OK Cupid, Tinder, and Bumble. Those are the dating apps currently on my phone. That being said, I’ve also paid my dues on Match, Plenty of Fish and Hinge. I can say with complete frankness that I hate them all equally. I’m old enough to remember a time before dating apps. Where people met each other in person, at clubs, in class and at house parties. When dating apps came around, they were cool, trendy, with a little bit of edge and boldness about it all. That was back when our parents still warned us about the danger of meeting people from the internet. Using a dating app back then was sort of like the first time you dropped the F bomb in front of your friends. You were a badass who scorned social norms. It was either that or the perception was you were so desperate you had to revert to online dating. Now ‘dating’ online is the standard and if you happen to be one of those lucky people who met their partner offline… well the rest of us want to know your trick.
Here’s my primary problem with dating apps, and I’m sure it’s a complaint you’ve heard before: what the fuck are we using as a guideline for swiping left or right? Why was that ‘don’t judge a book by a cover’ lesson so easy to shed? Because that’s exactly what’s gong on here. The fucked up thing is that we are all complicit in the game. We know how much effort we put into taking that perfect profile pic: 300 selfies, lighting, filters and the final best friend/group chat vet. It’s like high school again, forging your grades, turning that six into a nine so you get that approval and you don’t have to explain yourself. Why would you trust that pic when you’re deciding to swipe left or right?
Now I say this but I’ve also done this. I see my own hipocrisy. I can, however, also see the slow erosion of my patience over time. My OKC profile is the oldest and as such, carefully crafted using all the socially acceptable descriptors: traveller, foodie, loves to laugh. My hobbies are vague enough to be accurate but not specific enough to make someone say, “you like to do what?” The last profile I had to set up was Bumble. My profile there says, “Casual relationships bore me more than polite chit chat. Hard eye roll the emotionally unavailable.” For some reason I get a lot less action on that platform.
My other major beef with online dating is in the way that it’s changed how we interact with each other. For my part, I feel as though online dating makes me a whole lot more dismissive of people. Catch me out in the world and try to start a conversation with me, I’ll likely stop, engage, be polite. On OKC, there’s a high likelihood I won’t open your message and if I do I’ll judge a simple ‘hi’ as harshly as a cheesy pick up line if my mood is not in your favour. Kind of cute with a witty profile but someone in the background of one of your pictures is wearing a ‘make America great again’ trucker hat? LEFT SWIPE. You probably don’t know that person. Doesn’t matter. There are other options right behind your profile.
Options are wholly the problem. If we’re not getting exactly what we want from the interaction we simply move on. With the anonymity of screens and user names we can behave in a way that we wouldn’t if we were being held accountable. I can say that a guy has never whipped out his dick to get my attention in real life. (Ok, I mean a stranger. Not a guy I was actually dating.) In a dating app however, totally different story. Oh that offends me? That’s ok. He’ll flip it to the next girl and keep on going until he finds one it doesn’t offend. We treat each other as a means to an end. “I need to get laid.” “I want to be in a long term relationship.” You are the means, that is the end. Get me there and get me there fast or I’ll find someone else who will.
I want to be more than an option. I want genuine interest. And I want time. The real reason I’ll never find love online is because genuine interest is both hard to find and to convey with a screen and for me that is the sexiest trait in a partner. Don’t worry about when we’re going to have sex. I promise we’ll get there. But only if you can make me feel like that isn’t the only reason I’ve currently got your attention.