I already have written a lot around technology and how it permeates our lifestyles as they are today. So, by accepting the new ways in which we communicate, I want to get to the heart of the matter, no pun intended. Digital channels of communications have evolved a great deal. Having started with email, then AOL/MSN, Skype, Blackberry messenger, now we look to apps like WhatsApp, and now Facebook messenger. Over time these chat platforms have advanced with regards to the functionality they provide. Concurrently, with the rise in online dating, email-style communications have morphed into chat-style dating. Location services on our phones are used on an app-based environment to leverage our complex lives, lack of leisure time and shortening attention spans into making way for potentially successful attempts at a dating life.
Yes, I know, technology is meant to help us out. It’s why Tindr, Okcupid or Grindr for that matter have been great platforms for people to interact with each other on, especially if one has moved to a new city. The world is a lot smaller now. But friendship is not all what people are seeking on there now, is it? When seeking a partner or a relationship, how does using a bunch of filtered photos and ‘barely-there’ profile descriptions culminate into a true representation of oneself? Yes, it’s already a gamble trying to put yourself out there in the digital dating world. You never know if whatever you come cross is truly honest. There are mixed agendas and expectations at play too. Despite hearing about some success stories of couples having met on an app, most find their first-date experience anything between alarming to disappointing. Wait, I skipped a step – the courting. Is that even a thing these days? The moment you sign on, there is already a competition for attention with hundreds of other profiles within the app.
You got a message from someone you swiped right on? Congratulations! Short-lived though. For there is no way to know what exactly about your pictures or profile got them interested in you. Should there be any initiation of a chat, a milestone on its own, you may just a ‘pass-time’ profile to talk to only to be ghosted later. They never replied to your last message in a lively chat for over a week? Yeah… you’re toast. With a reducing span of attention, appreciation only for the superficial and competition playing spoilt sport, even if one manages to score date # 1, it only serves as a platform for both parties involved to then live up to each other’s expectations in person. Those that are built on perceptions from a digital profile! If you don’t match how they imagined you to behave, sound, talk and move like, it’s all downhill from there. One is expected to put on an entertaining show of the most colorful sides to their personality – be funny, intelligent and engaging all at once – never mind the awkwardness of meeting a stranger for the first time on a date! That is some pressure to perform!?
I believe the online dating experience varies widely for different people. I’ve been called photogenic on innumerable first-dates. You hear a compliment, I hear a critique. Because what they really mean is – you look nothing like your photos! Personality won’t even be given a fair chance at that point! After all, date option #12 is blowing up their phone as they think of an exit strategy. The same applies to those who don’t have a great experience because they look better in person than in photos online leaving them ignored on apps. Those people fare better in organic settings like a party or a social mixer/gathering. Online dating doesn’t yield the best results for them. Between these two extremes, there’s a whole bunch of superficial factors one is judged on before being swept to the left side of a screen – forget about actual interaction.
Every person is reduced to a digital avatar and we treat each other as such – a disposable digital waste. As though there is no real person on the other side with actual feelings. This desensitization of emotion in interactions through a screen as an interface also is reflected in the quality of conversations one experiences during dates. Most rely on the time lag ‘texting’ allows you to have a ‘personality’, through perfectly crafted responses. Those are the ones who come up short in skills to converse in person. The more digital our lives become, interpersonal skills and social cues are on a accelerated decline, especially when looking at the younger lot. If one manages to progress beyond these hurdles and are actively seeing someone – we’re talking date # 5 & beyond as a phase when real layers of personality and backgrounds are being discovered – should any qualities seem undesirable, don’t expect a conversation about it.
Do, however, expect a seemingly adult human being to completely drop off from the planet… Because it is way better to “ghost” the one you are seeing with radio silence. As being direct about one’s thoughts is so daunting and anxiety inducing, you’d rather make it about not being able to deal with having a conversation and just jump out of the window – figuratively speaking – gone! With no accountability factored in whatsoever, the sense of closure one might seek with simple words like “Hey, it was nice getting to know you and you are a solid person. But I don’t think we’ll work out beyond friendship or at the very least we can stay connected as acquaintances” – never comes. You can be left to figure it out all on your own. What kind of a person isn’t mature enough to have that chat? All the while, claiming to be LTR oriented (a.k.a long term relationships) – where communication is the only key to sustain the dynamic between two interested parties! To those folks I say – think again about how you present yourself. Mean what you say, say what you mean – that’s juts basic integrity.
In this digital age, I’d rather give up apps on phones, trade it in for hanging out at a bar with friends, or meeting people out and about at house parties or find clubs that host activities that are an area of passion – so that it allows for a connection with others over a shared interest to bond over. Meeting new people in one’s unaffected natural state of being versus a clinical, dismissive and sterile way of going about dating. Not to say there aren’t exceptions out there, but there are only so many frogs one should be willing to kiss, before finding their prince.