Dating in the Digital World

How are we supposed to fall in love if we never meet?

So let's talk about online dating. Off and on I’ve been doing it, and railing against it, for years now; so although it may seem like a dated (sorry) topic, I think it’s important to explore a bit how it has not only changed how people meet, but has changed our views of love, relationships, and how our consideration and our compassion for each other is forever changed by living in a digital world.

One of the fundamental issues I have with online dating is the idea that you should ‘get to know someone’ online before you actually meet; this never made any sense to me and is as modern as modern gets. The absurd notion that you can tell anything about someone from reading some facts on a page or even from a few ‘best behavior’ conversations, is incredibly naive, at best. I’m sure what you write on your profile is your completely honest assessment of what your mild likes and dislikes are, but that’s not reality, its not nearly who you are on a day to day basis and it TOTALLY excludes a large part of relationships… Chemistry. The, in each others presence kind, you know, how people have been communicating since they’ve been walking upright. The belief that we now know better than all the humans who have ever lived (including Shakespeare and stuff, yup) as to the best way to initiate a relationship is disconcerting to say the least to anyone born before 1980. I have discussed this with more than a few woman and was surprised to learn a lot of them actually prefer to meet this way.

I've heard all the reasons and they are not all without merit.

The issue of safely may be referenced of course, or volume.

As far as safety is concerned, it is a completely reasonable trepidation, my only counter would be, is a psycho going to tell you this during your first interaction? Or through text? Or say on their profile that they are, in fact, a violent psychopath? Probably not; there’s just no way to know till you actually are in someones presence. Coffee, a walk, ice skating, whatever, these are all real life ways to get a gauge on what someone is all about.

I'm often reminded, when navigating this topic, of the great, underrated (or… umm…unknown) film ‘Amazon Woman on the Moon’ which is a bunch of vignettes tied together with the ‘Time to Make the Donuts’ guy (trust me, its much better then that sounds). The one I am specifically referring to is the skit with Steve Guttenberg and Rosanna Arquette, where he arrives for a first date and she asks him for his drivers license, which she then runs through this phone, faxy thingy and it gives her a readout of his entire sexual history. Needless to say, the date didn’t happen. I remember thinking how ridiculous that seemed when I first watched it; it’s an absurd comedy after all, but the most amazing thing, is anyone who saw that now wouldn’t think it wasn’t unusual at all, check it out here. It is truly an example of art (imitating?) no, becoming life. Like 1984 or something.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have used these apps on occasion, due in large part to my changing careers and lifestyle and *cough* *cough* age. No longer working late nights, followed by drinking with coworkers lowers your odds of meeting people, drastically, who would’ve guessed that!? And also, when you get older it's much harder to meet people, it just is; who wants to hang out at the bar till closing 2–3 times a week after 40? Not too cool. So when in Paris right? It’s what everyone is doing now so you kinda have to, don’t you? I mean what's the practical alternative? It hasn’t been a total disaster; I have even had women I met on these apps come directly to my house with little more than an exchange of a few text messages, I never would have imagined that 20 years ago. Talk about a tremendous potential for danger. So, that’s not it.

I have also met some really cool woman online and had some enriching, interesting evenings, and a few, I have seen more then once; the problem, I think though, is the perception that there is always somebody better. It is so easy now to meet online and hangout or hook-up that the stakes have changed tremendously.

One of the problems as I see it is the disposability of it all. Judging people in this way, mainly physically, and also making an immediate harsh determination, desensitizes us to meanness and introduces us to the disposability of people. At the first sign that someone, literally, is not Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty, then see ya, I’m sure we’ll link up tomorrow with someone much better. Why stick around for someone who isn’t ‘perfect’? The whole online culture has tremendous potential to warp human compassion, patience and grace.

We see it already with twitter wars and the posting of vicious insults between people who have never met; they feel they can treat each other however they want, without consequence. It's largely that though, the lack of consequence. It creates a cold, harsh, superficial environment and dating apps are an extension of this societal shift. It’s this lack of sensitivity, compassion and consequence which, I suspect, contribute to the much larger problems we are now seeing with increases in violence and insensitivity.

Your odds of success increase the more people you date, Volume; its science. Date a million people and you're Bound to meet Someone, Right? Right? The problem is the antiseptic, cavalier nature of the matching can desensitize us to emotional investment, which is KINDA IMPORTANT when your goal is finding love, and also, what an individuals idea of who they are and what is good for them can make the matches inconsistent to say the least. Who we find attractive on a screen could be totally divergent from who would find us attractive or who would actually be right for us, or we could aim too high and just be disappointed over and over. Now, I'm all for taking chances and having high self esteem and all that, but if I'm not going to be happy with anyone who doesn’t look like Natalie Portman, then I think I’m probably setting myself up for failure.

Online dating and these apps would be fine, if it were part of a larger environment of dating, but the fact is, this is how most men and woman ages 18 to 50 are choosing to connect these days. As i mentioned before, I've had conversations with woman who've told me they only really consider guys they meet online. Now, I know i’m old…….ish, but this cant be good….and Get off my Lawn!

When you meet someone face to face, there’s all kinds of different energy you are receiving from them; the way they move, their scent, the little nuisances when they speak, the sound of their laugh, voice; all these things are part of attraction. Not the bullshit blurb someone writes about who they think they are and all the pictures showing “WHAT A GOOD TIME I’M ALWAYS HAVING”. This is not who a person is, it is who they want to be and who they want the world to think they are. It could contain some elements of truth, you know, they probably really were the grand canyon, maybe; but it takes people a lifetime to know themselves, how could they accurately tell YOU in 50 words or less? This creates an Illusion of safety. The idea of control. As a result, we become less adept at interacting with others in person.

This technology, and these options, are in their cell splitting in the womb infancy, so maybe we will see some self regulating; maybe we will find a balance between on-line life and real life because we’re sure proving not to be mature enough for it right now.

I’m not saying there is no place for these conveniences, I’m just suggesting maybe we look up at what's right in front of us a little again.

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