And then I got Hinge, for “research purposes” … of course.
Call me a cavewoman, but I’ve never used any dating apps before. Though, it’s an undeniable and universally acknowledged truth that their rise to dominance has completely overhauled the dating game.
And yet I have never been able to shake the belief that they’re a little bit scary, and if I’m brutally honest, desperate (I’m sorry, I said it).
But in 2021, what was once an alternate universe has nestled its way into the modern vernacular of society, causing a dramatic shift in a dating culture that is only surging forward, and leaving skeptics like me behind.
It’s true that the digital era has completely revolutionized the way we understand intimacy and seek relationships; the very notion of love and romance may remain the same, but the way we pursue it has undeniably changed.
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These days, it’s hard to even believe that just a few years ago the average 23-year-old woman wouldn’t have been caught dead online dating, much less admitting to it in a published article.
But in the modern era, we cynics exist only on the outskirts of a society where people of all ages have come to enjoy the process of virtually browsing through several potential partners, connecting on a very comfortable, risk-free level.
Today, as many as one third of Australians have admitted to using online dating to solve their singledom. Many of them now existing in successful relationships, married or bearing children to the once cyber companions.
But nonetheless, it was all a foreign and prodigious beast to me.
Up until now, I had only ever met one person online using social media… and that was via a trusty DM slide.
While he turned out reasonably normal and respectful, my initial reluctance came from a place of being irked by the slightly daunting idea of meeting someone outside of the physical world.
And imagine if things were to work out. What would you tell your future grandkids? I met pop on….Tinder? No thanks.
However, when I clocked up another year of being unlucky in love, I was forced to acknowledge that maybe it is actually me that is doing something wrong.
Gosh, that hurt to say.
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So, in the spirit of self-improvement, I discarded what little pride I had left, sucked up my gigantic ego… and signed myself up for a profile on hinge.
With the help of my friend, we carefully curated the most boring dating app profile, and once we went live, it actually proved to be more insightful than I had anticipated.
These are some of the key lessons learned.
It is really time to get off my high horse
If I’m totally honest, I think one of the largest motivators for my ardent avoidance of dating apps was this deep-seated belief that no respectable woman would ever be seen using a platform like hinge.
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And yet, some of my closest friends have found true love online. I’ve even attended a beautiful wedding of a loving, devoted couple where the invitation read ‘swiped right into love’. Four years on, they’re going strong.
My own best friend has gotten two serious relationships out of dating apps; one that she happily remains besotted in.
So, it suffices to say that there is no shortage of stories of very respectable, accomplished, kind-hearted people who have adapted, and have found their better halves as a byproduct!
Everyone is doing it.
And when I say, everyone… I mean literally everyone.
From your 17-year-old neighbour who is pretending to be a mortgage broker with a Mercedes, through to your best friend’s ex, your barista, the guy you always get partnered with in the gym, and that boss you hated with a burning vengeance five years ago.
I live in a small neighbourhood, so this certainly made for some mildly uncomfortable morning coffee runs. And if I’m honest, a bit of fun being poked at me by my accountant. Cringe.
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But even the people you expected would never need to resort to a dating app are on there; and perhaps, that was the most perplexing revelation of them all, and where I had incorrectly stigmatised the entire thing.
I was sure that I never wanted to be a person who ‘needed’ online dating, but I’ve realised that plenty of people are just there because they actually want to be.
And I could not believe some of the people I bumped into. I certainly had my fair share of jaw-dropping moments; And if nothing else, it provided a really good chance to be nosy about what people’s love languages are.
Yet few that I spoke with actually admitted to being on the app to find love; I got countless excuses (which I admittedly pried out of them, as any good journalist would), from ‘my mate made me’ right through to ‘I’m just trying to find a date for a wedding’. They each had their story, and they were sticking to it.
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Apps have made it far too easy for men to be lazy (well, lazier).
Let’s be real here, swiping through pictures requires absolutely no effort. And men are inherently lazy daters anyway, so this works quite well for them. These apps perpetuate their ability to sit back and invest little to no labour into getting what they want. And it’s a really pesky habit.
Chivalry is basically dead… is what I’m getting at.
We live in such a visual world.
