A recent study has revealed adults are having less sex than 20 years ago, according to data collected from 26,600 participants in the US General Social Survey. Could it really be true? Are Gen Y actually giving up on sex?Have millennials swapped making out for mucking about on their mobiles? And are social media, dating apps and the like to blame?

Time to check the facts of life

The research team from Florida Atlantic University, San Diego State University and Widener University found that adults, on average, were having sex seven fewer times annually in the early 2010s compared to the early 1990s, and nine times fewer compared to the late 1990s.

As the saying goes, there’s an app for everything nowadays. Could this increased use of technology provide some clues to diminishing, err, drives? Let’s speak to Elisa Mclean, a transformational dating coach and intuitive life coach who knows a thing or two about dating apps, through her day job as CEO and founder of queekd, a new dating comparison website. “Used in the right way, dating apps and social media allow us to communicate quickly and easily with friends, gives us access to a huge database of singles and facilitates city, cross-country and even transatlantic connections, which previously wasn’t easily obtainable. The problem is that used in an unconscious manner, problems will inevitably occur.” she comments.

How so, Elisa? “We now use technology to do everything, including dating, and despite it being lots of fun, we’ve recently seen a downward spiral in the communication of men and women and the quality of dating today. Excessive use of technology, especially social media, has created an introverted, unconfident Britain. As well as a number of other reasons, including a projected image of a highly materialistic perfect world across the media, people nowadays feel deeply insecure on a conscious and subconscious level. This has led to people misrepresenting themselves online, adopting a false judgement towards the opposite sex, which has resulted in a sea of mixed communication and lots of unsuccessful dates.” she adds.

Not so cool Britannia after all then

Perhaps not, however it’s not all doom and gloom. Relationship coach Samuel McCrohan reminds us of the positive benefits of having access to all this technology: “Back in the early 2000s when I first started on my path to becoming a relationship coach, social media websites were in their infancy, matchmaking websites were reserved for the romantically estranged, and mobile dating apps simply didn’t exist! Since then, all three have become not only commonplace but also socially acceptable. The positive effect is that the barrier for entry with regards to dating is now far lower: those lacking confidence, opportunity or the will to actively improve their attractive qualities can still meet people easily.

“Overall, I think dating apps and websites are a fantastic supplement to a healthy social life, but should never become a full replacement for one. There are certain areas of attraction and communication that they can never fully replicate: the use of body language, real-time conversational skills and vocal tonality; being comfortable with physical touch; and perhaps most important, the chance to be judged primarily by your personality rather than physical appearance or bio. For those reasons, learning to meet and attract people in real life will always have an advantage over virtual dating mediums, and those doing so will still have as much success as they would have had ten years ago.” he advises.

No, you put the phone down first…

James Preece, aka The Dating Guru and celebrity dating coach, agrees that the rise of social media, along with dating apps, has made it much easier to have a ‘virtual relationship’. “While we would have previously met up with partners or friends, many people are instead choosing to talk via their phones instead. This is partly due to working long hours but also down to the sheer convenience. More and more people are also having long-distance relationships as social media and Skype have made this process smoother. They do meet up, just not as often, so while couples aren’t necessarily having as much sex, I would say the sex they have is more meaningful when it does take place.” he comments.

Face to face, cheek to cheek

Ever seen someone across a crowded tube, never to clap eyes on them again? The happn app makes sure that never happens again (Ed’s note: sorry). Next time you bump into your one true love, if they’re a fellow happn member, they’ll pop up on your timeline. Thévi de Coninck of happn explains why the IRL* aspect of dating is crucial to making things happn (Ed’s note: we’ll stop now): “With happn, everything starts in real life. The technology just offers you a tool to connect with others people around you. Then, if you want to make things happen, to flirt, to date, to share moments … you definitely need to meet in real life. This ‘virtual’ conversation will never replace a real one.”

