Dating Apps: The end of romance as we knew it?

It’s a big, fat cliché, but as a single girl living in a city – who doesn’t want to die alone with her face eaten by overweight dogs – and would like to find a date, you’ve pretty much got to hit the dating apps.

Gone are the days of eyeing-up the cute lads and ladies in your local pub. Nowadays, eye contact is out, and screen swiping is in vogue.

Years ago, the concept of online dating was a subject of ridicule. Now, it’s a social norm. The likes of Bumble and Tinder are popular apps downloaded to most single (and, if research is right, some not so single) twenty, thirty, forty-somethings’ phones, and the internet is our go-to place to find a potential beau.

For the self-confessed (and clinically diagnosed) anxious among us, this game of human snap is often about as much fun as hitting yourself repeatedly over the head with a spade. Sure, there’s the initial buzz when you match with a viable human being, but then come the messages. The DTFs. The ‘what u into, babe?’ And the ever-so alluring ‘girl you cute send nudes.’ (For the love of god, specters of the Interweb. Forget Netflix and chill. Punctuate and chill). I mean, I am down for a laugh, and a bit of a flirt, but am I alone in thinking a bit of respect is a far sexier trait?

OK, so I am being dramatic. This doesn’t happen all the time, or not straight away, but it does often transpire. Usually, I just role my eyes, take a screengrab and send it to a friend with an “OMG. Seriously?’ message attached, and, you know, we just laugh it off. But recently, I’ve found myself feeling a little, I don’t know, saddened, I guess, and more than a little disillusioned with this dating malarkey. I even took a break from dating for about a year-and-a-half, and have only recently decided to give it another go. I’m still not sold on the process, but as one of the increasingly number of people who now work from home, the likelihood of meeting a fella IRL is unfortunately quite slim.

Sometimes it seems like we’ve lost the desire to approach someone face-to-face and asking someone out seems like a social no-no.

Perhaps we’re too afraid? I’ve had a crush on someone for a little while now, a real person who I know, and am weighing up the pros and cons of telling them (mostly the cons, especially the red-faced embarrassment of having to see them again. Let’s face it, this is where apps like Tinder work well. You can press delete and pretend any awkwardness never happened).

Then there are people like my housemate, and bestie, who simply says that she doesn’t have the time to go out and meet someone. She’s got a busy, demanding job which often sees her coming home and working well into the evening. Dating apps allow her to interact with potential dates, and ensure that doing so fits into her already busy life. So, is it that we are just too busy for love, then? Is that the problem?

When the primary back-and-forth flirtation ensues, shortly followed by the exchange of numbers and further WhatsApp chatter (affectionately dubbed as WhatsTap by one of my besties because, well, you can imagine), it’s sort of exhilarating.

Will he/she be different? Is this going to be the best date ever? What shall I wear? Where shall we go? Will he/she fancy me? Will I like them?

Often, after all this build-up, I’m either nervous as hell or completely disenchanted by the entire process, depending on how my anxiety wants to play out during that day. Don’t get me wrong, the process can be fun. The dressing-up and heading to a bar to meet someone you’ve been vibe-ing back and forth with for a few days is exciting, but it can also feel more staged than an episode of Made in Chelsea, slightly put-on, and a bit too try-hard.

Where is the elusive spark? That stomach-flipping, heart-stopping, goose bump magic of when you first lay eyes on someone remarkable or see your crush around?

Remember when you used to get crushes on that cute guy or girl in a bar/shop/library/class and your palms would be a bit sweaty, and you’d feel all giddy? I miss that feeling. Usually, I’m just trying to spy the person in the crowd through blurry eyes (I always forget my glasses) or I’m just relieved that I got there on time, or that they look like their snaps, or that they’ve turned up (honestly, dating with an anxiety disorder is a bloody task and a half).

Maybe I’m just a romantic? I’m a typical Libra in that way, big on the romance and the heart-stuff. Or maybe I’m just a bit grumpy and impatient?

But I can’t be the only person feeling a little disenchanted by dating apps? Or the only one left a bit jaded or cynical by the whole approach to modern romance?
To me, it’s just a little disposable. The grass is always greener. Not sure? Head back to the online sweet-shop of people. Make like Sam Wheat and ghost. Keep going. There are plenty more fish but they’re no longer in the sea. They’re online. It’s like Ocado for love. Settle down in your pjs, fire up the WiFi connection and off you pop. On one hand, this No-Frills approach to finding love is quite brilliant. I am often pyjama-clad and make-up free so it’s quite nice to not have to make the effort when trying to source a date. But, on the other, this is entirely the problem. It’s effortless. And boy, does it show.

With this in mind – and not wanting to come from a solely female perspective (I’ve met lovely guys on dating apps, some who are still friends, some who are not) – I thought it prudent to ask my male friends their opinions on perusing the internet for love.
One friend met his wife on Tinder so it’s a given he’s pro. Others reckon it’s a bit of fun. Some like the hook-up nature of the apps (women, as well as men) and the accessibility of meeting other singles in the area. Then there’s another friend, who – a bit like me – would like to step away from the phone and meet someone IRL fueled by the ‘spark’, that feeling of being drawn to someone the moment you see them. Or someone who gives you the ‘feels’ when you speak or you see them around. “Woman are just as bad as men,” he reveals, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that this does surprise me. “You start talking to a girl and soon it becomes sexual.”

So, I guess it isn’t gender-based. Although, statistically I think women do bear the brunt of the sexually aggressive messages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been met with a sulky response to rebuffing someone’s advances.

“Well, this is Tinder, love. What do you expect?” was one of the messages I’ve received when questioning a guy for asking me to “hook-up” with him that evening.

“I don’t know,” I replied. And, as I typed my response, I really didn’t. Was I expecting too much? “A bit of a chat. A date. A polite conversation.” Some bloody respect, I thought, but I didn’t say it. What’s the point? And besides, maybe I’m being naïve?

Not everyone is like this. I’d say it’s a 50/50 mix of people genuinely wanting to date and those who’d prefer to use the apps for other purposes. Perhaps it’s because these apps lend themselves to anonymity, that it’s users might not question saying things they wouldn’t ever say to someone face. It seems almost acceptable, in a way, and it certainly isn’t surprising.

Recently, I came across a widely shared Tweet from a woman who’d encountered an older man on an app who, once his advances were rebuffed due to her not feeling the age-gap, became resentful and abusive towards her. He even used her appearance against her. The epitome of an entitled arsehole, in my opinion. Previously, he’d expressed a keen interest in her, it was only when she said ‘no’ that he decided to get personal (and down-right vindictive – read the Tweets here. The man is disgusting).

It’s extremely strange what people think is an appropriate response on the internet or an acceptable way of talking to people.

So, what am I getting at? I don’t really know. I guess I’m calling for people to put down the phone and step, blinking like a new-born in the sunshine, out into the real world and have an actual conversation. Who knows, you might meet the love of your life, or Mr/Mrs Right Now, in the veg isle at Morrisons – or Tesco. Whatever floats your boat.

What do you think about dating apps? Are you an avid user of Tinder or Bumble? Do you wish we’d step it back and get rid of the internet when it comes to the search for love? Do you think it’s a helpful tool for busy singletons to meet people? Let me know below!



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