When I think of dating, I think of horror stories I’ve either read about or heard from friends of either horrible Tinder dates, cringey conversations on OkCupid, and ridiculous and egotistical bios and profiles. I’ve dipped my toes in online dating a couple of times, but every time I do I ultimately delete the dating apps from my phone or deactivate my accounts on online dating sites, especially after being swarmed by some weird-ass messages only a few minutes in. Ah, the gloriousness that is modern online dating.
Growing up, I gathered an idea of what the dating environment, and being in relationships, could be like from the many TV shows and films I watched and grew fond of as a teenager. I never would have fathomed that the dating universe I would inherit would be what it is today. It’s become a fast-paced environment with the integration of quickly swiping left if you don’t like someone and right if you do solely based on the profile the person creates of themselves, or at least the self that they want to portray to others in order to attract people. Now, I’m aware that the experience is different for everyone, especially on platforms that are formatted differently than the swipe left or right format, but the dating realm has become a sort of bland shark tank for me, and it’s honestly really weird. Normally I’m pretty open to starting conversations on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc. since the initial purpose of these platforms aren’t to help create a romantic relationship, but I was hesitant to send the first message on online dating platforms.
I had unrealistically high expectations that I would find the “perfect” person through a dating website that I would click with instantly, which put excessive pressure on myself to not only send the first message, but a first message that would make that other person like me right away and cause them to want to continue the conversation. Ridiculous, I know. I now realize that I put so much unnecessary labor into creating an ideal image of myself on online dating platforms when I really shouldn’t have given a single fuck about what cis men thought of me. I wanted to find someone so badly that I didn’t realize until I reflected back on that time that I wouldn’t have been able to if I continued to portray an image of myself that wasn’t truly me. Parts of me, both good and bad, have changed along with the modern online dating environment.
The way that online dating has morphed myself and other millennials, specifically in regards to interacting with others, has surprised me immensely. Writer Caroline Beaton claims in “How Possibility is Paralyzing Millennial Romance” that “by producing a surplus of options, online dating has ironically yielded romantic standstills,” and this seems to be absolutely true in my eyes. My mindset going into dating has changed partially because of the infinite amount options made available. Although it’s sometimes still surreal that online dating platforms have the capability to allow millions of people to connect from all over the world where one wouldn’t normally be able to in real life, there’s no doubt that with the increase of options comes the increase of pressure to fit into the physical and personality ideals that recent online dating and mainstream media encourages as a whole. I really don’t engage with online dating platforms as much as I used to, but when I was neck deep in it, I felt like I couldn’t compete a lot of the time, especially since these platforms are heavily focused on the physical and on first impressions being the ultimate deciding factor in whether people want to meet someone IRL or not. That, or I felt like I only attracted some odd folks. Around the same time that I decided to move past being so dependent on these platforms, I also learned how to better value myself and my time with others.
Ever since I chose to significantly lessen my time in the online dating universe, I’ve made it my goal to try and socialize more to not only try to get to know people from the ground up but to also train myself to keep up with the friendships I have. While doing this, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been putting more value in everyday human experiences and interactions, especially in regards to dating and it’s so ironic to me because of how little I socialized before, hence the prior dependency on online dating platforms. I now place significance and importance on intimate moments like meeting up with someone for coffee, going to see a new museum exhibit, or even just catching up after a run-in with someone at Target (a common trend for me). For me to want to cherish and not take advantage of human moments in a time where online dating has become the new norm to many has been so crucial for me and has become a clear sign of retraction from that portion of the internet that I used to be on so frequently. Going from a place within myself where I fed off of most any decent interaction I had with men online (if any) to someone who became confident enough to thrive and to find the pureness in human interactions away from any screen is something that has value a thousand times over the perfect online dating profile.