Comment: Are you swiped out by post-internet dating?
by Laura Hayward Alfia
Lily Allen once said it's hard out here for a b****. And do you know what? I reckon that she must have been talking about online dating. I don't know about you, but I know that for me, dating can often feel like I am this manic, crazy, starved little mouse dashing around here, there and everywhere trying to scavenge for anything that I can find – one last, remaining, little crumb left of some decency, that shows humanity in the dating world really does exist. I am desperate to believe that not everyone says things like "hey beautiful, I bet you're lips would look good around my d***" and "hey sexy, send me some nudes?” It can be really hard out here, really, really, really hard. And just like that little mouse, sometimes you get caught in that trap of getting stuck on a date that makes you wish you were at home watching Netflix and counting your own pubic hair. That's actually a normal Saturday night in for me, hunni.
Dating in this post-internet era that most of us are so accustomed to by now is absolutely EXHAUSTING. Tinder is used by many with such an aggression to find their next lay that it feels like you may as well be on something called 'I Am Looking For A Shag; Interested?' This is sometimes unfortunately disguised with some HILARIOUS banter first about how someone has just come out of a relationship and isn't looking for ANY kind of commitment *cute hands over eyes monkey emoji.* Urgh sorry, I just vommed.
Grindr is used for fast, desperate sex for people who act like they've been starved of it since 2011, just like we use McDonald's for fast food after a night out where you've pretended you've just had the best night of your life: paid £20 to get into a club where the only song you recognised was 'Breathe' by Blu Cantrell and Sean Paul, and where some man in brown pointed suede slip on loafers with his shirt tucked into his trousers THAT GO TOO HIGH UP ABOVE THE WAIST (come on mate, it's not that hard) has asked you what you're doing tonight.
And then you have actual online dating – OkCupid, Plenty of Fish (POF), Match.com, Guardian Soulmates, My Single Friend, J Date, Gay.com etc., and other incredibly popular apps like Happn, Bumble... The list is endless. I have tried a few of these, and let me just tell you that even when I got chatting to a guy who told me he was "a really stylish dresser" and then mentioned 'bright green trousers' and 'neck-a-chief' in the same sentence, it didn't put me off and so guess what? I fell into that little mouse trap: I agreed to go on a date where I spent three hours contemplating homicide or suicide because not only was he wearing both bright green trousers and a neck-a-chief, but he was also pushing 5.2", tops, when he'd told me he was "somewhere around 5.9"." So that was fun.
So yes, dating in the post-internet era is not exactly a walk in the park with a bunch of roses and a Mr Whippy, but more like a trip down to the sewers in flip flops. You can speak to someone for weeks and find out the innermost details of their bowel habits and the type of breakfast cereal they eat, but then never be asked on a date. Or you can match with someone at 9.11pm, they be inside your home and inside you by 10.21pm, and then by 11.05pm they're off into the dark night and you never see, or hear from them again. There are no rules, no guidelines, no warning signs: someone may appear like their personal hygiene is top notch but then they drop those pants and GOD DAMN where were the signs? There wasn't any. This person just clearly seems to think that not washing their willy is the new IT thing to do of 2016. FYI – it's not.
Back in the old days, there was this thing called courting, or so I'm told. This was where two people would decide that they thought of each other "rather fondly" and so would take walks to quaint little places like the local seaside or a tea room, or go and watch one of those old black and white films. The furthest you would get (until marriage) is hand-holding and an occasional 'peck on the cheek' as you walked home together, arm in arm. There were no pings coming from iPhones in pockets, no 'New Tinder Match' or a WhatsApp from someone you had sex with 7 weeks ago in a club toilet in Shoreditch. None of this happened. Yes there was failed marriages and affairs and that romantic angst (I am so in love but will I ever see them again), but courting, aka dating, was graceful and romantic and yeah probably a bit more boring. But you didn't have the danger of ACCIDENTALLY liking your exes Instagram picture from 2012 because you had a really lonely night, 2 and a half bottles of wine too many and the person you thought was going to be your soulmate ended everything over a Facebook message. And yeah so what it was 4 years ago? IT STILL HURTS.
