For many single people, dating apps seem like a necessary evil. Especially now during social isolation, it is nearly impossible to meet someone in a normal, real-life fashion. Living in a small community, I feel like I’ve been in social isolation, with regards to dating, for much longer.
I started my dating app exploration back in December 2018. Out of curiosity, I downloaded Tinder at the urging of a friend, who really wanted to see who was on Tinder in town. It gave us a giggle and I ended up keeping the app. A few friends encouraged me to be on multiple apps, saying that I really need to put in the effort if I wanted to find a relationship. Sure I’ve heard the stories of people finding their future spouse online. If it could happen for them, it could happen for me . . . right? So I downloaded many, many apps. Tinder, Bumble, Eharmony, Facebook Dating, Hinge, FTH, and Match were all on my phone at one point or another, though I never paid for extra features. Nearly a year and a half after I first started, I made the decision to delete all of my apps, and here are the reasons why.
You look at the pictures, read the “about” section, see the specifications… the only thing missing is the reviews and it would be just like Amazon. And just like online shopping, what you see on your computer screen isn’t always what you get. You have to make a snap judgment to determine who is a good match based on a few pictures and what they choose to write about themselves. Really, knowing that someone plays golf on weekends and loves pizza doesn’t help me know what a relationship with them would be like. On the other side as well, I might pass on someone who isn’t the most photogenic, but I would have been attracted to in person. Or have a lot in common with someone who isn’t good at describing their interests (like me). I really don’t like scrolling through pictures choosing the best looking or most interesting. It feels so superficial and void of any connection.
Now, I realize that dating apps are best used as an introduction to someone who you then soon meet in real life. Unfortunately, when almost all of your matches are at least a few hundred kilometres away, it makes it hard to grab a quick coffee with someone.
I have had problems on both ends of the scale here. Some sites have no way to restrict where you get your matches from. One app was matching me with people in California. While I am by no means against long distance relationships, not being able to control where you get your matches from is a problem.
The bigger problem for me is that most apps restrict your matches based on distance, sometimes only allowing matches within a 150 km bubble. Living in a somewhat remote northern community means that I have slim pickings within that sort of radius. It also leaves out the possibility of connecting with someone a little further away. It would be nice to match with people in cities where I go to visit friends and family on a somewhat regular basis. Even when I am able to match with someone outside of my town, it is far from easy to get together for a proper in-person date. Even though I don’t have my own vehicle, most guys insisted that if I was really serious about them, I should show that by being the one to travel. Yeah, no thanks.
Some apps do offer a ‘travel mode’ but it almost always comes with an added charge. Thanks to the pandemic though, Tinder offered this feature for free for a month. You could search anywhere in the world, and oh, did I ever! I took full advantage and had quite a bit of fun. It almost became a sort of science experiment for me as I started to see that I was more successful matching with people in some places than I was in others. Some locations, I matched with almost everyone I swiped right on, while others I almost never matched with anyone. So this got me thinking that what some people look for in a significant other could vary, based on location. Very interesting indeed. Here were my findings:
Whatever the reason, being restricted by location could cause some serious issues with finding dates. I was starting to feel kinda bad about myself when I was hardly matching with anyone. Now I know that it’s just my location. At least that’s what I keep telling myself!
Honestly! It makes me uncomfortable and suspicious. I struggle with compliments from people close to me let alone disingenuous comments from strangers. Unfortunately, these sorts of comments make up the most of first messages from guys. Do they think that’s what I want to hear? Yeah, words of affirmation is not one of my top love languages!
Some people get so hyperbolic it’s ridiculous. I have gotten countless; “you are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen” messages. Do you live under a rock? Am I the first person to ever pop up on your Tinder? Starting off messaging with a lie really isn’t a good place to begin and surely not a way to win my interest.
What is even more awkward is when people want me to return the flattery. I am just as uncomfortable giving compliments as I am receiving them. I will also never lie to boost someone’s ego. Many times after writing a flattering statement, to which I respond with a ‘thanks’, guys will ask something like, “Aren’t you going to tell me I’m hot?” I usually say no and then I’m unmatched. Were I to respond with honesty I’d likely say, “Well you aren’t bad, but you are no Chris Helmsworth.”
