I try regularly to reassure myself that I can’t be alone in finding it difficult to envisage life with one partner for eternity. With divorce rates teetering on the southern side of fifty percent, it’s hard to comprehend that humans can remain satisfied with a singular companion for a lifetime.
The invention of Tinder, and similar applications, has revolutionised our perceptions of contemporary courtship. For something that was historically deemed to be a last resort for desperate singletons, online dating has gone mainstream, and we’re no longer afraid to confess our association with it.
So, for the sake of a social experiment – and perhaps a moderate fear of enduring the rest of life as a one-woman-wolf-pack – I gathered the courage to download the app.
A summary of my limited experience would include an intriguing combination of monotony, sleaze and disappointment.
After acquiring what I can only describe as repetitive strain injury of the right thumb, I began to consider the long-term psychological impact of this form of mass-mate selection. One can lie beached in one’s pyjamas, continuing a passionate love affair with Netflix, whilst essentially (and sometimes subconsciously), ‘internet shopping’ for men with a free hand.
With so much fresh meat available, it’s an understandably overwhelming concept to imagine choosing a single contender from the line up. At what point do we settle, when there’s always another alternative with denser facial hair or a wittier biography?
There is an obvious, and fundamental emphasis on aesthetics. Some may suggest that this is shallow, but it’s no different from real life, it just requires less social risk.We are now presented with an opportunity to carefully craft and edit messages before we send them, allowing far less room for error and subsequent embarrassment.
It seems, that as the population of Tinder increases, the ‘traditional approach’ is becoming a dying advance. I believe that we are in the midst of a momentous change in human behaviour, where verbal social interaction is being replaced by what I like to refer to as ‘Antisocial Media’. We exist in a society where popularity is dictated by likes and swipes, rather than a response from communication in the flesh.
Another, profound issue with internet dating is the notion of false advertisement. We are marketing ourselves predominantly as a physical product, exposed to rejection and open for testing. So naturally, we will be highlighting our fortes, and attempting to down-play our flaws (much like a CV). I’m not talking about a slight tweak in camera angle, or phenomenal make-up artistry; I’m referring to photoshop-esque applications, which allow an individual to basically modify any aspect of their anatomy considered to be below par.
So what happens when we’ve misrepresented our credentials to the point of deception (known colloquially as ‘Catfishing’)? This happens, and it’s embarrassing, irritating and a little alarming for all involved.
A survey commissioned by Greg Hodge (CEO, Beautifulpeople) found that fifty-three percent of online daters have lied about their appearance on their online profiles, and thirty-six percent fibbed about their job. These are frightening statistics.
How is anyone going to track down ‘the one’, if the majority of people are concealed by a veil of false pretense?
So, I will now (somewhat reluctantly) share an experience I encountered with a potential catch on Tinder, which translated into something quite bizarre in real life.
After a few dead-end conversations, I was loosing momentum. Just as I was contemplating the termination of my online quest for a suitor, my exhausted thumb stumbled across a potential bachelor. Let’s call him David. He was well dressed, handsome and was stroking a cat in his second picture, a well-deserved recipient of my right swipe. We matched and he initiated conversation;
“Hello, Harriet you look lovely.”
This was the first introductory message I had received in some time that wasn’t brimming with sleaze and explicit content; it felt novel and refreshing.
One conversational stream lead to another and we decided to move things to the next level; a verbal dialogue. This is always an essential but daunting progression to carry out as swiftly as possible. Not in the least to confirm whether or not you are actually using your best flirt game to unknowingly woo a spinster from Ukraine.
We clicked alarmingly quickly; sharing a mutual sense of humour and enjoying a seamless progression from one subject to another. He seemed confident, witty and had me totally enthralled. We were both smitten, and agreed (prematurely) that something rather exceptional was brewing between us.
Logistically, it became apparent that we couldn’t meet up straightaway, so a string of six-hour phone calls became an everyday occurrence for three weeks. We couldn’t get enough. We exchanged videos, photos and messages at every waking moment. It seemed as though we had placed our real lives on hold to immerse ourselves in this fantasy, which felt so attainable.
We finally decided to meet, and the expectation was obscenely high. I recruited my housemates to aid me in the infamous outfit selection process, and after hours spent crafting immaculate wings of eyeliner and perfectly blended contours, I set off.
During the short walk to the rendezvous destination, the butterflies were crippling. I was relieved to spot a male on the horizon; the danger of being stood up was no longer apparent and the nerves subsided. As we ambled closer, our eyes gradually met, but in a perfectly horizontal fashion (slightly odd for a man who had described himself as six foot one). This realisation was understandably deflating, but I refused to write him off simply due to his diminished height. Perhaps I had finally found an excuse to relieve myself from the perpetual agony of six-inch heels.
Our initial interaction was actually rather disappointing. I had spent copious hours in the shower mulling over this encounter, practicing my lines and predicting his response. This was not how it was supposed to be. He could barely look at me.
He was nervous, really nervous. Beads of sweat were sprouting on his brow in the minus-two degree January heat.
I had foolishly presumed that we would resume in the same harmonious manner that each phone dialogue had begun. I tried to hopelessly fabricate conversation, to avoid any form of silence, but my aimless, and slightly desperate yap did not seem to spark any sustained interest.
Was it me? Did my photos not accurately represent my appearance? Had I gained three stone overnight? I began to panic internally, but managed to get a grip and retain external composure. We finally migrated indoors for a drink in my favourite Winchester joint. I hoped that this would relax the situation, but on the contrary. He was sitting with his head bowed, and hands tightly interlocked, verbally incapacitated and on the brink of hyperventilation. I gently reassured him that there was nothing to worry about, and that I too was nervous, but this was painful.
I had one of two options. A) Leave. My presence seemed only to be exacerbating the situation. B) Stay. This would involve wallowing in the bitter shadow of a passionate online romance, which brimmed with so much potential, but failed to deliver.
I eventually decided to select a diplomatic version of option A). We left the pub after half an hour of cringe-worthy monologue (performed by me), and parted ways in an awkward fashion.
I was thrown. I had been under an illusion that this man encompassed all of my desires and was certainly above five foot six, but I was thoroughly deceived.
During the emotional rollercoaster that was the walk home, it occurred to me that I was the victim a self-inflicted online attachment.
I felt a little idiotic for investing so much time, effort and trust into something that was yet to tangibly manifest.
David and I indulged in no further contact.
Alas, I couldn’t possibly be the only naive member of the online dating community to virtually fall for the idea of a companionship that in reality can’t actually exist. I can imagine that a series of similarly disappointing experiences may cause a numbing effect for a hopeful dater. Is this really a sustainable option? Or are we becoming greedy, fickle and expecting too much?
We can all visualise our ideal persona, and this is becoming all too easy to fabricate online. We market ourselves with qualities that we intend to develop, but have not yet obtained.
The raw truth is, this dishonesty will eventually be unearthed, and we will have no choice but to confront our true identity in the process.