Can social distancing with increased screen time push us over the edge and into the arms of face to face meet ups? Before Covid-19 hit the States, I deleted all of my dating apps prompted by one experience.
That Dating Aha Moment
I matched with a man on Hinge. We shared hilarious banter with some fact exchanging, the typical; Where do you live? What do you do?… blah blah blah. We set a date to meet but when the day came he had to postpone with a reasonable excuse. A week or so went by with no follow up. Again, this wasn’t a cancellation at the time; he asked to postpone. I thought, ‘Here we are on a site with the only purpose being to meet and date people, so why wouldn’t this happen’? When it ultimately did not, I was genuinely interested in the reason why. We hadn’t even met yet, so there was no feeling of loss, just curiosity. I was secure enough in my clever texting ability to know it couldn’t be about any lacking in carrying a conversation still I looked for any mistake I could have made. I reviewed my profile pics to ensure they surely highlighted my best features, I even briefly thought what extremely high self-esteemed people must think when they are blown off, ‘Maybe he died?” Tired of wondering, I reached out to ask him. He seemed confused by the fact that I was even asking. He basically just said, ‘This is just what happens with online dating, sometimes it just doesn’t go anywhere’. I realized, ‘He’s right!’ This is just what happens sometimes. Sometimes online dating promotes bad behavior.
What Bad Behaviors You Talkin’ About?
Initial online ‘matching’ lacks human connection, so there is no exchange of energies, vibes, “the feels” or whatever you wanna call that feeling in your gut when chemistry brews (or doesn’t). Even when there isn’t a love connection, there’s an unspoken common decency expected. This doesn’t mean there’s an intent to be rude because I don’t think most people, like my Hinge match, set out to be; instead the issue is that the risk of seeming rude is no longer there. There aren’t any social consequences with an image on a screen or text on a phone. In a strange way we are not human at this stage, and therefore online daters aren’t treating each other that way. We simply aren’t mindful.
Your Phone is Haunted
Texting has made communicating simple, keeping us at each other’s fingertips at any moment but also making it easy to dismiss people. This has brought to life that dreaded act of “ghosting“. Ghosting, for my “under a rock” dwelling readers, is when someone stops communicating with someone. This also led to the creation of Ghosting’s cousin, “Left On Read”: reading someone’s text and consciously not replying. I don’t take total issue with ghosting as there are legitimate reasons for this (I’m looking at you unsolicited dick pic) but I think once we gave this act a fun name, the impact of it was lost. You hear things said like, “I was talking to this girl but she’s not my type, so I ghosted her” Or “He kept asking me out on a second date so I ghosted him” What, if instead of ghosting, we replaced it with what it actually is? “Suddenly ceased all contact and response” Would we be as likely to do it or admit to it? Let’s try it: “I was talking to this girl but she’s not my type so I suddenly ceased all contact and response”.
This wouldn’t magically change everyone’s behavior, but it would sound a bit odd and call more attention to the inability in being able to deal with a situation directly. I can’t be the first to wonder how life would be if ghosting was common in other areas. If I was not contacted after an interview for an important job, or in other words, “ghosted” by HR, I would be upset no matter what you called it. But with online dating you’re supposed to accept this as the price of putting yourself out there. Sometimes we can “Thank You, Next” the whole thing, which is the most appropriate response. Still, those who’ve ever been ghosted would be lying if they said it didn’t piss them off a little. Not all ghosting is malicious. We may be too busy, started dating someone else, or decided we’re just not ready; but the negative action still remains, creating a jaded lot of daters recycled into the mix., ie; me, you, all of us.
Plenty Of Fish In The Screen
Casting a wide net is a swipe strategy for some. It’s mindlessly swiping ‘right’ to match as many people possible then deciding what to do after you match. This is why straight men love Bumble, a site where women have to talk first. This idea is great in theory, giving women control to avoid aggressive men. Unfortunately men tend to cast large nets and play catch and release with their matches. They barely review profiles until a match is made and the woman sparks the conversation. This, of course, results in a lot of ghosted and jaded fish thrown back into the water. I matched with a man on Bumble and on the date, he asked, “What made you pick me?” I didn’t have an answer better than ‘I thought you were cute’ so I asked him the same question instead and he replied, “I don’t know, I didn’t see you until we matched.” Gasp. He basically didn’t look at me until I wrote him and he then determined if he would date me. This seemed like such a violation to the unspoken ‘Mutual Match’ clause. Isn’t the point of matching to feel the flatery and courage of that initial mutual attraction? I felt tricked yet now understood this type of person. I imagined this same guy handing the bartender his credit card and having him buy the entire bar a round of drinks waiting for that one person to come up to him and thank him. This person is metaphorically dancing up to everyone at the club waiting for someone to let him grind them. It’s the old ‘numbers game’.