Many people told me that if I was going to do online dating, I was going to have to put in the time and effort to make it work. What I hadn’t realized was how consuming it would be. I was constantly looking for matches or keeping up conversations. Usually 1 to 3 hours a day was spent on these apps. Sometimes more! And here’s the thing – it was far from fun the majority of the time. I was typing the same messages over and over: what I did for work, the activities I enjoyed, the same answers to superficial questions. I would say that about 90% of my matches lasted less than a week. Quite a few were just interested in hookups despite staying in their bio that they were looking for a serious relationship. Many of these were really bad matches, they couldn’t carry on a conversation, only answering questions with one word and not asking any questions themselves. Painful! Many, I figured out, would not be a good fit at all, so I would say my goodbyes, wish them luck, and move on. Quite a few I never heard from again, after they found out that I was 6 feet tall. All of this is emotionally exhausting. In person, I would say that it would be rare for someone to meet 1-5 potential dates on a daily basis, but that is the norm in the online dating world.
What do I have to show for my nearly year and a half of effort? I went on one in-person date (that went well, but didn’t go anywhere) and made a few friends that I still talk with. But relationship wise, absolutely nothing!
Being bombarded with new matches causes complications when you are looking for a relationship. It’s hard not to try to explore ALL of the options. At one point I had over 40 conversations going. It was exhausting! I was constantly worried that I could miss out on a good match, so I kept looking everyday. And even if I decided not to look, the apps would send me notifications that I had new likes and I should go see if it’s a match. What if this became a habit I couldn’t break? That even after I was in a relationship, I kept looking . . . just in case.
I also worry about that for the guy as well. Often, I’ve had somewhat of a ‘connection’ with someone and I felt hopeful of it going somewhere. Every time, the guy went with someone else they had been talking with at the same time as me. In a situation where there are pretty much endless options, someone will always be able to find someone prettier, funnier, more interesting, closer, etc. than me. Which is completely fine, except when it becomes a pattern to constantly move on to what seems like a better option. Without the shared experiences to bond you to another person, it is really tough to stop looking.
Maybe I have been on too many apps for too long, but eventually everyone starts to look and sound the same. Nobody stands out anymore. I am no longer surprised by what I read and a bio and the pictures are far from unique. Especially in Northern Ontario, almost all guys seem to have the same pictures, none of which appeal to me:
– Holding a fish
– Holding a can of beer
– Standing in front of a truck (or just a truck)
– With a dead moose
I do realize that guys don’t usually sit around taking copious selfies to adorn their dating profiles with. Seriously though, when everyone shares the exact same stuff, I find myself just swiping through, not wanting to match with anyone.
This is probably the biggest point for me. It is incredibly hard for me to connect to someone over messages. While there are certain people I enjoy talking to more than others, I have never felt that bond with another person over the internet. Sometimes, after a single in-person conversation with someone, I can tell that I have a friend for life, but online interactions fall kind of flat. I never could understand when people would say they fell in love with someone without ever meeting them. The same goes for attraction. While I have found people attractive from their photos, I have never found myself attracted to someone. This is because for me, attraction is much more than just how someone looks. It’s their mannerisms, way of talking, how they treat other people, and of course how they treat me. These are things that you can’t see through messages.
And on the other side, it’s not easy to see those negative parts of a person’s personality when it is purely online. It’s much harder to tell when someone is lying when you can’t see his face. Or you can’t tell if he treats people in the service industry with respect if you are never in public with him. It’s much harder to spot the red flags when all you have is an assurance from him that they are a really nice person.
So, I found out that online dating isn’t for me. Honestly, since I have deleted the apps, I’ve found it has reduced my stress significantly, and I’m on my phone a lot less. I know that during social isolation, many people are turning to online dating as it’s pretty much the only way to meet new people, but I’m preferring to just put a pause on the relationship thing. I am not in a rush, and will happily wait until I connect with people in a non-virtual situation once again.