My longest relationship to date has been my on and off again relationship with online dating apps. Between Tinder, Bumble, something called Coffee Meets Bagel and countless others, the options at our fingertips are seemingly endless. While the whole notion of finding love online likely weirded most of us out in 2009, to meet a single millenial today that does not have a profile on one or more of these apps is shocking. We are addicted to the rush – the instant gratification that comes from being “liked” by a hot stranger. I am no exception here, being the first to admit that during the summer after my college graduation I was so caught up that I often swiped through potential matches while my date for the evening was in the bathroom. Sometimes I double-booked. Other times I swiped at work and while out to dinner with friends. By midsummer I was averaging 3-4 dates per week, constantly searching for someone smarter, taller or more exciting to stroke my overly inflated ego.
Dating with such ferocity is, of course, unsustainable. My desire to meet new people gradually waned, making small talk tedious and first-date jitters scarce. The once exciting process of doing my hair and makeup before walking out the door felt more like prepping for a job interview. While it would make sense for one’s self-esteem to go up with more and more dates, for me it was the complete opposite. With each guy that did not blow me away within the first few moments of us meeting I lost complete faith in finding someone that fit all of my requirements which in hindsight were absolute bullshit. For a guy to not call me back was not simply a rejection but a mortifying personal attack on my appearance, intelligence and personality that I could not shake. Despite this negativity I continued through the remainder of that year, succumbing to the unwritten social obligation for the single girl to eventually stop being single and find someone. I had no vision of what my ideal relationship looked like and therefore received from the universe exactly what I put out: a mixed bag of fuckboys ranging from emotionally inept to emotionally suffocating, rich and narcissistic to creative and overbearing. I tried to make dead-end situationships work with guys who I saw potential in. I promised to kick my habit, but within 24 hours of a breakup I would be back online trying to find the next best thing, swiping blindly on subways and on lunch breaks. I kept doing so regardless of high or low I felt, going out with guys even when I was clearly not ready. There were many attempts to stop, but I always came back.
At the top of this year, three weeks into my resolution to swear off online dating completely, I relapsed. Right away I matched with a guy and went back and forth, exchanging numbers soon after. We met up for drinks and I felt an instant vibe, which never happens because out of every 2,000 profiles about 90% of them are rejected and then the 5% of dates that do end up panning out are usually awkward and/or boring as all hell. He was a nice, funny guy with a bit of edge who you could tell loves his mom a lot. He was creative and witty, with a personality completely unlike the showy finance bros that lead with their salaries. He was also hot – not in the way where I wanted to jump him but I knew after a few minutes (and later, a few cocktails) that I wanted to know more. While we only dated briefly, I noticed a shift in my mindset as I did not feel defeated that it did not develop further. I am moving forward with restored confidence in the existence of hot-but-also-nice guys and also in myself to put myself out there without fear and expectations. And for me, that is progress.
Online dating has afforded us the opportunity to meet people that we may not have encountered otherwise, and that is absolutely incredible. We have opportunities created for us and available at the push of a button – a luxury our parents never had. Tinder is certainly not the problem when it comes to modern dating – it is the mind of the user that needs a shift as to not get so deeply attached to the ego. I do not want to get so wrapped up in finding a partner that I forget to live consciously in the present. I do not ever want to be the girl swiping at a bar on a Friday night or writing a guy off for being corny or “not my type.” I want to be excited about a first date, filled with stupid small talk about hometowns, hobbies and a moment or two of awkward silence. I want to connect with people, thinking of nothing outside of enjoying someone’s company for a couple of hours. Meeting someone that I think is interesting and who I also want to make out with rarely happens, but when it does (on or offline) I will aim to enjoy the experience for what it is and take my ego out of it.