While it’s true that we’re all more than what we look like – we’re smart, kind, ambitious, creative… Oh boy, do these apps expedite the power of appearance.
They literally offer us a visual catalogue of all the options out there, and since you can’t really tell very much about a person through a screen, nor can you pick up on chemistry or connection, a successful match relies solely on physical attraction.
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I would imagine that this is complicated further, by the fact that pictures aren’t always a true representation of how someone actually looks when you meet them in the flesh.
Or I suppose you could be one of those peculiar people who have the time to read the prompts…. or was it just me that didn’t do that?
It’s really helpful in vetting people.
I’ve been on some deeply tragic dates with people I’ve met the “good old-fashioned” way but I like to think of myself as a great judge of character and my intuition has always been spot on when gauging someone. It’s such a shame that I ignore the warning bells, time and time again.
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As it turns out, you can actually tell a fair bit about a person when you chat via the app. You can pick up on important things like their manners, etiquette, interests, and sense of humour. This makes it much easier to tell whether you could sit through a dinner date with them before you actually commit to making any plans.
And truth be told, this was one of my favourite parts, especially when I pondered all the awkward dates with bone-dry people that I could have avoided through the years… But it’s also important to consider that people’s online personalities don’t always translate in the real world.
And let’s be real here, they ask their friends for help with their replies.
Speaking of the old-fashioned way – It’s defunct. People don’t approach each other in real life anymore.
The hyper-connectivity of the virtual space has changed the way that we communicate in the physical world, so it’s no surprise the dominance of online dating apps has changed the nature of human relationships all together.
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In a tech-savvy civilisation, the surge in available options compounded with the fact that the use of these apps means that users can reject or express interest in another person without receiving any kind of embarrassing social repercussions, which makes people more inclined to rapid swipe through an app, than approach someone that they find attractive in a bar.
My friend once told me she met a cute guy working in a phone store when she went to get her screen fixed; the chemistry was strong but both of them were far too demure to make a move, so they went their separate ways and ferociously swiped through tinder until they matched a few weeks later.
It went on to be a wonderful rendezvous that may have never come to be, if fate hadn’t worked in their favour.
And to think of all the swiping they could have saved if they’d just braved the scary thought of being brushed right from the outset.
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Whilst it’s mind-blowing, it’s also true that nobody ever enjoys a bruised ego … which brings me to my next point.
It kind of normalises rejection
I hate putting myself out there. Absolutely loathe it. And perhaps, my greatest dating blunder thus far has been that I have avoided it all costs.
But no matter how you do it, the whole concept of finding a companion requires vulnerability.
However, it’s incredibly difficult to become invested in anything that comes from a dating app before it actually has any agency in the real world.
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As they say, when you have nothing… you have nothing to lose. And because the whole process is so dispensable, you can chat with someone for a week and then decide to delete the app and poof, you disappear at the click of a button. Never to be seen again.
I’ve had plenty of friends tell me that despite being hyper-sensitive to being turned down when expressing interest in men in the real world, the app taught them not to care less if a guy didn’t reciprocate the interest.
So, If you’re a bit like me and would quite literally rather poke yourself in the eyes with hot iron rods than look desperate, something like this could actually be good for helping you to build the confidence you need to put yourself out there in the dating game, and ask for what you want.
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I guess the biggest thing I learned when I let all my judgmental walls down, is that it can actually be kind of … fun.
For all intents and purposes, the profile was for research. I had no intention of actually meeting any of these people. But as any good scientist would, I treated the experiment as though it was real, and to be honest, it was a really entertaining process.
By the end of it, I felt I had learned so much; not only about mankind but also about myself and the things I do and (absolutely) don’t want in a prospective partner, when the time comes for me to start looking.
I’m still a little bit hesitant to commit to the world of dating apps, concerned that they probably coincide with my distrust for strangers, pathologically low threshold for small talk, and reserved demeanour.
Plus, I feel like looking for a long-term love on a dating app is like asking for the world… If you’re lucky, you just might get an atlas.
But what was key to the whole process was being able to open my mind for once, and accept the fact that there are literally no rules when it comes to contemporary dating. None whatsoever.
And as they say, you can’t discover new oceans without losing sight of the shore.