According to the 2015 Census, 50% of the US population is single (1). Of that number, 40% of people dating report using dating apps to meet people (1). Dating Apps are now not only the way of the future but close to the norm among singles. From dating mishaps to matches made in heaven, dating apps have their ups and downs. As one who checks the “single” box on all official forms, I have had years of experience using dating apps and internet dating sites. And quite honestly, I have often reevaluated whether or not I should continue to subject myself to this not-so-taboo form of dating. In this article we will examine 5 Realities of Using Dating Apps and how to navigate them with self-respect.
Dating in the Digital Age
There is no way around it, the world of relationships has changed. The culture of social media, Facebook, and mobile apps has influenced all aspects of communicating, socializing, and relating to one another. While some of those changes have been for the better (ex: easy to stay in touch long distance) there are collective consequences for living and operating in such a society. Though we can easily access everything we need to know at the tip of our fingers, we also lose aspect of manners, patience, and grace. In the world of dating, there are even ways that core beliefs have shifted about how to “find the one.”
No longer do we have to wait by circumstance to meet someone we find alluring. Nay, we are not subject to fate but we create our own. We get to sift, sort, eliminate, and choose based on our preferences. Like ordering a dish off of a menu, we seemingly get to create our perfect match. We are the master of our own universe, and no longer must we settle for chance interactions of proximity and convenience! As women, this is empowering, exciting and reassuring, right? Right?!
The Woes of Digital Dating
While hopes have been high for the benefits of dating apps, there are many that are left feeling discouraged, frustrated, or downright disgusted. While we hope to cast a wider net with online dating, in reality settling for proximity and convenience actually is quite common for dating apps. Chances are, people don’t want to go looking too far for their next date. They are lonely, horny, or bored and want an instant fix to their dilemma: no partner. Even those looking for a lifelong partner would prefer someone within a 10-15 miles radius.
When considering the utility of dating apps, the fact is it cannot be a substitute for biological components of mate selecting, such as chemistry. And it certainly can’t make up for the lack of real world knowledge of partners we access if we know them prior to dating, such as meeting through friends of friends, working together, or going to school together. The benefits of meeting simply by “chance” are high enough to give pause to the dating app trend. Or at the very least, we need to create some healthy boundaries and expectations around using such apps.
Finally, a common chief complaint among those who have used dating apps is that they get bombarded with messages from creepy men that make them feel uncomfortable. Putting yourself out there can result in unwanted attention from less than desirable matches. Like a piece of fresh meat dropped into a cage of hungry wolves, that “feeding frenzy” has happened to me several times after posting a fresh profile on Tinder or OK Cupid. Numerous messages from random guys, all within the first couple of days after activating the account. I recall over a 100 messages in a week, some of which were really awkward to read. It can be a bit overwhelming.
Dating Apps: faux-paux or gift from heaven?
Still, the use of dating apps has its benefits. According to eHarmony, one of the oldest and trusted online dating sites, 20% of couples meet online (1). After creating an online poll I found that out of 103 people who responded, 32 people reported they met their significant other using dating apps. I have heard numerous stories of women and men who, even despite the challenges, credit online dating to finding their love. When you hear those stories, it’s hard not to feel hopeful or even excited. Perhaps your match is out there in cyberspace somewhere.
I could literally write a book or separate blog just about my experiences dating. Most of those stories would come from dating apps. OK Cupid, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match.com, eHarmony, I have tried them all. My married friends and family seem intrigued. And it is intriguing! It’s like being introduced to a “dating game” on your phone. One that you can play at all hours of night, from the comfort of your PJ’s, and sit and silently judge every face you see or profile you read. It’s kind of like junk food for the heart. It feels good for a little while, until it loses its appeal. For me, usually a week or so of an active profile is enough before I get a bitter taste in my mouth and deactivate or delete.
So, have I sworn off dating apps and internet dating altogether yet? My short answer is: TBD. I still have enough interest in finding my match that I won’t totally shut out the idea of finding love on the internet. But I am currently more interested in cultivating the self-love and self-respect necessary to handle the world of dating, period. It’s not an easy feat. There are, at the very least, principles that need to be noted before proceeding with dating apps. Here are 5 Realities of Dating Apps and how to apply them using self-awareness and self-respect.
