Online Dating

I’m taking a break on the progress reports this week to discuss a topic that’s really twisted me in all sorts of directions over the past three years. Online dating is fascinating and horrifying. One minute it can be an interesting, new-age form of connection technology. And the next it can become a soul-sucking, lowest common denominator shit show. Let it be known that my experience is strictly through free apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish. I’ve never sunk any money into it. Those that have paid for online dating services may see things in a very different light. When a person’s hard earned pay in involved there’s a natural tendency to take things more serious. That being said, these are my personal thoughts.

Yes, Tinder has the reputation of being a hook-up app. But that’s really only true for men if you’re in the top 1% of good-looking guys or have no standards. I don’t fall into either one of those categories. I’m also picky about who I spend my time with because I’m a busy guy in my thirties and a firm believer that time is the most precious commodity we all have because we’re not getting any of it back. So let’s not waste each other’s. I don’t care how attractive you are if there isn’t much of a brain in your head. If I want to stare at vacant, hollow pretty people I’ll just go on the internet. I get the same effect and don’t have to drop $80 on dinner.

My foray into Bumble was brief because everybody just seemed to use it as a platform to gather more Instagram followers. And Plenty of Fish is a wasteland of gratuitous cleavage, duck-face, and unrealistic expectations. So I’ll keep it to Tinder because that’s what I’ve used most often.

It’s a simple enough concept; you swipe right on profiles that grab your attention, left on those that don’t. And it immediately becomes dehumanizing. We are so much more than a handful of strategically chosen happiness photos and a few words about the person we think we are. It’s the equivalent of lining up a row of whores at the brothel and making your selection. If one says “no” you just move on to the next, and so forth, and so forth. The nuances of connection and understanding and empathy are nonexistent. Human interaction is not a game, it’s a survival mechanism.

When you get past the shocking lack of humanity, you soon discover that profiles are riddled with old photos and lies. That picture was taken five years ago. How do I know you’re not missing an ear or living in a car? A lot can happen in five years. If you went to Spain three summers ago but have spent every weekend since eating Cheetos and watching Real Housewives of Who-Gives-A-Shit, then you are not a traveler. How can you call yourself a “gym rat” when it looks like you missed the exit driving to the gym and settled for Krispy Kreme instead? It’s false advertising.

I’m not a particularly shallow guy, never have been. If you’re intelligent or artistic then I’m usually interested. But there is a double standard that draws my ire every time I happen upon it. It’s called heightism. It’s when women dismiss a guy outright if he doesn’t meet a certain arbitrary height criteria she has convinced herself she needs in a man to be happy. It’s the same thing as me saying “no fat chicks,” which I would get destroyed for.

I've managed a few dates here and there, some fun, some alright, and some uncomfortably awkward. The problem is that people are different over text than they are in person. Humor doesn’t always translate the same and chemistry doesn’t always carry over. Often times, though, the trick is actually getting the date. Ghosting is far too common and completely rude. You’re having a nice, flowing conversation and then they cut off communication like they’re quitting smoking cold turkey.

Women do have it more difficult in online dating, I’ll secede that point. Men are aggressors, typically leaving ladies with a lot of matches and messages to sort through. I’m sure they have better things to do than answer Johnny Asshole’s copy & paste message he sends to every woman. But that doesn’t stop some men from interpreting it as an ego bruise and losing their shit at some poor girl that doesn’t even know who they are.

And the dick pics. C’mon, guys. Nobody wants to see that. You’re making the rest of us look like apes.

And therein lies the biggest issue; ego. One minute it can be a huge boost and the next entirely deflating. And I’m guilty of it. I’m guilty of all the things I just pointed out. I’m a part of the problem. The last time I left the scene I vowed never to go back. A month later I was elbow deep again because I felt defeated. I didn’t want to admit that I was a failure at dating. But I am. Dating is an artificial social construct that doesn’t mesh well with my personality. It got the best of me but my ego refused to admit it. I was back in for all the wrong reasons, and that’s not healthy behavior.

I guess it boils down to intentions. I’ve always viewed relationships as partnerships with the goal of making each other’s lives a little bit easier, as opposed to a little more complicated. Maybe that’s too much to ask of the spectra of online dating. Maybe I should spend more time around bookstores.