Use it well, use it wisely

Dating and makeover expert, Kimberly Seltzer agrees that social media will always play second fiddle to real-life interactions: “Social media has affected dating in positive and negative ways. There are benefits to being able to use social media for quick introductions, networking through friends and increasing the amount of people you have access to. The negative effects I see with my clients relate to people getting jealous, stalking exes, comparing themselves to friends and virtual ‘cheating’ with others. Also, as a dating and image expert and therapist, I’ve been noticing a huge decline in the way people relate to one another. When people use social media to communicate, it can cause a lot of misinterpretation due to the lack of nonverbal cues, voice inflection and body language. In conclusion, use social media wisely when dating. It’s a tool… not a replacement.”

The green green grass of home

Relationship and dating expert Dr Pam Spurr shares that as of 2015, 50% of singles had tried some form of online dating. “There are fantastic opportunities if singles stay smart online. It’s far too easy to get reeled into the ‘grass is greener syndrome’. When on dating apps or a website, a single thinks: “I’ll just check the next profile; it might be better.” Then they carry on checking profile after profile thinking they’re going to find something better.” she comments.

“The other two major problems are people fibbing on their profiles and not matching up to expectations when you finally meet face-to-face. This can be so disappointing so singles must be prepared for this before meet ups. Then there is the over-sexualisation of approaches and contacts. Behind a mobile or computer screen, many singles say things they wouldn’t say to someone they met at work or a party. It gets very sexual, very quickly and many people are put right off. No matter how tempting, avoid doing this or you might put off someone really special,” says Dr Pam, who adds that by keeping these few key things in mind, people should have happier online experiences while always being open to meeting someone the old-fashioned way – face-to-face.

Quality, not quantity

So this is interesting. What if there was an dating app which only revealed a person’s profile picture once you’ve got to know them a little better? Step forward Unveil App and reveal your views. “In our opinion, dating is better in some areas and worse in others. It is a different playing field compared to 10 years ago – online dating has given people the freedom to meet new and different people on a more frequent basis. However, this has come at a cost where people are entering more casual relationships and are spending less quality time getting to know a single person before moving on. Communication is also lazier for most people as phone conversations are now replaced by short snippets of casual text messages that may convey the wrong message. While there is some sort of abundance from the rise of online dating, the quality of getting to know someone has gone down.” said a spokesperson for the app.

Perhaps, therefore, all dating apps should have some kind of mandatory ‘getting to know you’ phase – let’s call it ‘scrutiny before swipes’. Catchy eh.

At the heart of the matter

Kate Daly, divorce coach and founder of amicable, agrees that communication lies at the heart of all our relationships. “Technology and social media change how we communicate with each other, and therefore impact our relationships. As we form different communication habits, we take different behaviour and expectations into our relationships. These behaviours, habits and expectations aren’t good or bad, they’re just different. So for example, we may believe we have more opportunity to meet ‘the one’ because of the rise of internet and dating apps but actually spend more time screening and less time interacting, leading to changes in our sexual habits.” she comments.

Daly also recommends discussing the potentially tricky subject of phone privacy straight off the bat: “As a divorce coach, I see the real problems arising when couples have very different social media and communication habits. So for example, trouble can brew if one of you thinks it’s ok to interact with your phone over dinner together whilst the other prefers to be just the two of you. Or, when you have different ideas about whether phones should go to bed with you. Levels of phone privacy, such as whether you keep your phone locked and whether our partner knows the code, can also create flashpoints and highlight issues of trust. Spending more quality time with your phone than you do with your partner can affect feelings of intimacy and ultimately may mean a couple has less sex.”

Phones going to bed with you? Perish the thought.

Who’s ready to engage?

OK, so reflecting on the advice shared above, it would seem that while the technology is available, and the hook-up opportunities most certainly are, Gen Y may need a few more lessons in love (Ed’s note to millennials: famous 80’s song reference, google it) to truly crack this dating malarkey.  Our panel of experts would be only too happy to help. Meet them IRL* at midnight under the clock at Waterloo Station. They’ll be the ones wearing carnations.

 *In real life