Seriously, if dating was all about pecks on cheeks and black and white films, imagine how much more time we would have to re-watch every episode of Sex and The City, or shop for a new shade of orange lipstick, or try an Ottolenghi recipe you saw on Twitter, fail, and then eat a Tesco microwaveable curry? IMAGINE HOW MUCH MORE TIME WE WOULD HAVE TO DO ALL THESE VERY IMPORTANT THINGS. And imagine how many less cases of repetitive strain injuries we would see from all that swiping.
So internet dating – is it doing us all any good? Recent research has suggested that half of all couples will be meeting online by 2031 as relationships that used to start in schools and in the workplace are now on the decline. Currently, one in five relationships already start online, (and this is probably higher in a city like London.) So it's fair to say that online dating is doing it's thang – people are hooking up, that's for sure. But then again, recent studies have stated that marriages are more likely to end in divorce if you met online. Of course none of this is gospel, but it's interesting. Online dating is great because it allows you to really search for someone that you think you could, ultimately, share your life (or your bed) with, and no matter how many times you're disappointed, there's that comforting fact that there is always someone else out there.
But what if that is part of the problem? If there is always someone else available, then what is it about the person you're with (at dinner, in bed) that is worth investing in and continuing with? Does all this dating opportunity mean that there is less inclination to really work at something with someone because when things get remotely challenging, you know you can just activate an app and get swiping and liking to find your next great ting? The worry is that these apps and dating sites create a dating world that has become so fast and disposable: we can meet people quickly, and then we can dispose of them even quicker. An un-match on Tinder, a block on WhatsApp and an unfollow on Instagram – you may have been sharing a tub of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food on Friday, but by Saturday at 11am you really could be history hun.
Interestingly, dating apps and sites have also been linked to an increase in STI's because we are all able to switch up our partners so quickly. Syphilis has seen a 33% increase and gonorrhoea a 19% increase in 2014. Is it because of these dating platforms that make sex so readily available, all the time? Because even on the sofa on a Sunday evening in thermals watching old episodes of Friends, we all know that if you really wanted to, you could do some serious swiping and have a friend of your own coming around in no time.
I don't really have a problem with these dating sites or these apps, and if anything, having come out of a relationship recently, the thought of them does excite me because you just don't know what or who you're going to meet. And there can be good in that, as well as bad. They can boost you when you get a like or a message, and they can also leave the most self-secure individual checking themselves when they get an un-match from someone called 'Doug the Dawg'. They can send you sky high and onto the rocket of luuuuv; and they can also send you over the edge and down the hill into a world where you start to believe that your happiness may have to be found in a bowl of pesto pasta and a Mars Bar because you can't even meet anyone on Plenty of Fish. Plenty of Fish for God's sake! Trust me, I've been there.
So, I guess maybe the answer is we should just start using them in a way that reflects the fact that we remember it is another human we are communicating with on the other end of that site or app. So don't ask any questions you wouldn't in person, don't put up pictures of yourself seven years ago when you'd just got back from Barbados and were full of enthusiasm and passion for life, (but you're now in an office job you hate, 3 stone heavier and you frequently eat a Pot Noodle and two Snickers as your afternoon snack – nothing wrong with that by the way.) Oh and also, please don't put up a picture of you that looks like you're in a relationship with someone else cos’ it’s really not sexy baby boy. Actually ideally, please don't go on these sites if you're in a relationship at all. (Note: if the guy's wife who I received a message from on my way to a date with her - little did I know - husband, I hope you did get that divorce babes. No one needs a husband who is gallivanting around on Tinder like a buffoon, calling himself Pete when his name was actually Jeff. Seriously, WTF? Pesto Pasta is definitely a better option in this kind of scenario.)
Dating in the post-internet era? To be honest, I don't think I'd have it any other way. As romantic as 'courting' sounds, I do often have to stifle a yawn when I hear anyone talk about it. I'm a Londoner. I like options, variety, excitement, the unexpected. I mean how else would one get through the daily commute if they couldn't cope with the unexpected.
But just remember... you never know when that next lay may turn out to be your colleague's ex or your bosses nephew or the directors niece. And no one needs that kind of stress in their life. Absolutely no one.