Online dating has evolved at a remarkable rate over the past decade. What was once a taboo “last resort” for singles has come close to the only way to date post-college (and as I’m learning, Tinder is becoming quite popular as well with the 30s and 40s crowd). If for some reason you’re single and not on an app, it’s time.
There has been an enormous influx of dating apps in the last three years. Some are notorious for advocating hook-ups (Tinder, Grindr), others base matches on mutual Facebook friends (Hinge), and there are even some that include specific niches (JSwipe for Jews, Bristlr for people with beard fetishes …). The number of apps alone provide more than enough opportunities for everyone to find a date, or two, or three. It’s totally possible to have your entire social life revolve around dates.
Online dating as the “new normal” isn’t the only change in 21st century dating. As our methodology of meeting potential mates has shifted, so has our mentality. Are these new perspectives and behaviors just a natural progression in the direction of the modern social environment? Or are they hindering our ability to find love?
Emphasis on volume, not value
Modern dating is like eating at a Chinese buffet and being uncomfortably full afterward (we’re talking pants-unbuttoning status). If you approach it the wrong way, online dating can be an exhausting experience characterized by overindulgence and burnout.
Imagine it this way: Instead of filling your plate with only your favorite dish – let’s say General Tso’s Chicken, for example, you feel the need to take a little bit of everything. Dishes you know you probably won’t like still end up on your plate because you know you can always throw it away or eat one of the 50 other options.
As with most Chinese buffets, dating apps offer too many people to date. (Who knew that would ever become an issue?) Any living, breathing human within a 25-mile radius could be a Tinder match (and they might not even be a human —you never know). Online dating is a numbers game based on dumb luck. For every seven servings of chicken fried rice, Mongolian beef or crab Rangoon, for example, just one might have be of above-average quality. Similarly, for every seven dates you go on, only one might lead to a second. Dating multiple people simultaneously can quickly become addicting due to the unmatched ego boost, with little risk involved.
The “quantity over quality” mentality does have a downside. As a colleague once confided to me, he was “spread too thin” and was continuing to date people he didn’t even like. This lack of focus can also lead us to do less-than-classy things, like checking a dating app while on another date, or texting the wrong person something that is obviously meant for somebody else.
If the end goal is to date someone exclusively (and I know it isn’t the case for everyone), is blowing through all of your matches really the smartest strategy? Is being wheel-barrowed out of a Chinese buffet worth it? Feeling wanted by so many people has its perks, but it doesn’t last forever.
Continuum of Catfishing
In 2015, phone calls are few and far between, so texting prior to a first date can determine whether the event actually occurs. Texting can be thrilling – your heart beats a little bit faster when their name lights up your phone or their typing bubbles appear. You start to believe the two of you have chemistry and you have a lot to talk about. You laugh at their jokes. You can tell they get your sarcasm. But what you can easily forget is that you are communicating through a computer. You’re basically on Joaquin Phoenix’s level in the movie Her, (okay, so that’s being a little dramatic). You’re not talking to them. You’re typing.
Truthfully, you really don’t know if you’ll have chemistry or be able to hold a conversation with someone until you’ve met them. Even then, chemistry can take time to build. I’ve been super excited to meet somebody based on texting conversations and have had nothing to talk about with them on the actual date. I’ve also been on dates where I’ve barely spoken to the person beforehand and had a fantastic time. Assumptions are rarely accurate; we’re all merely sketches of ourselves behind our smartphones.
To prevent shellshock, minimize the texting foreplay, get off your phone and just meet up with the person. You’ll have more to talk about anyway, and you’re less likely to find yourself on an episode of Catfish – although, who wouldn’t want to meet Nev Shulman?
Dating apps have provided us with the ability to easily stalk, overanalyze, and ultimately torture ourselves by knowing too much in the early stages of dating. We can see when a person is active, and if they haven’t responded to a text or message since they’ve last logged on. Anxiety ensues. While online dating can be easier for the person being rejected, because information and online activity is so transparent, it’s much easier to get upset over something trivial and meaningless.
Online dating not only provides digital transparency, but also a more liberal platform for discussion about casual dating. For example, there has long been general consensus that online dating (and dating in general) can involve going out with multiple people at the same time. Over the summer, I went out with two guys who separately mentioned to me that they a) had another date that Friday evening or b) were seeing other women. I thought the first guy was just a rude human being, but when it happened a second time, I realized it was part of the new dating phenomenon.
Has dating become so transparent that literally nothing is off limits? If you can know a person’s full name, where they work and what their favorite craft beer is before meeting them, shouldn’t you also be comfortable with knowing about the other people they’re dating?
Regardless of your stage in the game, talking about your upcoming dates while on a date isn’t tasteful. If you and your date have a conversation about becoming monogamous, it’s completely appropriate to discuss if there are additional people in the mix, or if you’re in an open relationship, but otherwise, lips are best zipped.
The way online dating has affected the way we think is fascinating, but what’s even more interesting is how we behave in response. As the dating game continues to evolve, and our batches of matches continue to grow, my questions still linger: is the grass always greener? Have we cast our nets too wide? Would a prix-fixe menu have been a better choice than the buffet?