Please note: This isn’t a “wow men are terrible” post – that’s not really the point. It’s more of a “wow dating these days is hard and confusing” but I can only write from my own perspective of dating men.
So, I’m online dating (or was – I am currently on hiatus), and I’ve found it really difficult, frustrating, and sometimes funny. Some people may be thinking “It’s online dating, so what do you expect?” Well, as a 26 year old single woman who can be so painfully awkward (there’s way too many stories involving finger guns, I tell ya), this is really the most effective way for me to meet people. Plus, I don’t care if it’s the internet. People can still be respectful. One thing I’ve realized with all these new dating apps (and there’s SO many) is that you get out of it what you put in. You wanna hook up? You can do that. You want to meet someone for a genuine connection? You can do that too. But either way, you’re going to have to wade through a lot of weirdness.
I’m fairly busy for 10 months of the year with work and a social life, so online dating seems like the easiest way to meet people. Not only that but sometimes when I try to talk to someone the old-fashioned way (read: in person), it is so painful and awkward, I just have to give up. The problem is there’s a lot of people online. I guess it’s kind of like playing the averages – there’s so many people so one of them somewhere has to work out, right? But I think it’s also really changed how people approach dating in general. There’s seemingly endless amounts of people you can match with by way of a single swipe, and that continues to open up if you change your location (go and visit another city, perhaps). But then it’s kind of like, “Well, if you aren’t exactly whatever it is I think I need right now, I can get back on this app and swipe for the next one.”
There are actually studies into this. It’s called choice overload. Yes, I read studies about online dating. It’s actually really interesting. The more options you have, the harder it is to make a decision. Even if you manage to choose, you kind of can’t stop thinking about all the other options that were once available to you. The studies I read didn’t look directly at online dating (one example had to do with jams), but I see this in action all the time. This is how it always seems to play out with me.
Dude: “I’m not looking for anything serious.”
Also Dude: Texts, spends all his extra time with me, basically acts like we are in a relationship, then inevitably spooks himself (or I spook him by getting confused by the mismatch between words and actions) and he pumps the brakes.
Choice overload. Initially choosing me, spending time with me but then can’t quite commit to actually making a choice. Cue collective sigh.
Now in the interest of vulnerability and honesty, I play into this too. I was once hanging out with someone (one of those “in between” guys) and pulled out my phone and started swiping. Without a thought. I caught myself and thought, Woah that’s… that’s just rude.
Online dating is also kind of like an addiction. Ever wonder how someone can spend hours of the day sitting in front of a slot machine, pulling that handle time after time and hoping for a win? It’s because of unpredictable rewards. A reward we know is coming is great. If someone said, “Hey, at 3:00 I’m going to bring you a donut,” you’re going to be pretty excited, sure. But the rewards we don’t know are coming actually cause more activity in the reward centers of the brain. So like the gambler waiting for that big win, people keep swiping because they don’t know when that match is coming, but when it does, boy is it a payoff.
When I first got Tinder several years ago (don’t have Tinder now so it may have changed), it would actually ask you if you wanted to “keep playing.” It’s like a game. Online shopping for boyfriends.
Dating involves so many different stages now: you can be spending time with someone, going on dates, building a connection, and not actually know if they’re swiping on a bunch of people when they’re not with you. There’s a difference between “talking,” “seeing each other,” “dating,” and “being in a relationship,” and everyone can define these stages differently and you have to have a(n) (awkward) conversation about each stage.
It’s confusing and weird.
For someone looking for a meaningful connection, it’s hard to navigate through all the weirdness. I don’t really like the idea of being one of 15 (I could never be on the Bachelor, I tell ya). I am also constantly surprised at how many dudes are willing to start a conversation with something gross or by talking about their penis. We all know that people say things online that they would (hopefully) never say in person, but in this context, it seems extra weird. Can you imagine going on a blind date with someone, and they open with “Hey, thanks for being here for my tiny penis and me.” WHAT!? If you wouldn’t say it on a date, maybe don’t throw it out to someone on Bumble.
That shouldn’t even have to be said, honestly.
I know men don’t have a monopoly on saying weird stuff on the internet, but like I said, I can only speak to my own experiences. I guess kudos to those people for being their true (??) selves, but some basic respect goes a long way. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my job and how passionate I am about it, but it’s really hard to meet people online when one of the first questions is “What do you do for work?” I try to explain what I do and often get “Wow, can I have a private lesson” or really pointed questions about my own sexual preferences. I usually unmatch anyone who’s gross about it (even says so in my profile) because I take my job very seriously. Also, to those asking for a private lesson, what exactly do you think I teach these students about? But sure, grab me a piece of paper and I’ll draw my STI chart for you…
But I think the most frustrating thing that bothers me lately is a sense of entitlement to my time, attention, or energy. I don’t know what to attribute this to, but I have so many examples of people who think I should drop everything to see them, text them, whatever, simply because I happened to swipe right. I don’t have time to drop everything for someone I’ve exchanged a handful of messages with. My work, my rest, my friends, and my niece (for real though, she will always be more important than a date) will always come first. Once I’ve gotten to know someone, I’ll make the time, but there are other things more important to me than another Bumble date. See below for an example of some mindblowing rudeness from someone I didn’t know and had never met:
That said, I’ve had some really positive experiences as well. I usually tell people that online dating has basically just been a way for me to reconnect with people I haven’t talked to in a really long time. It even allowed me to go for coffee with an ex-boyfriend I hadn’t spoken to in 8 years. That’s some pretty cool stuff. I’ve had some interesting conversations, some teachable moments, and a lot of laughs. Even if it hasn’t produced a relationship yet, I’ve made some pretty valuable friends along that way.
I know things will happen when it happens, and I’m not feeling like an old maid or anything. It’s just discouraging sometimes to be trying to genuinely connect with people and see how weird people are with each other.
I think that meeting people online is perfectly valid. Many people are doing just that, and successfully. I also think that the difficulties of dating online also have to do with some overall issues that are coming up in our technological, social media age. Of course these guys would probably not say those things to my face because that’s horribly embarrassing. But it’s important to remember that you may be typing into a phone screen but there’s a real person on the other end.
Can we all, whoever we are, treat each other with a little bit more respect?