A few months ago, I was asked to guest-post a blog on dating in a lifestyles blog. Having never dated in the standard “boy meets girl, they date, they love, they hate, they break up” way, I decided -like any good researcher would – to do my field work. My methodology of choice was dating apps because they’d have the fastest turnaround time. Low cost, high reward.
If you haven’t tried online dating, I recommend it for one key reason: it explains the fallacy of choice. A world of options just a few opposable thumb motions away; everyone just looking for the next best thing, never really satisfied.
I swiped for 2 days, or 6 coffees, or 240 emails. I went through 100 profiles, 74 hikers or “hikers,” 45 mirror selfies, 32 man-buns, 31 must-love-dogs, 28 people over 180 cm, 22 pouts, 14 exhibitionist gym goers, 9 poses with tigers, 7 wolves on Wall Street, and 5 Scandinavians.
I swiped right 15 times. Matched with 12 people. Met 8. Saw 4 more than once. Got a little closer to 2. And surprised myself with 1.
I met him first at a little French market. Wine. Cheese. Conversation. Standard. I hadn’t expected to find myself intrigued by anyone – this was all meant to be somewhat amusing fodder for a post – but he was interesting. Well, his job was especially interesting. I left our first rendez-vous feeling a combination of excited and guilty. Excited because it had exceeded my expectations. Guilty because I felt disingenuous.
Fast forward a few months, a few bottles of wine, a few late night convos, a few texts, and a serious test of my pride. Early on, he told me everything out of the “I like you but I’m bad at relationships so let’s stay undefined and at arms’ length” handbook. It was in such stark contrast to my other romantic ventures that it just made me more curious than wary to see how things would pan out. Masochist, I know.
We kept on keeping on in a bizarre pseudo-friendship, and I started to feel a closeness. But the more I tried to normalize the friendship, the more I felt I was putting myself in situations where I was being discounted. It was reminiscent of a bad romcom akin to “He’s just not that into you.” Which, by the way, no one should watch ever. Years later, I still want to punch every character. But I digress.
We’ve now stopped talking, which is better (I finally got seismic levels of offended). But I can’t help feeling that we’re all just doing this wrong. My privilege is that I’ve had the pleasure of spending time, romantically and otherwise, with people who end up becoming lifers in my heart. My family’s love is harder than Arizona’s water. My friends are miles away, but we know how our respective mornings went. My exes are some of my closest friends (apparently that means I’m a narcissist, which ok, fine). Point is, I don’t get close to people that often, but when I do, it’s made to last. So it continues to trip me out that there’s someone out there that I felt close to who I’ll barely be able to call an acquaintance.
How do people do this? This hop-on hop-off version of dating, where you’re sharing pieces of yourself with someone one day, only to block them on snapchat the next. Ok, so I don’t have snapchat, but still. I can only see two ways to survive it (ho-ho dating, not snapchat. there’s no way to survive snapchat):
1) develop a consumable version of yourself, one that’s marginally relevant to your core, and share that with the lucky right swipers. Easily detach when one of you decides to “ghost” (an aside- this term is just begging for the ghostee to text “you’re dead to me [insert ghost emoji]” to the void).
There’s a third option but it’s boring and optimistic and I don’t have time for it right now.
Throughout the whole online dating experience, I felt a little bad. I felt bad swiping left across real people’s faces. “Hey, I’m going to take your entire humanity- your hopes, your struggles, your loneliness, your self-worth, your joys – and serve it judgement under the gavel of my thumb, sometimes by mistake.” I felt bad meeting people and just not being in the same neighbourhood as attracted to them. “ABORT MISSION.” I felt bad sending “let’s be friends” texts. And I felt bad being rejected via a prolonged series of micro rejections. “Am I not interesting? Or attractive? Or smart? or just not enough?” It put my self-confidence through a set of funhouse mirrors. I eventually emerged, having learned one key thing:
(Also, I’m awesome and you’re exceptionally talented for making me feel otherwise)
This business of being a functional human being is hard. And we’re not helping in making it any easier. If we continue to make each other feel like tiny pieces of crappity crap through insensitive judgement swipes (literal or otherwise) and increasing disregard for the value of intimacy, we’re going to find ourselves in a cycle of mistrust and superficial “at-least-I’m-not-single”ships. High cost, low reward.
Who knew our opposable thumbs – the same ones that set us apart in the animal kingdom – could make us feel so disposable.