I can’t see another kissy face emoji without gagging in my head now. OK, that’s not entirely true — I accept them from my friends and my mom, but I can’t bear to see another one from a member of the male species without having a blaring alarm siren in my mind. Why, you may ask? The culprit is none other than our trusty pandemic companions, online dating apps. When I read Toni Shindler-Ruberg’s Daily Nexus article on viewing online dating as a welcome change, I was intrigued by her pleasant experiences, in contrast to my overwhelmingly pessimistic outlook.
To Toni’s point, it is true that human interaction is naturally desired. I have been an on-and-off user of online dating apps since the start of college, primarily swiping for the amusement of seeing the wild characters that happen to appear on the app or for the internal validation, not necessarily for emotional connectivity. However, similar to others, quarantine hit and my life changed, and so did my needs. I was looking for something more than someone to engage in friendly banter with.
As if we haven’t had enough burnout in our life already through dealing with our families, facing the omnipresent burden of progressing through our college degrees in Zoom university, and other hardships, many of us, me included, have faced the burnout of online dating. I’ve always been a hopeless romantic — emphasis on the hopeless.
So perhaps, I unwisely knew going in that what I was looking for is not the horny-induced mania most everyone is consumed with. My friends have exclaimed their shock at how dramatic of a turn my love life has taken due to online dating, at first an amusing conglomerate of stories I thought I could turn into a potential novel, now a series of eye-rolling occurrences that make me internally scream. I have truly grown to believe that online dating can be a sort of addiction — a muse we turn to in times of our most vulnerable (or perhaps bored) state where whatever we’re seeking can never be fulfilled.
While I do agree that an alleviating aspect of online dating is staying safe from physical danger, the reality is that odds are the person you are going on online dates with will want to soon meet up in person. In my experience, men are not willing to spend an ample amount of time in the “talking” phase or build a sense of trust with you.
Take my friend that lives in Vancouver, for example. She uses Hinge to date both women and men, and she expressed to me that she’s pointedly noticed how the women are more courteous and considerate when online dating, more open to doing online dates and repeatedly make it clear they will both wear masks if they meet up, while the men she’s gone out with typically show up unmasked, with no mention of COVID. Again, while this is probably not indicative of all, I can’t help but notice a trend in my experiences and those around me.
It does make sense to seek out any kind of connection we can take a grasp on in this time, but to assume we can respect social distancing guidelines in doing so is naive. The truth is that close to 99% of the men I conversed with on dating apps almost immediately want to meet up, and not after getting to know me for a respectable amount of time, either. When I bring up the implications of our meeting in the time of COVID, most of their responses revolve around the same answer: “Well, I don’t have COVID!” or “I don’t know anyone who has COVID!” as if those are fully comforting answers that make CDC guidelines evaporate from my anxiety-induced mind.
Sure, I’ve partaken in some Zoom movie dates, “Among Us” games, trivia and FaceTimes, amongst other things. However, the commonality amongst these scenarios is that soon you will likely be faced with the looming burden of your trusted companion pressuring you to meet up in person.
I know what you’re going to say next: “Everyone is horny during quarantine! Or starved for physical connection. Can you blame them?” Well, unfortunately, your starvation does not give you an excuse to ignore a rampant public health crisis that unjustly affects some members of our population more than the young thriving healthy young adults we are.
And then comes the lack of respectability. “If we’re not gonna meet up soon, I’m wasting my time.” “If I eventually drive up there, I better at least get a kiss.” These, unfortunately, are just some of the messages I’ve had the pleasure of receiving, making me previously question the likelihood that someone will want to form any sense of emotional connection.
Similarly, I’ve been judged by quite a few guys about my choice of academic pursuit, mainly in my minor of feminist studies, being asked why I would choose that because it’s a dead career field, or some even challenging the notion of feminism itself. I can tell you firsthand, it’s not very fun to be challenged on something you’ve grown to be passionate about and proud to have educated yourself on.
“Oh, you write for a gossip magazine? Well I don’t really read that kind of stuff, but good for you.” Another questioning of something I like! After these online experiences, I truly believe we need a resurgence of respect for each other. What happened to the days of persistently charming someone until you cuff them? Sigh. Toni is right in that what we seek out in a partner speaks volumes about ourselves, and I have realized something important: I will never let a man make me question the validity of my accomplishments or choice of passion again.
Similarly, there is a very good chance that you could be catfished online, not just by someone’s physical appearance, but in regard to their personality. You could very well be talking to a person for months and still be unclear as to what their intentions are and who they are fundamentally as a person.
I had an experience in late spring where I was talking to a guy who I went on one in-person date with, and was then in the “talking stage” with for a few months during the pandemic. I realized, much to my dismay, that he wasn’t the person I thought he was a while down the road. I had foolishly become sort of attached to this person who I interacted with mainly through a screen, whom I thought I connected with.
Toni is right in that what we seek out in a partner speaks volumes about ourselves, and I have realized something important: I will never let a man make me question the validity of my accomplishments or choice of passion again.
He had a secret girlfriend, and of course, I found out through social media. It was a major turning point for me, in realizing I was so attached to the idea of finding someone to connect with emotionally that I ignored all other red flags. It made me realize our vulnerability in wanting to find someone to share this polarizing time with can be taken advantage of, ripped away from us pretty easily. A guy that I spent a lot of time with on Zoom and FaceTime and who I texted every day was a comforting constant, or a remnant of who I thought he was. It was the most toxic “situationship” I had ever been in, all for a guy I wasn’t even official with.
The moral of the story is that taking the time to get to know someone online does not ensure you can figure out who they are as a person, or if they’re using you for their own insecurities. I am not saying by any means that we all participate in this sort of fakeness and create a persona on dating apps, but it is certainly disheartening to be on the receiving end of it.
While gaining an impression of someone over an app may not feel very different than darting heart eyes at someone across a crowded room, a virtual first impression is just not the same as an in-person interaction.
We summarize the best key components of our personality on an app, featuring our Instagram-worthy pictures. We represent this image of ourselves that may not entirely stray from our actual selves, but that distorts the things that make us great — the quirks of our personalities, struggles we face or hidden talents that someone else may find insanely attractive (mine is hula hooping). Not everyone is openly sentimental on a dating app, as revealing what makes you tick to a virtual stranger may not be the most appealing piece of candor. This results in the dreaded, but inevitable, monster called small talk.
I’m sorry but … small talk is boring! I grew bored of replying to guys on dating apps because I couldn’t muster the energy to tell a 10th guy how my lackluster day was or “what I was up to” while sitting on my couch listening to Taylor Swift music again for an embarrassingly long amount of time. I do think conversation is still extremely awkward in person on a first date but has much more potential to flow more freely. You can escape the pondering notion of whether your companion is merely a bad texter, because you can easily find out in person if there is a spark.
You may be thinking, now what? Well now, I question my ability to form trust in a relationship due to my developed overwhelming fear of disappointment that has only snowballed from online dating. I do echo the sentiment that online dating, among other factors in quarantine, has made me fall in love with myself again and grow a sense of confidence that I never had internalized previously to the reflecting period of quarantine.
But I truly hope online dating is not an evolution for the ages, because if it is, we’re going to morph into an exceedingly egotistical generation that judges people purely on their sexual allure at first glance, seeking physical attraction at the expense of emotional connection. At the end of the day, you’ll find someone special that’s meant for you, but until then, be safe, be wary and happy swiping!
Joshen Mantai wants you to know that you should not simp for a person you met online (unless they simp for you back).