This Is Why Young People's Love Stories Matter


Young people don't know how to date. They don't understand true intimacy. They are emotionally immature.

Or so the narrative goes. The reality, of course, is anything but. Not only are college students and 20-somethings more than capable of establishing intimate romantic relationships, but our experiences of dating, marriage and every kind of relationship in between offer a unique lens into how 2015 — a time of 24/7 communication, long-distance love, digital connections — is impacting us all. 

In short, young people's stories of love and connection are worth listening to. That's what makes platforms like the New York Times' Modern Love column so powerful. The newspaper announced Thursday the start of its third college Modern Love contest, in which college students submit their own stories that illustrate the current state of love and relationships. The winning writer receives $1,000 and the essay gets published in a special Modern Love column.

Like all good personal stories, Modern Love essays capture what many sense or feel but struggle to articulate themselves. In 2008, when the contest began, the most common theme was the rising "hookup culture" at the time: "How do we get the physical without the emotional?" Three years later, Modern Love's editor Daniel Jones noted in the New York Times, the common sentiment was the inverse narrative: "How do we get the emotional without the physical?"

These are universal questions that every human being, not just those in college, face. But through their fresh and honest perspectives on sex and love, they are ones young people are perfectly poised to answer.

There aren't clear answers to such questions, of course. That's why Modern Love essays, not to mention countless novels, movies and articles on the subject of love, exist. 

"Writing about love can be similar to falling in love," Jones writes. "In that we must be as vulnerable on the page as we are in person when revealing ourselves to someone we hope will love us back. That means exposing our flaws and weaknesses and trusting we will be seen as more appealing, not less, for having done so."

And, if that writing resonates, it means giving others the words to articulate something they're feeling too.