1. Dating online often results in an “easy come, easy go” attitude
One of the most frustrating “norms” of online dating is the lack of common courtesy. I can’t quite put my finger on the reason for it. But so many times have I been in the midst of talking to or even dating someone I met online and POOF! They disappear. They stop responding, texting, messaging. As perplexing as this is, it’s important to remember, this is not your fault! Rather than second guessing yourself, it’s best to just assume “this wasn’t going to work out.” In most cases, you have probably dodged a bullet. Clearly, if someone is really interested, they will pursue you. If they stop mid sentence, that’s not the type of person you want to fall in love with anyway.
2. Dating profiles are not always an accurate depiction of the person
Most of you are thinking “well duh!” In a world where we can fabricate an image of ourselves, we obviously want to put our best foot forward. And depending on our level of honesty, we are probably going to minimize our weaknesses and exaggerate our strengths. Just be prepared that often times people are different then they seem at first profile glance.
When we are skimming through profiles, we might overlook good options simply because they are too short or didn’t graduate from college. Most people are actually looking for partners with a good personality and who share similar interests. Thus these are the qualities to hone in on while conducting your search.
I can’t tell you how many times I have swiped left because someone didn’t catch my eye, physically. Actually, funny enough, I generally would not be interested in a guy that is bald (I know, this is superficial). One time, I went on a date with a guy from OK Cupid not knowing he was bald (his profile pics conveniently left this out). But I ended up really liking the guy. He had a great personality, fun interests, and treated me very well. Don’t let a superficial thing be the reason you don’t meet someone you could really click with. A self-respecting person would look deeper into her potential partner.
3. Dating apps may not work for you
As previously mentioned, anywhere from 20-30% of people find their partner online. That means the other 70-80% didn’t. Or haven’t yet. Many people have dating profiles but then end up meeting someone offline, in more traditional ways.
Whether you are put off by the creepers or just don’t want the “partial blind date” experience, some people just don’t want to take the risk. And that’s fine. People have been meeting and falling in love for centuries without the help from a phone app. It’s perfectly possible that you may meet someone in a way you least expected. This does mean, however, that you may have to be a bit more daring and strike up a conversation with a stranger at the bookstore or a yoga class. That terrifies me a little, I’m not going to lie. But it’s the price you pay.
To build up your confidence in dating without the screen to shield you, try practicing by striking up a conversation with the barista or the person at the front desk. Remember, you are what you project. If you are radiating kindness, acceptance, and friendliness, you become more approachable too.
4. A person’s true motives can be found if you read between the lines
As part of the art of online dating, you must be attune to all of your senses. Your intuition will tell you all sorts of things about dating. Which comes in handy, because it’s often what’s unsaid that speaks the most truth.
When reading a profile, I am often reading between the lines. You can usually pick up on what they are actually looking for just based on a few key phrases. “Love having fun” or “Low key, no drama” are easily code for “DTF.” If they say they are moving soon or just visiting, you can assume they are not looking for a commitment.
Even further, if you go on a date and a guy isn’t willing to treat you like a lady, this is also sign of his true motives. Perhaps he is just lonely and wants someone to talk to. Or perhaps he doesn’t really care about building a committed relationship. Either way, you can learn about this with a little bit of digging paired with your “spidey sense” turn on. Just remember, if you are on a mission to find love, weed out those that aren’t. It’s the loving thing to do for yourself.
5. Online dating can take up a lot of time and energy
The number of hours spent creating a profile, reading through others, and chatting is quite a lot. I have sometimes spent an entire evening getting sucked in to the world of online dating. While you aren’t likely to casually stumble into love using a dating app, it’s important to invest time wisely. So their’s a balancing act.
The best way to utilize your time and energy with self-respect is to only spend it on those that are available, truly available. Like emotionally and mentally present. Mature. Kind and caring. And quite frankly, if you find you are spending more time looking for a partner than just hanging out with yourself, maybe its time for a break. Online dating can be exhausting and discouraging. Keep your priorities in check: you are the most important. The love and respect you give yourself is guaranteed to be more fulfilling and will pay off in the long run. Then who knows…when the timing clicks, Mr. or Mrs. “Right” will pop up on your screen or walk into your life.