Believe it or not, there once was a time that I scoffed at the concept of online dating. Crazy, right? After all, it’s me we’re talking about, the woman who can’t fathom meeting a guy organically—like while waiting in line at Target or at a grocery store in the cereal aisle—because she’s so accustomed to using dating apps in order to find her potential suitors.
And honestly, the majority of people I’ve known that are around my age have met their significant others through online dating. Evidently, it’s become quite popular over the last few years and is the easiest way to meet people nowadays. However, it’s that easiness that may be screwing a lot of us twentysomething singletons over.
In its infancy, online dating was solely desktop based—iPhones and the like didn’t exist yet—and popular sites like eHarmony and Match.com were its pioneers. And maybe that’s why those individuals who used these sites back in the day had so much success with finding true love.
Once smartphones came around and mobile apps became a thing, though, the online dating scene changed. Suddenly, countless dating sites began creating their own apps, therefore becoming more accessible to the entire world. This, of course, makes perfect business sense: In 2015, more than 60% of web browsing occurred on mobile, and this percentage will only increase, likely exponentially. But the move into the mobile age begs the question: How much access is too much access?
With mobile-only dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, and countless others, it’s all too easy now to meet potential lovers (or FWBs or jump offs, if that’s how you choose to get down). All you really have to do to connect with someone is look at their default picture on their profile and swipe right. That is the bare minimum of effort one has to exert in order to start a conversation with another person. And it’s this level of ease and laziness that attracts many individuals of the millennial generation to these apps. Let’s be real: The less energy we have to put into doing something, the better.
But having this level of accessibility literally in the palm of our hands could be doing more harm than good. It spoils us and, in turn, gives us license to treat the relationships we form with others with varying levels of carelessness. Because we have so many people to pick and choose from, we can quickly move on to someone else should one of these relationships not work out as planned. If you’re only looking to hook up, then it’s very easy to have fleeting interactions with people.
And it’s this ephemerality that leaves many of us heartbroken and distraught. It can make even the most confident people second-guess themselves and overanalyze trivial situations. Some of us don’t even invest enough time to truly get to know someone because we know there’s someone else just one swipe away.
This is especially true in situations where we've been ghosted by someone with whom we thought we had a strong connection. When this happens, we typically go back to the drawing board and start swiping left and right to find someone new. This is, however, a temporary fix.
Those of us who are seeking a meaningful relationship may miss out on the perfect opportunity because we’re too fixated on what else is out there in digital space. When we focus on what could be instead of what is, we're stunting the growth of a relationship with an individual that could really be a great fit for us, and that's kind of disheartening. Is it really that hard to be vulnerable? Have we become so jaded that we can't give 100% of ourselves to the people we date?
Over the past couple of years, I've found myself envying the generations before us. Yes, they didn't have smartphones and Netflix, but that lack of technology that we're scarily attached to made dating for them less complicated and more genuine. They took the time to really get to know someone, and because they didn't have dating apps like Tinder, they were more capable of investing in a person. Now, that's not to say that they didn't date multiple people, but they were probably more inclined to foster the growth of one relationship because they didn't have hundreds of thousands of other options.
I’ve been an active participant in the online dating game since the age of 23, and while I’d love to tell you that I’ve found a man whom I can see being with long term, I can’t. In fact, the men I’ve gone out with and talked to have shown me the qualities I absolutely don’t want in a mate. While I’m grateful for the many things I’ve learned about myself and others throughout the process, I’m now at the point in my life where I’m unsure of online dating and its benefits. Sure, it makes meeting people easier and less awkward, and those are both major benefits to me.
But maybe the real magic can happen when things are awkward and difficult as hell. Dating is always uncomfortable one way or another, so I’m slowly but surely learning to be more open to meeting guys IRL first.
If you need me, I'll be at Trader Joe's.