Gen Z vs. Millennials | Differences in Online Dating Habits and Preferences

Gen Z Vs. Millennial Online Dating

As a Gen X-er, I can say with authority that when observing how the shifting landscape of technological advancements has completely transformed how people connect and form relationships, particularly in online dating, we older folk are a little intimidated. We’re not jealous or bitter that we had to meet people IRL before the advent of dating apps, we swear! Ok, maybe a little part of us is jealous.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t thrilled that those who came after us get the benefit of meeting potential partners with the tap of a button! We just wish we’d had the opportunity before our knees started cracking every time we kneel or stand up or when we could get off the couch without making a weird “oooohccc” noise or groaning.

The lucky ones are Gen Z and Millennials–and although they have grown up in different eras, both are more adept with tech in general, leaving their elders in the dust in this area. Although the two gens are close in age, there are certain unique cultural influences, and distinct technological innovations characterize each.

This old-ish Gen X-er will try to explain the interesting parallels in dating app habits and preferences between these two generations, shedding light on how their distinct experiences shape their approaches to modern romance.

Gen Z Vs Millennial

Gen Z vs. Millennials

Gen Z, born anytime between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s, is known as the “digital natives” generation. They’ve grown up around and owning smartphones (have you seen how adept toddlers are when they get hold of a smartphone?), social media, and instant communication; we aren’t sure they know what a landline or an actual answering machine is. Gen Z has always had access to tech, including dating apps–it’s been a constant throughout their lives.

And Millennials, born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, aka the “early adopters” of tech–were around to see the rise of the internet and dating apps as they were growing up. The only difference we see here is that Millennials and Gen Z have varying levels of trust and skill when using dating apps–but Gen Z is pretty proficient.

Appetite for Novelty and Instant Gratification

Gen Z is known for their insatiable appetite for novelty–they crave constant stimulation and instant gratification when it comes to dating apps, which explains why apps like Tinder are the most popular among the younger generation. Swipe-based apps and instant messaging are a siren’s call to Gen Z users–they want dating platforms that offer rapid interactions and tons of matches due to their growing up in the digital world.

Millennials are also seasoned veterans of dating apps, but they have a little more patience and are open to spending the time to build stronger, less superficial connections, migrating toward platforms that offer detailed profiles and more than surface-level interactions (they still love Tinder, tho).

Novelty and instant gratification

Visual vs. Content

Visual-Centric vs. Content-Driven Profiles

If you have a Gen Z’er in your life, you know that social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok have literally shaped Gen Z’s upbringing–unless they didn’t have access to the internet. So it makes perfect sense that they use visuals (pics, memes, etc.) over the written word in their online dating profiles.

Millennials, the older of the two, are more prone to using their words in their dating profiles. They write pretty detailed descriptions of who they are, come with the jokes and witty banter, as well as talk about their values and interests. This divergence in profile preferences underscores the generational gap in their favored methods of expression and communication.

Values and Priorities

Gen Z and Millennials bring their own unique values and priorities to the world of online dating. Characterized by a strong desire for real-ness, those who fall into Generation Z are looking for romantic partners who share their societal and environmental worries–they place a super high value on common principles right up there with the likelihood of creating meaningful connections.

Now Millennials, while also mostly progressive, they tend to approach online dating with a slightly different outlook–let’s say it’s a more realistic one. They focus on compatibility, long-term relationships, and the overall stability of potential partners. This isn’t to say that Millennials don’t value progressive social causes–it’s just not as evident in their search for a romantic match.

Virtual Vs. Real World

Values and Priorities

Virtual vs. Real-World Connections

While both generations engage in online dating, Gen Z’s inclination toward virtual connections is more pronounced. Growing up in an era of online friendships, video chats, and virtual events, Gen Z users are often more comfortable with remote interactions. The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated this trend, pushing online dating deeper into the virtual realm.

Millennials, although comfortable with all things online in terms of communication, seem to prefer in-person interactions and dates–they are just using dating apps as a means to an end;  to find and set up IRL dates.

Impact of Social Movements and Identity Expression

A large portion of the Gen Z population has always been at the forefront of social and cultural movements, constantly advocating for inclusivity, diversity, and equality–this influence definitely extends to their online dating preferences–they’re looking for partners who share their progressive values.

Gen Z dating app users are more likely to prioritize partners supporting LGBTQIA+ rights, racial equality, and many other social justice causes. Millennials, who also value these principles, might approach identity expression and activism differently in online dating–they are still progressive, of course; they are just more subtle about it on a dating app.

Social Movement


Online dating habits are an interesting way to get a rare glimpse at how Gen Z and Millennials differ from each other, especially when it comes to negotiating modern romance. The two generations exhibit contrasting approaches to modern romance, encompassing how they use technology and communication methods, as well as their particular principles and preferences.

Breaking down the data, Gen Z is all about being super tech-savvy and instant gratification, while Millennials were the ones who first jumped on the online dating bandwagon and were all about forming meaningful connections.

The ever-changing dating scene across generations is genuinely compelling, as it offers us important insights into the evolving nature of relationships in the digital age.

Even though there are pretty distinct differences between Gen Z and Millennials, every person born in these eras is unique in their preferences and dating experiences. And dating platforms are not just for the young ‘uns, no sir or ma’am! Everyone should feel welcome and comfortable dating online, and dating apps do a pretty great job of accomplishing this feat–most are designed to be user-friendly and inclusive for people of all generations–even for the Baby Boomers and us Gen X’ers.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.