Get Off the Digital Ferris Wheel of Dating
Imagine the apocalypse struck seven years ago and all that remained in the ashes of our society were singles mindlessly swiping on their phones. Well, that dating apocalypse actually happened, according to journalist Nancy Jo Sales in her 2015 Vanity Fair article, "Tinder and the Dawn of the 'Dating Apocalypse.'"
The Atlantic's senior editor Julie Beck followed up in 2016 with a more hopeful spin, dubbing her take "The Rise of Dating-App Fatigue."
This wasn't the end of dating as we knew it, but people were certainly exhausted from the step-and-repeat nature of dating apps. The internet had become the most common gateway used to find romance, but no one seemed to enjoy themselves unless they were looking for, and getting, sex. Both authors agreed that apps such as Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr and others helped facilitate interactions with mates but were possibly counterintuitive to finding a relationship.
How COVID-19 changed dating
One pandemic and millions of deaths later, Sales couldn't have known she would correctly predict one way the world was heading. Ironically, a global crisis only made more individuals download dating apps. Finding love—for company or sex—proved to be an essential business, and meeting online became not only the easiest way to meet potential romantic partners but also the most effective.
Sales and Beck investigated the digital metamorphosis of dating culture in a civilization that knew what it was like to meet people in real life. However, dating was never in danger of becoming extinct. Today, an entire generation is a little more unfamiliar with the concept of meeting a person while out and about, despite its omnipresence. In fact, expressing attraction to a stranger in person may be a dying art.
Perhaps society is at risk of having its mating call permanently replaced by a screen, even if the folks at Meta promise us goggles to help us in our quest for love.
Beck revealed the true masochism in using the apps: "Efficient dating is, in many ways, at odds with effective dating."
The entire infrastructure of dating apps is built to work against itself.
If you've ever thought about pressing delete, you're not alone among the estimated 323 million global users of dating apps. A research study about online dating indicated that about 33 percent of people who download Tinder delete the app after less than one day of swiping.
Where do you turn when it feels like all roads lead back to your phone?
Meeting someone new face to face
Kayla Kibbe, the associate sex and relationships editor for Cosmopolitan, based in New York City, said if you've decided to focus on meeting romantic partners outside of your pocket, you should be ready to encounter people like her.
The 25-year-old describes herself as "the daughter of Tinder" and admits she can count the number of real-life interactions that resulted in dating or sex on one hand, out of what she assures us is a lot of dates. She said many singles compartmentalize dating to apps, so they might not be open initially to being hit on in real life.
"It really just has to do with the fact that most of the time when I'm out with my friends, I'm there because I want to be out with my friends, period," she said. "If I were trolling for dick, I'd be on a dating app and/or posting thirsty sh-t to my Instagram story."
However, Kibbe said men and women should still shoot their shots.
'Sometimes, playing the long game is the move.'
"I will say that what stood out to me most about those successful interactions was a general sense of charisma, friendliness and a generally laid-back approach," she said. "You never know when you're going to meet the next love of your life and/or the next hot hookup/friend with benefits/ambiguously romantic fling of your life. But pay attention to the vibes you're getting in response. If they don't seem into it, kindly see yourself out."
It would behoove you to go in for the kill without a spear in your hand, so to speak. Rather than offering a compliment based on the other person's level of attractiveness or immediately asking them out, notice something about them that could lead to a polite conversation without the immediate intention to sleep with them.
"Here's a tip: The 'friend zone' is not a real thing," Kibbe said. "If you can hang out and be friendly with a person and whoever else they're with, that's the best way to insert yourself in their orbit. If there's chemistry, it will speak for itself, and believe me, they will pick up on it.
"Sometimes, playing the long game is the move," she added. "Sometimes, it's about knowing when to actually make a move."
Location, location, location
Before you interact with someone you like, you must find them. Nightclubs and bars are no longer the primary playgrounds of dating, but intimate connections can still be made there.
Offering to buy someone a drink never goes out of style, Kibbe said, yet fewer and fewer people do it. There's no classier way of letting someone know you're interested without making them uncomfortable. (If they say they're not drinking or already have a drink, offer to get them water.) Women won't think you're being sexist. Men won't think you're insulting their masculinity. It would be a red flag for anyone not to appreciate the gesture, even if they ultimately turn you down.
Singles need to remember that the best way to approach each other is without any preconceived ideas of gender roles. It doesn't matter who talks to whom first, only that there is mutual interest. The best way to gauge the situation is by getting out of your head and paying attention to what's in front of you. Body language often indicates if someone is interested before they even speak.
"Women are perfectly capable of taking the lead and, in fact, there are many subtle ways that they flirt that men might not even notice," said Amie Leadingham, a dating coach operating in Los Angeles. "For example, a woman might make eye contact and hold it for just a beat longer than necessary or she might play with her hair or jewelry while talking to him; stand a little closer than normal, mirror his body language and casually touch his arm or shoulder. These are all cues that she's interested."
Leadingham suggested being open to meeting people in public and putting yourself in the right setting.
"There are plenty of other places where you can meet new people who share your interests," she said. "Meetup.com is a great resource for finding events and activities in your area, for example, hiking groups, book clubs, dancing groups, single-catered events and more. Personal development workshops are another great way to meet new people. And, of course, there are always hobbies and interests."
She also urged patience, emphasizing that time is your friend. There is no algorithm for human connection. Expecting that you will immediately know "the one" when you meet them means you might pass on someone with whom you could actually fall in love. Research indicates people you aren't necessarily attracted to at first sight can become attractive to you over time.
Taking a class related to your hobbies is a great way to meet like-minded people in a fun and relaxed setting, but you shouldn't quit if there aren't any sparks flying with someone on the first day. Maybe you'll end up with a friend of a friend who you meet there and the fireworks will explode.
Apps are here to stay, and that's OK
Ultimately, dating apps will continue to thrive for one reason: the possibility of rejection.
Leadingham explained that you should remember it's normal to feel some level of fear when you are about to approach someone new. On a dating app, someone turning you down is like ripping off a bandage, whereas in person, it can feel debilitating. "The anxious feeling in your gut is telling you that there is potential for rejection," she said. "While it is impossible to completely eliminate this fear, there are things that you can do to ease your anxiety and increase your chances of success.
"First, try to focus on the act of connecting with someone and brightening their day instead of the results of the interaction. This will help you to relax and be in the moment," Leadingham suggested. "Additionally, remember that everyone is fighting their own battles and they may be just as nervous as you are. Approach them with kindness and a genuine interest in learning about them, and you are sure to make a lasting impression."
There will never be a foolproof guide to dating or encountering love in its human form. But that's why meeting people you like in person will never get old. The experience will be different every time until you no longer want to romantically meet anyone else.
If you're tired of swiping tirelessly, maybe go for a walk and keep your head up and be open to communication. (Like typing, but your mouth does the work!) You never know who you might meet.