And why people with vivid imaginations should not date online.
It seems there are 4 categories of people who reside on dating sites:
I could say I’ve fallen into all of those categories, minus ‘Players’ and so far I’ve managed to swerve any interaction with one. Most of my friends are on Tinder, OK Cupid, Happn, Hinge etc, but I do have some friends who really frown upon it and think we’re desperate and pathetic for being on these apps. Needless to say, they aren’t in the socially awkward category like I am, they meet people in the real world, which is my main reason for dating online.
I find it awkward talking to strangers in social situations. And God forbid anyone pays me a compliment or asks for my number. I literally get a psychical reaction to it and need the ground to swallow me up. So if my future husband is out there reading this, if I like you I will most certainly look away immediately if you look at me. I’ve tried the “5 second gaze hold” rule and I find it psychically impossible. The real tell if I like you is that I’ll probably leave whatever social situation we’re in, and… well… probably never see you again. I don’t know in what mating-instinct universe “RUN AWAY FROM POTENTIAL MATE” could ever work, but somehow it’s hardwired into me. I mean, of course there’s a chance I’ll meet ‘The One’ by not looking at him and running in the opposite direction. So far it’s not really worked out, on any remote level. In fact I don’t think I’ve exchanged numbers or been on a date with a complete stranger I’ve met in the ‘Real World’ — ever. Take me online and I can just about bear it.
“I don’t know in what mating-instinct universe “RUN AWAY FROM POTENTIAL MATE” could ever work…”
At the risk of sounding like a 45 year old unemployed dude, living in his parent’s basement, playing computer games and talking to his only friends through a headset straight out of the 90s, it really is just so much easier talking to people through a machine. There’s a protective barrier comunicating with someone via message. If they don’t respond, it’s nowhere near as bad as the imagined disaster of someone declining to your face; though I wouldn’t know because I’ve never approached a guy in my life — I’d rather die.
I know that’s sad, pathetic, and depressing, but I’m from the Napster Generation. As a teen I was obsessed with music and sat in chat-rooms all night long discovering music from kids around the world, so online dating is obviously a natural progression for the likes of me. I even met my best friend online. I won’t name-and-shame her, but we’re still best friends 17 years later. We both work in the music industry and have over 200 mutual friends on Facebook, which goes to show how you really can find “your people” through the Internet.
Enough nostalgia though, fast forward to being a 34 year old single woman, who hates talking to strangers; I definitely don’t shit where I eat, so the only option left is meeting guys online. I can’t tell you what kind of guy I’m looking for as it changes with the weather. One day I think I’m looking for a husband and future baby-daddy, because it’s depressing watching all my exes settle down with the girl they met after me; and the next I just want a short term, super hot, intense, mad, love affair that we both know will crash and burn; and other times I just want sex. Yep, shocker, girls like to just fuck too.
So the unwritten code of Online Dating:
The thing you need to be OK with and remember is, people are flakes-
They sometimes just can’t be bothered to reply to you. Yes, you may have had great banter for a period of time, but sometimes people forget to respond (because they’re talking to loads of people), or they’re just not interested anymore. Or perhaps they went on a great date last night and are holding out for that to work, but won’t un-match you just incase it goes south. That way they still have you sitting in the wings as a back-up. Or maybe your banter’s just dull. There are only so many times someone can be bothered to reply to “How was your day?” from the same person. There’s a reason they made that shit film “He’s Just Not That Into You” — it’s real life people. It’s harsh, but true. We all do it.
Another big reason you may get the ice-out, is because to a lot of people these apps are just games on their phones, like angry birds. You sit and swipe when you’re in the bathroom, on the subway, waiting in line at Starbucks. You swipe. You pass the time. You swipe again. “Oh, this one’s hot. Oh, he liked me. 10 x validation points! Thanks Stranger! Chat? Err, no thanks!” I’ll play that game even when I’m interested or dating someone and I’m pretty sure the guy is doing the same thing.
But what happens when you meet someone online and you start to actually really like him or her?
‘Experts’ say you should meet ASAP so you don’t divulge too much in the build up to a date. I guess it’s also so you don’t waste time and you can move on to the next if it doesn’t work out, which is pretty defeatist and completely unromantic. But if for some reason you’re traveling for work or something and you can’t meet immediately, but you continue to talk for weeks or even months, then what?
The conversation’s great. You go through the whole rigmarole of Instagram flirting. The further back you ‘like’, the more you’re implying that you’re into them and by now you’re practically virtually dating. You start to share intimate details about your life, text all night long, send cute pictures to each other, and you know you already fancy them because lets face it, you didn’t swipe right because you didn’t. And if you really hit the jackpot, you start with the sexting and before you know it you have an incredible love affair laid out in front of you, with a stranger. Lets not forget that part — this person is a STRANGER.
“You have an incredible love affair laid out in front of you — with a stranger.”
It becomes all-consuming. This fictional man, who exists as a grey speech bubble in your phone is all you can think about. You imagine your first kiss; your first date; lying in bed next to each other after all your sexting filth has been realised and falling into that intimate “I’m looking at you like l love you” glance (but of course he doesn’t because he’s not even real), and everything is perfect in the world. You’ve found someone! You talk about things you would be too terrified to on a date like children, marriage, and your dark past… It’s all been laid out and he still wants you. This has to be some kind of joke, right? Well… Yes. It probably is.
Whether you sustain this fantasy long enough to actually meet up, or it fizzles out before the big day, either way you have fallen for a fictional character. Just because he sends you the love-eye-emoji does not mean he’s going to stare at you longingly whenever you say something cute. Just because he tells you everything you want to hear sexually, does not mean you’re going to get it. And the photos? I hate to say it, but he’s probably sending them to other girls. The brutal truth is, that nothing is as it seems with online dating.
“You have fallen for a fictional character.”
Ok, so maybe you really have met ‘The One’ and weeks of investment will turn out to be a good bet, but you will still have lived with a perfected, fantasy version of this man that you created from the clues he’s given you. Our fantasies and expectations are never going to be met by another human in the exact way we anticipate, so you’re most likely going to have to deal with some form of disillusionment. Sorry to break that to you. It’s the downside of online dating and having a vivid imagination.
I’m not bashing the faith that it’ll work out, believe me I’m the poster girl for it. I fall for it time and time again because I’m a hopeless romantic and believe one of these days it’ll work out. But the bottom line is, when you start to harbour feelings of any kind for someone you’ve never met, no matter how much you think you may be getting to know them, they are not the person you’ve created in your head — they’re a stranger!
Thanks to Benjamin Combs for the photos.