Getting what you want online is fantastic in this age of instant gratification. With just a few moments on Amazon and a couple of clicks, you can have an Instant Pot or a book or a lifetime supply of wacky homeopathic remedies.
Online dating is similar, which is, let’s face it, not necessarily a good thing. Turning the courting process into the equivalent of online browsing has not really benefited our culture; here’s why.
5. Human beings become browsable, scrollable items.
When you are faced with what is essentially an IKEA catalogue of profile pics and “product descriptions”, it is far too easy to view actual human people with lives and dreams as commodities. A friend once likened online dating to window shopping at the mall, saying he enjoyed trying stuff on, but had yet to find anything he wanted to buy.
Mobile apps like Tinder drive this point home even farther. Unlike meeting people in person, which takes a certain amount of nerve, you can accept and reject people based on a static profile pic taken in the best light and angle they could find. Which is exactly like shopping.
4. Lies, lies, lies.
Liars are going to lie everywhere, not just online. A married guy in a bar can also tell you he’s “going through a divorce”. But online it is so much easier to lie about everything.
I have lost track of how many people have told me “His pic was from twenty years ago” or “She said she was in her 30s, but she’s 50!” One friend dated a guy for months before finding out this poetic, tortured soul looking for true love was a happily married father of four…and fifteen years older than he’d disclosed.
3. Opportunities for obsessive people to obsess.
There are two ways obsessive people can abuse online dating. One is the obvious, stalkery way, where someone never stops looking at your profile or your activity and messages you incessantly.
The other less obvious way is also fairly prevalent. When you actually make a real connection with someone and see them a couple of times, they may now be checking your account over and over to see if it’s still up. If you’ve gone on two or three successful dates with someone and he/she has taken down their profile, they are expecting you to do the same.
If she seems inexplicably angry with you on date four and you still have your profile up, you can pretty much guess why. She has probably been checking every six hours to see if you’ve had any activity, and is gearing up to demand you close your account — even if you haven’t talked about exclusivity yet.
2. Reinforcing the bubble.
So many profiles start with things as innocuous as “must love dogs”, but can also get as demanding as “If you have ever voted for the GOP, keep scrolling.” It is definitely helpful to date someone with similar values, but some people conflate the strangest attributes with personal morals.
A woman I know refused to even talk to anyone who had been divorced, and it wasn’t for religious reasons. She was incapable of imagining the various reasons a person’s marriage might have ended. Another was lambasted on a date when the guy found out she didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016. They had been having a perfectly lovely time until he brought up that subject, and then he used angry, abusive language without even discussing it. Needless to say, she left the date early, shaken.
And number 1, swipe for sex.
Just as the pictures and profiles encourage “shopping” behavior, the ease and impersonal nature of online dating encourages men (and some women) to seeing dating sites as free escort services. Men feel no compunction about asking women who’ve literally just swiped right for nude pics. Those who politely dissent are immediately subjected to abusive language for being frigid or unfriendly.
If you do meet up with someone for a date, they might view the term “date” the same way prostitutes and johns do. Horror stories abound of men becoming irrationally angry when a woman naturally assumes a first meeting is simply a time to get to know each other.
There are people who do manage to meet and have real relationships with people they met on online dating sites and apps. They key is to be quite clear in your own mind as to what behavior is acceptable…and accept nothing less.