Can social distancing with increased screen time push us over the edge and into the arms of face to face meetups? 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 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 isn’s wasn’t loss, just curiosity I felt. I was secure enough in my canny texting ability to know it couldn’t be about any lacking in conversation still I looked for any mistake I could have made. I reviewed my profile pics to ensure they undoubtedly highlighted my best features; I even briefly thought what high self-esteemed people must feel 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 just said, ‘This is just what happens with online dating; sometimes it just doesn’t go anywhere.’ I realized, ‘He’s right!’ Sometimes online dating promotes terrible behavior.
What Terrible Behaviors You Talkin’ bout?
Initial online ‘matching’ lacks human connection, so there is no exchange of energies, vibes, “the feels,” or whatever you call that feeling in your gut when chemistry brews (or doesn’t). Even when there isn’t a love connection, there’s unspoken common decency expected. I don’t think anyone intends to be dismissive; 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 the phone. Strangely we are not human at this stage, and therefore online daters aren’t treating each other that way.
Your Phone is Haunted
Texting keeps us at each other’s fingertips at any moment but also makes it easy to dismiss people known as “ghosting. “Ghosting, for my “under a rock” dwelling readers, is when someone seemingly out of nowhere stops communicating, seemingly dissaperaring. There’s also “ghosting’s” cousin,” left on read”; receiving a 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 once we gave this act a name, it lost impact. 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 had to ghost him.” What if, instead of ghosting, we replaced it with what it 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.”
It wouldn’t magically change behaviors, but it would sound odd and call more attention to the inability to directly deal with a situation. I can’t be the first to wonder how life would be if ghosting were common in other areas. If I was not contacted after an interview for an important job, or in other words, “ghosted” by H.R., 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. Theres mulitple causes for ghosting; we may be too busy, started dating someone else, or decided we’re just not ready; but the adverse action remains, creating a jaded lot of daters recycled into the mix., i.e., me, you, all of us.
Plenty Of Fish In The Screen
Casting a wide net is a swipe strategy of mindlessly swiping ‘right’ to match as many people as possible then deciding what to do after you ‘match.’ This strategy 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. The results are a lot of ghosted and jaded fish thrown back into the water. I matched with a man on Bumble, and during the date, he asked, “What made you pick me?” I didn’t have an answer better than ‘I thought you were cute,’ then I asked him the same. He replied, “I don’t know, I didn’t see you until we matched.” Gasp! He didn’t look at me until I wrote him, and he then determined if he would date me. What a violation of the unspoken ‘Mutual Match’ clause. Isn’t the point of matching to feel the flattery and courage of that initial mutual attraction? I felt tricked yet now understood this type of person. This guy hands the bartender his credit card and buys the entire bar a round of drinks, waiting for one person to 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
We missed that loophole just after online dating first became 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, our online dating savvy increased. Matches turned into marriages, and long term relationships were 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 dance around picking out my outfit like a Rom-Com? Dates start to feel like a job because you haven’t yet connected to this profile pic. The drive to put down the bag of chips, wash your face, and go to a bar to meet someone isn’t strong.
There will always be tomorrow, another day to swipe, so why wouldn’t you choose Netflix over putting on pants? 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 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. 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 apathy level, 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 confuse our matches and ourselves, so we ghost, delete, and get frustrated by the whole process. People test the waters on all sites to see who will Lyft over to their place late at 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.” while her bio reads “‘looking for love, marriage, and kids.” The lines are blurred. The bad behavior comes when two people meet in the grey area while 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 2021, and we’re still experiencing an unprecedented global pandemic. 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 after all.
I get it; we’re on the go, we’re busy, we’re older, we’re parents, we’re working multiple jobs, working long hours, and we’re introverts, we’re new to town, the list goes on. However, I saw 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 dependent on an app, we would naturally do it the old fashioned way. Let’s ride the joy we’ll get post quarantine to begin socializing truly.
- Friends and Co-workers! Remember getting set up? Millennial readers, there was a time when people would be “fixed up” on dates. Blind date or not, friends used to play a role as a matchmaker. Sure, it’s scary to trust your friend’s or Linda in finance’s opinion on who you should date, but is it any more terrifying than meeting that guy whose 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, 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 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 instead of 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 playlist or the bottle of wine you brought?
- Look! Yes, use your eyes to look around you again. People used to meet people at the grocery store, for goodness sake. There used to be an art to meeting new people. We lack 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 terrible 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 rarely experience reactions in real-time. 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 every one 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 exciting people and connecting easily is not something I take for granted but for now, I suggest taking a break to hit up some reality. If you disagree, it’s okay; you can cease all contact and response.