...And Why I Wonder If They’re Changing Modern Dating For the Worst
Last week, I deleted all dating apps off of my phone...this isn’t the first time. It isn’t that I’m not interested in dating or finding “the one,” I simply couldn’t commit to the dating lifestyle that I felt dating apps encourage or the energy-investment they required. I’ll begin by saying, I think I have one of the most optimistic outlooks on life out of anyone you might meet. For the most part, I approach life from a glass half full, sunshine and rainbows, anything is possible, the Universe is working in your favor point of view. But, I’ve also committed to cutting out or minimizing behaviors, habits, and relationships that don’t contribute to the positive-energy, high-vibe, mindful lifestyle I strive to live.
Overall, my focus has been on saying "goodbye" to mindless, numbing, energy-sucking habits...when I got real with myself, using dating apps checked all of the “no-no” boxes. Do I want to date and meet potential romantic partners? Yes, but not at the cost of investing loads of time and energy into platforms that take more than they give. Have I met some good guys on dating apps? Absolutely. But in the last six months, I can count exactly one instance of meeting someone off of a dating app who I was truly interested in. One. Given the inverse time-to-success ratio, I decided it was time to take a break and let the Universe take control. In my experience, the Universe always finds a way to make the stars align...whether it’s through a dating app or not.
Although I can’t and won’t discount the number of real relationships that have sprung from these types of apps (remember, I’m the anything is possible kind of girl), I will suggest that they require so much time and energy because this new take on modern relationships has inadvertently encouraged bad behaviors for singles everywhere.
After hours of undocumented field research and qualitative interviews, I started developing a rather unscientific theory about the way dating apps have changed the landscape of dating...and maybe for the worst.
In my opinion, you can only get out of something the effort you put in. By observation, the effort most people put into connecting with others via dating apps is lackluster, at best. Personally, I came to expect a sea of fizzled out conversations (that I often had to carry to keep going); a list of halfhearted connections that led to no meeting; and matches that suggested they were interested in dating, but directed the conversation to topics that didn’t support their claims. Overall, I would say the majority of my time spent using dating apps was the equivalent of filtering through a long list of rather unqualified leads in a cold-call sales job...as though I’d been handed a list of potential matches who’d given their contact information for a chance to win free vacation - they liked the idea of lounging on the beach, but weren’t ready to invest the time or money to book a trip themselves.
I found the common theme with apps is to spread your energy into several conversations that can only be kept up halfheartedly instead of focusing on holding a few, high-quality conversations (full disclosure: I'm guilty, too). Most importantly, even if you are already overwhelmed with matches you can't sustain conversations with, you should keep swiping; there could always be "better" options out there, after all. I could go on about the ways we're being ineffective, at best, but if you're reading this, I'm assuming you've already experienced some of the joys of dating in the digital age and are on the same page.
Earlier I said that I’d met only one potential romantic partner I was fully interested in the last six months. While this is true, it’s not to say that I didn’t have nice dates with several kind, emotionally-available men who had good things going for them. I definitely did. In fact, I often left dates wondering why I couldn’t just be attracted to whats-his-name, who seemed to be perfectly interested in me and what I had to offer. The hard part was even getting to that point. What I hated about dating apps were the bad behaviors and humdrum effort that I had to endure and filter through just to get to an in-person meeting. Let me be clear, I’m not perfect, I’m guilty of not responding to messages or letting conversations fizzle out. But, I absolutely put intention behind things such as creating my profile and starting conversations; and I think that intention showed.
I worry, too, that many have become so reliant on the at-your-fingertips access of dating apps that singles have not had to hone the skills we previously did to approach, flirt with, and actually ask someone out in real life. The participants in my unscientific study corroborated: approaching or being approached by someone of the opposite sex while out on the town has seemingly become a thing of the past...unless fueled by booze (which, also by popular poll, is not the way most singles envision meeting a significant other). Let’s be perfectly clear, both parties are responsible here, we all have a lot of work to do when it comes to connection-building in general. I’m aware of how poor our skills have become across the board, but I digress.
So, have dating apps changed the landscape of dating for the worst? Have we built a generation of singles who’ve been inadvertently encouraged to approach relationships and dating with little purpose and intention? Or worse, have we become a generation that no longer values or understands true connection? I’d like to think more of us all. I’d like to think we have the capacity and desire to seek and form true, meaningful relationships fueled on intellectual connections, romantic spark, and the intention to grow and learn together. I believe that the fairy tale is available to all of us - app or no app. However, no fairy tale comes without some serious effort and the necessity to evolve not only for, but because of the relationship.