When was the last time you went on a date with someone you met in person?
The last time you saw a stranger in a room, a crowd, or at a friend’s house, and dared to walk up to them and say “hi”?
Do you remember the last time you honestly opened your heart? That you didn’t pretend you were “cool” with having awkward sex and “keeping it casual”?
If Gabriel Garcia Marquez thought love was rough in the time of cholera, he ought to come back and make sense of love in the time of Tinder.
As a twenty-five-year-old woman who has been single for the last two years, I’ve had the opportunity of swimming through the tsunami of dating apps, awkward dates, and my personal favorite—never seeing someone again, but see them stalking you on social media (we see you, fam).
About six months ago I decided to liquidate all my dating app profiles and spare myself the fatigue that replaced the once fun prospect of dating. Meanwhile, I’d still live vicariously through my other single friends that were brave enough to continue riding the wave of endless dating possibilities, in hopes that someday they would swipe right on the correct person.
Before we continue, I’d like to disclose that I have nothing against dating apps. As humanity progresses, technological advancements have created shortcuts that have worked for some and not others. I know several happily married couples that have met through Bumble or Tinder. This article doesn’t disqualify the merits of social dating.
But returning to our topic, is the online dating process killing romance and empathy? Are we connecting or are we stuck in the superficiality of it all?
Perhaps the first thing that caught me by surprise when I first created a dating profile two years ago was how many men were available in my area. When I was a teenager and dating apps were still a niche for creeps, freaks, and divorced 50-somethings—people constantly alluded to the “plenty of fish” in the sea. The only ones I ever saw had been those in my surroundings or that I met personally or through friends. Well, if you’re looking for some fish, take your bait to Tinder and watch them bite
There are literally thousands of people waiting to match with you. At first, you take the time to inspect and read each profile. After a few minutes, you start getting bored and begin serially swiping on anyone that doesn’t immediately catch your gaze. So on and so forth.
The second aspect that surprised me was the lack of empathy in dating apps. In contrast to how much trepidation and vulnerability goes into a traditional face-to-face interaction. Dating apps remove empathy filters and create a space for people to be as uninhibited as they want without repercussions. To illustrate, here are some examples of messages I have personally received after matching with men on Hinge and Tinder:
- “Hey babe, you cute as fuh”
- “How do you like your cucumbers honey?” (I’m serious)
- “Do you watch ‘My 600-pound life’?”
- “Hey! Just wanted to let you know that I’ll be out of town for the next 6 months.”
- “So what are you looking for on here? Just casual or relationship?”
Now, if someone came up to you in person and said these things, how would you react? It’s as if the carefully curated pictures and profiles were a sleuth of resumes and cover letters perfected to secure a job post instead of a partner. Which leads us to our third point, the ever-famous dating interview fatigue.
There comes a time in your dating app career where you hit the wave of dating fatigue. After hours of killing boredom by swiping through thousands of candidates, you subject yourself to robotic dates that may turn into quick sex that, in your mind, get you closer to your next “successful” swipe.
Once the initial fatigue of screening through profiles is over, you move on to the next round of the game: the questionnaire. It is usually composed of the same top 5 questions:
- “Where are you from?”
- “What do you do for a living?”
- “Do you plan on moving any time soon?”
- “What are you doing in this town/city/place?”
- “What are your goals for the next 5 years?”
You arrive at your date destination feeling as if you’re meeting a hiring manager. You buy the drinks, you eat the food, you smile and answer the same questions, with the same answers, and look at your watch every now and then to find a way out of it. Sometimes the initial date may lead you to a second, a third, sometimes sex, some casual texting here and there? Then, we shut down, call it quits, and do it all over again.
But it’s okay, despite your fatigue, eventually the desire to have human interactions lead you back to their endless pool of single candidates.
The tragedy of it all is that we spend so much time focused on people we are meeting through screens, that we’ve neglected those that are with us in the present moment.
We’ve stopped taking chances and being vulnerable. We have stopped talking to folks that are standing with us in line and even ignore the checkout clerks at the stores sometimes. We are immersed in our phones and have lost touch with real people, only to live the stories we’ve made in our heads about what our reality really is.
When will we start connecting with each other again?
When will we choose to go on dates with people we have legitimately made a connection with outside of a virtual chat room?
Not all hope is lost—we just need to become more conscious and open about how we connect.
In the last two weeks, I had two excellent dates. One of them I met in person. The other I met on Hinge before I closed it.
The first person, I actually met at a party. It was the first time in a year, I’d say, since I organically opened myself to meeting someone, introducing myself, and growing an attraction based on a live connection.
I didn’t read his profile and micro-inspect his photos. I didn’t do a Google search to find out if he was a serial killer or scattered through my brain to find something slightly interesting to say. I saw him observing people dance and thought he was someone I had known many years ago. So, I walked up to him and said, “Do we know each other?”
Although it may or may not lead anywhere, the interactions that happened with that individual after that felt natural not staged.
The second person, I met on Hinge a while ago. We had communicated for so many months through text that it felt almost like meeting someone I already knew. It was smooth, fun, and relaxed. I think it was only this way because we both established that we didn’t have a romantic agenda from the get-go.
In contrast with the first person, though, our communication hasn’t progressed smoothly. It’s probably because it is difficult to build a friendship based on inorganic meetings.
If we removed the screens and allowed ourselves to feel connections outside of chat rooms and social media, we may find a way back to introducing humanity into dating. Dating apps are useful tools, but not the only tool we need. Perhaps, we might find that it’s not all a soul-crushing journey to solitude or the settled partnership due to fatigue.
Instead, we may finally begin to swim with our choice of fish.