangible ideas invented by puritanical dicks who wanted to control morons. So, what actual damage have we done here? I suddenly feel like a huge fucking pussy.