There’s no getting around the fact that how human beings interact on a romantic/sexual/emotional basis has changed remarkably in the last decade. While dating has always undoubtedly been a complex and annoyingly stressful phenomenon, now it’s becoming very differently layered. The old rules are still there, but they’re changing. Fast. And we’re all just trying to keep up.
I love technology, and dating is a thing I’ve been known to dabble in, but I honestly think I might just be way too fucking anxious for dating apps. I’m completely aware that a good majority of young people find staring at a stranger’s carefully chosen selfie to be a fun pastime and not at all anxiety-inducing, but I just can’t do it. It’s so much work. There are an insane amount of lonely (or narcissistic) people out there, and after a while they all start to run together in a witty-message-shaped-blur. It loses novelty value very fast.
But I know that instant gratification can be a rush, too. Tinder is narcissistic validation in the palm of your hand. I have, however, used them for long enough to know that messages on dating apps inevitably fall into a few easily definable categories.
The genuine attempt at connection.
This person read your profile top to bottom sent you off something that addresses as many in-common things as possible. They are almost definitely new to the game. These are the ones I usually respond to before freaking out and app-deleting.
The self-aware and burned out shout into the void
This person has hit the point of copy-and-paste, and whether or not they’re trying to conceal that, it’s painfully obvious. They have stared into the romantic internet void and it has stared back into them and left them like this.
The “let’s meet up without ever talking!” message
This person doesn’t care that you (a complete stranger) might chop them up and deposit them in trash bags on the side of the highway. They do not care. They don’t know anything about you, but they do want to know if next Thursday is a good day for grabbing coffee or getting murdered or whatever.
The boring and forgettable pick up lines.
The horny serial killer approach
But it wasn’t just the messages that made me anxious. It was also the discomfort brought on by a growing awareness of a weird contradiction between intimacy and personal detachment that I couldn’t shake even after seeing a 98% compatibility score. None of it felt real or meaningful in any way. It kinda felt made up, overly common, and bullshitty.
And it’s all this effort expended for….what? To put a rush order on sexual/emotional/romantic gratification? That didn’t seem worth it. I wondered if I was alone in thinking that it was a lot of work for very little reward, so I decided to do research.
In place of conducting a legit scientific study on my too-much-effort-sucks theory, I surveyed a sample size of a whopping two guys at work how they felt about dating apps. They both agreed that while it was fun at first, it soon began to feel predictable and like a chore. It was, they admitted, a lot of effort for little reward. Relief trickled in. It was nice to know that I wasn’t completely alone in my laziness.
They didn’t 100% share my sense of existential anxiety about the detached nature of dating apps, but they did both admit that using the app didn’t feel super intimate, and neither of them indicated that they got particularly attached to anyone they connected with.
Also, I was the only one worried about serial killers.
Potential Ted Bundys aside, I can see why people using dating apps. Technology is great, and apps like Tinder serve a purpose (whatever that may be) for a lot of people my age. But I think there is an anxiety that comes from using these apps that reflects how we’re struggling to keep up with today’s ever-changing technology while still figuring out how to do the oldest thing on the planet – sleep with attractive people.
As for me, I’ll just be over here, waiting for people to find my social anxiety endearing. Without swiping right.