You Put Your One Foot In, You Take Your One Foot Out
I feel we missed that blissful loophole just after online dating first become popular; at first it was taboo, only a few daring singles would try it. Soon more sites were popping up and as our phones got smarter so did our online dating savvy. Matches turned into marriages and long term relationships were being made official on Facebook. Now, however, like Instagram or Linkedin we all have one or more dating profiles. It’s become just the thing to do. Sometimes we check it, we delete it and start up again and we try new ones. We’re spread thin. I noticed I was begrudgingly getting ready for dates. Wasn’t I supposed to be excited to meet the potential love of my life? Shouldn’t I be dancing around picking out my outfit like a 90’s Rom-Com? Dates start to feel like a job because you haven’t yet made a connection to this profile pic. The drive to put down the bag of chips, wash your face and to go to a bar to meet someone just isn’t likely there. There will always be tomorrow, another day to swipe so why wouldn’t you choose Netflix over putting pants on? The only thing that is real in these moments is a fear that it would be a waste of the Uber drive downtown. Swiping has become a pastime while sitting on the toilet or the thing you do during commercials. Our hearts just aren’t in it in the way you need it to be to plan a date and leave your home to meet a stranger. Ultimately you start to check the messages and matches more or less depending on your current level of boredom or loneliness. Sadly those few who power through and stay driven are stuck with this mix of the apathetic daters and the cycle goes on. If we treated relationships and networking with this level of apathy we could end up lonely and unemployed.
Previously known as causal sex, ‘Hooking Up’ is a perk in the single persons’ life. I am pro ‘Get Your Freak On’’ when you want but the issue is that online dating and hooking up can get confusing
despite there being sites geared towards love or one night stands. We all end up in the same grey area because our moods change daily. Maybe one day you’re horny and you swipe more carelessly but later you want to fall hopelessly in love. We not only confuse our matches but ourselves so we ghost, delete and get frustrated by the whole process. You see people testing the waters on all sites to see who will Lyft over to their place late night, like the guy who starts the conversation at 2 a.m. saying he’s in bed and can’t sleep *wink wink*. We send mixed messages, like the girl messaging ”D.T.F” with her bio reading “‘looking for love, marriage and kids”. The lines are blurred. The bad behavior comes when two people meet in the grey area and the goals aren’t the same; someone gets hurt. Of course this is also an issue in real life but it’s perpetuated online because we’re limited to a few characters on a screen to describe the type of person we are or what we are looking for, and that can change day to day. Hence, so does our swiping behavior.
So What’s A Single To Do?
It’s 2020 and we’re currently experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic where we are forced to speak only online. I have heard of successful dates happening via Zoom and I know online dating can work. My brother met my now sister in law on Tinder so I get it. We’re on the go, we’re busy, we’re older and not hanging out at clubs, we’re parents, we’re working multiple jobs, we’re working long hours, we’re introverts, we’re new to town…the list goes on but I was seeing the same people on all of the dating sites for years and I had to conclude; “This just isn’t working for any of us!” What if we took a break and partied like it’s 1999? When we can get closer than 6 ft without a mask won’t we be hungrier than ever for real engagement? If we weren’t all dependent on an app we would naturally do it the old fashioned way. Let’s ride the elation we’ll get post quarantine to truly begin socializing.
- Friends and Co-workers! Remember getting set up? To my millennial readers, there was a time when people would get “fixed up” on dates. Blind date or not, friends used to play a role as matchmaker in people’s lives. Sure, it’s scary to trust your friend’s or Linda in finance’s opinion on who you should date, but is it any scarier than meeting that guy who’s online pics are all group shots with his bros and you don’t know which is him or the girl whose pictures are all Snapchat filtered? If you can do that then you were always a risk taker, don’t be shy now.
- Party! Throw a party, from a full on house party to a smaller brunch or dinner party. Once life starts to go back to normal the desire to have actual human contact will be so great, people will be thrilled to meet up. Even if you don’t meet someone romantically the worst thing that could happen is a good time as opposed to back and forth messaging that goes nowhere. How many chats about what you do and where do you live do you want to have? Isn’t it more fun to talk about the DJs playlist or the bottle of wine you brought to share?
- Look! Yes, use your eyes to look around you again. People actually used to meet people at the grocery store for goodness sake. There used to be an art to meeting new people. We are lacking those skills today. If done right, striking up a conversation with a stranger can not only be a way to meet a potential mate but a great way to learn charm, show personality and gain skills on breaking the ice that can crossover to all areas of life. Some people may be really bad at this with pick up lines (though funny at times) that are creepy, but you have to learn how to conduct yourself eventually. Much like trolling on the internet, people are not themselves online and say or do things they would never do in person because they never experience a real reaction. It’s time to work on your people skills, take away your swipe game and up your 20/20 vision to the hotties around you.
- Join In! It may sound corny but joining a meetup group or taking a class could be just the thing for all of us post pandemic. Not only would it be a great way to support businesses offering courses like cooking, fitness or art but of course it’s an opportunity to meet people. Why do we think learning some new cool shit is cliche or only for old or lonely people? Just about everyone of us could stand to gain a new hobby or experience and become a more interesting person to date.
I would never say never to online dating again since the world is full of interesting people. Being able to connect easily is not something I take for granted, but for now I am challenging myself and others to take a break to hit up some reality for a change. If you don’t agree it’s okay, you can simply cease all contact and response.