When I was in college, I met my boyfriend on a dating website. His name was Dave.
It was 2002.
This basically made me a trailblazer of online dating. I was dating online before it was socially acceptable… when it was an embarrassment that only the obviously desperate did.
I talked to Dave on the phone for a few weeks before we decided to meet in person. I loved having the opportunity to communicate with him from a distance before meeting him face-to-face. It gave us the chance to establish a great connection before we ever met.
Our first date was at Olive Garden. I wore olive green capris and an asymmetrical tank top with green swirls printed on it. It seemed apropos. The sides of the shirt had little ties to cinch up the length of the top.
Don’t ask me how I remember this.
The date went well, and Dave and I ended up dating for a little over a year. We came up with a fake story about how we met because telling the truth felt far too pathetic and loser-y.
I’ve met plenty of other people on dating websites in the years since Dave. And as a veritable online dating old-timer, I can say with certainty that today’s world of online dating is radically different from what it was in 2002.
Today, there’s an extraordinary number of dating sites and apps available to connect people. We now have the ability to easily meet people we would have never otherwise crossed paths with, had it not been for dating sites and apps. According to eharmony, about 40 million Americans are now dating online.
Online dating has the potential to be an incredible tool for combing through the dating pool and finding people who really possess the traits someone is seeking in a partner. And while I think there are plenty of people still using online dating tools to search for Mr. or Mrs. Right… there’s a growing group of “Swipers” who have fallen victim to the wildly unsatisfying trap of hookup culture.
Swipers are folks who use dating apps such as Tinder or Bumble to quickly swipe through the pictures of other app users to decide who they’d like to meet. **If you’re reading this and you’re a Swiper, this isn’t a criticism of you. It’s a criticism of the culture that gave birth to something as vapid as swiping dating apps.
Swiping apps are the epitome of superficiality. They take all the wonderful, unique, and interesting things about users and relegate them to a single profile pic. People aren’t really people anymore; they’re profile pictures created (sometimes augmented, often old) with the goal of hook-line-and-sinker-ing another user into swiping right. A match is not necessarily based on any form of communication; rather, it’s based on two people whose 3-second appraisals of one another’s profile pics was similarly agreeable.
Not only do these apps cheapen the potential connection between two people, but they’ve also created a dating scene in which people are plagued with the constant suspicion that the next best thing is always just a swipe away. Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble foster a the grass is always greener mentality. There’s a restlessness among today’s daters, a cut-to-the-chase irritability based on a fear of wasting time with Person A, when a smarter, sexier, more successful version of them may be – you guessed it – a swipe away.
The fast-paced restiveness of online dating has also taken hookup culture to the next level. I mean, why waste time getting to know someone if you’re just going to be completely incompatible in bed?? “Sexual chemistry is important,” they say. “What if our bodies don’t fit together well?” Or, “What if everything else is perfect, but the sex is terrible?”
Call me old fashioned, but I think it stands to reason that if everything else is perfect – if you connect with someone fully and deeply on every other level – there’s a good chance that the sex will Blow. Your. Mind. Chemistry is important. So is sex. But if we take the time to connect, to do that old school thing called falling in love, I tend to think everything else will work out just fine.
I want to go back to a time when dating was dating. When we could get lost in first kisses and really enjoy getting to know people instead of feeling the fear of potentially missing out on the-next-best-thing. I’ve yet to meet someone who has truly admitted to enjoying the strange world that online dating has morphed into. It feels rushed and pressured and cheap.
I think we can do a lot better.