If you’re reading this and living in the year 2017, there is a solid chance you have ventured into the world of Internet dating. It’s so simple, you say. I lead a busy life so why not take out my phone and let it do the work for me? All I have to do is swipe some shit and send some things and “Voilà! I’m in the game! This is great! The other person put no effort or investment into this and I put no effort or investment into this and now we are talking because the internet says so and, like, oh my God, what could go wrong?”
So the two of you decide to meet. Neither has any expectations and, yet, somehow, hope still runs high since the idealism that comes from the sheer anonymity of it all is strangely exhilarating. After all, neither of you has been tasked with being a person yet. This is already so much better than my last relationship, I think, where I had to, like, move my arms. Ugh. Personhood is rough, man.
So you meet. The person isn’t a total wackjob and you enjoy some easy albeit scripted conversation. (“Where are you from, what do you do, what brings you to LA?”) It’s nothing novel, but the company is nice and the stakes are low and the person piqued your interest enough to do it again. Come to think of it, it was really quite amazing. You have no context for each other and aren’t privy to any of the other’s challenges or flaws. So far, this person is perfect. It’s easy to like perfect. Dating in a vacuum is wonderful. How did you manage to luck out so well? You didn’t have to try at all to make this date happen and, somehow, you stumbled upon the epitome of perfection. Nice knowing you, everyone; I’m moving to Westworld!
So you do it again. You do it a couple more times. And slowly this perfectly conjured cyborg starts to be transformed into an actual human being: His tone was bossy, you were 20 minutes late, that sneeze was fucking offensive. Abort mission! One or both of you need to put in the effort to communicate frustration, but effort is not what this was based on. It sucks when people start doing what people do. In addition, each of you also has to start fitting each other into your schedules. This takes work. Work was not part of the equation. What happened to the swiping and the matching and the doing nothing and the “Voilà! we are dating”?
Right about now is when things stop feeling unrealistically easy and one or both of you start getting busy. So busy. All kinds of busy. You know, the kind of busy where I just have to finish knitting my cat mittens or she might die from this newly discovered lethal condition called cold paw syndrome. And you need to polish your penny collection tomorrow or the whole economy will collapse. Duty calls and you must answer. You do you, you societal savior, you!
Translation? “I think we should swipe other people. But…um…only until they, too, become people. Or something. Bye.”
This cycling through prospects will inevitably Groundhog Day itself into infinity until, one day, you delete your dating apps and realize that the term “Internet dating” is an oxymoron. Because, honestly, which part of intimate, complex, human connection is housed between the Venmo icon and the volume settings?
And herein lies the obvious problem: Personal connection is not designed to be easy in the way that technological dating apps are designed to be. We are setting ourselves up for easy come, easy go, and then indiscriminately proclaiming, “It just didn’t work out,” when what we are actually doing is choking off a minefield of missed connections when what makes us connected and human starts to emerge. If we want to create meaningful relationships, we need to put in the work to make that happen. We are already off to a bad start if we condition ourselves to believe that romantic relationships are as easy as swiping right on a cellular gadget.
So here is a novel thought: Challenge yourself to go out and meet people. Work up the nerve to go talk to that cute bar patron or strike up a conversation with that work colleague you’ve been eyeing. Be all kinds of wild and join a book club because reading full manuscripts is a lost art and vintage is sexy. It will take courage. It will take initiative. It will take investment. And you may find that incorporating these components in the beginning of a budding relationship could be a more bankable recipe for a longer lasting one.