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In essence, a dating app is a tool, and the dating world is a virtual reality where we interact with other people in order to meet a basic emotional need, a human connection.
Whether we tick the relationship or casual hookups box, the bottom line is we want to connect and potentially share intimate moments with others.
By joining online dating apps, we enter a whole new universe, where almost 250 million other people reside.
Let’s take a moment and think about how we use this tool and how we navigate the world it opens up for us.
First of all, we’ll talk about the profiles we create for ourselves; these profiles are not unlike avatars you create in a video game. The online dating world is made up of a carefully curated selection of photos of oneself and a description of the person we think we are or wish we were.
It’s hard to describe ourselves because we can’t see ourselves clearly. Most people are not self-aware enough to begin with, let alone able to convey who they are in a limiting format such as an online profile.
Hence, the carefully curated profile becomes an avatar, a character we present to the online world. This character can only resemble us to the degree to which we know ourselves.
We usually showcase the parts of ourselves that we consider appealing. Because let’s be honest, we all try to look our best so that people like us back. It’s exciting to get a match. It feels like we’re winning a video game. It’s super validating and satisfying. It’s a self-esteem booster to swipe right on someone we think is attractive and getting that match notification.
Basically, we browse through all these different profiles and select the ones that best match the image of whatever we are looking for. We hope they like our profile too so that we can start chatting and see if they are the right fit for the role that we are trying to fill in our lives.
That’s when the video part ends, and there is only one thing left to do—to play the game.
The first round is, who is going to text first?
Once we get past that stage and we meet in real life, the game intensifies.
We star in our own versions of The Bachelor(ette), while becoming contestants in others’. This all happens simultaneously, and we all know we are in it but are not aware of the bigger picture. Let’s face it, we have no idea what we’re doing.
Now let’s imagine that we are all super self-aware, know what we want, and do not deceive ourselves or others about our intentions, so our profiles are pretty accurate. We do not compromise what we want and we match based on what we are truly looking for. Everyone is honest when they tick the boxes.
That should be the most basic rule of the game. That we are honest with our intentions. So, let’s imagine that it’s been applied.
What are the rest of the rules in this game?
For example, if we are looking for casual hookups, how often do we see the same person before it’s not considered “casual” anymore? How do we end it? When is ghosting acceptable (if ever)?
When we look for long-term relationships, for how long do we date several people and how many at a time before we choose to be exclusive with one? Is everyone involved aware of what’s happening?
These are important questions to ask ourselves as we navigate this world from behind our avatars to create a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.
However, the reality is that we lack clarity in this game ourselves; everyone plays it by ear and by their own rules, which are mutable.
We are either unaware of our wants and needs, unable to own them, unable to communicate them, or a mix of all these.
This creates a pattern and a spectrum of deceit in the way we approach dating, and it is a reflection of the deceitful ways in which we see ourselves and the world.
For example, we might meet two people from our dating app on the same day, but we would never tell our lunch date we have a dinner date later. There’s a great chance they’ve had a coffee date before that. And they won’t tell us either.
We do this to protect each other’s feelings, and in doing so, we deceive ourselves and one another.
We brush them off as little white lies, or maybe we tell ourselves we don’t need to share everything about our lives right now with this person, and we believe that this makes it right. In reality, what we are doing is generating a scattered state of energy in our love lives and we end up deeply unsatisfied and feeling unloved and disconnected, which is the opposite of what we wanted when we joined that app.
People, what the f*ck are we doing with online dating?
Why do we mostly get hurt in this place that’s meant to help us find love?
In essence, everyone wants to connect. We want someone to like us for who we are, yet we create misleading profiles and send out mixed signals about our intentions. We show what we think is likable about us; we check the boxes we don’t mean (like stating you want a relationship when you are only available for hookups and vice versa). Unfortunately, there is no commonly agreed etiquette for these situations, so you will find people talking about how hot their exes were when they have just met a person, to the demise of their date’s self-esteem.
We ghost one another without ever considering the other person’s feelings. It doesn’t matter if we have had one or three dates or dated them for six months. It doesn’t matter how stupid we think it is because we “never had a real relationship with that person.” Once we connect with someone in this context, we must be clear about our intentions, even when we feel it might hurt their feelings, even when we intend not to see them again. Maybe we ghost people because we like to leave the door half-open if we ever reconsider, in case we find ourselves feeling lonely one day.
We brush off essential conversations in the name of appearing cool and detached, while deep down, our yearning to be seen and loved turns into the unbearable pain of rejection. We don’t talk about what we want. God forbid in the beginning we might scare them away.
We never stop to think that if our most basic desires scare someone off, then they might not be a match for us in the first place. We would be doing everyone a favor by staying in our lane. Alas, loneliness and lack of self-awareness make a toxic concoction, and we find ourselves lying to get those breadcrumbs of attention we so desperately need.
We claim our dates are not, in fact, dates. Many people consider the first meeting from a dating app is not a date. We met them on a dating app—it is a date. The only reason we ay it isn’t one is that we don’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt, especially our own.
Also, people who go on dating apps “just to find friends” are lying to themselves and may have a hidden agenda. The thing is, they might not be aware of it themselves.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, here’s the definition of the word “date” in current times: a social engagement between two persons that often has a romantic character.
This is what the word “dating” in “dating app” means. Whether we like it or not, there is an intrinsic romantic quality to every interaction we have via these apps.
We dive into the dating pool (online and offline), holding on tight to a motion picture of our ideal reality, which we then project unto the other. We are in love with love and attached to how we think things should go, and when our date doesn’t match our expectations, we are left feeling more alone, rejected, and hopeless than before.
Last but not least, the fact that we have (seemingly) a whole world of options—drives us, among other things—to objectify one another. This is conducive to further pulling us apart when what we want is to connect and get close to someone.
Online dating in itself is an amazing tool. However, the way we use it makes it inefficient.
It reflects how utterly disconnected we are from ourselves.
The main reason online dating doesn’t work for most of us is that we don’t know ourselves.
We don’t know, can’t own, or can’t communicate what we truly want in our heart of hearts. We are afraid to be vulnerable or be seen as weak. We don’t see our qualities and leave our worth to the best judgment of people who are as insecure and as lost as we are. We try to fit others in our made-up reality hoping to get that thing we dream of. We are not conscious of the many sacrifices we make to live out a fantasy.
The best thing we can do to improve our dating life is to get to know ourselves. Then, we will show up more authentic and confident. We will not need to lie to ourselves or anyone else.
In order for this to happen, we must be willing to face those parts of ourselves that are not “likable” and come to terms with them — with the whole of ourselves. We must stand for genuineness and honesty, and we must accept that we will inevitably get hurt. We must learn to integrate the pain and be willing to learn from it. Because everything is a learning experience as long as you are open to receive the lessons.
The time has come for us to do some deep soul searching, go through that dark night of the soul, rise back up, and connect from the heart.