Online Dating: A Loss of Connection?

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Words: Ella Duff (She/Her)

Online Dating is the new norm. Tinder, Hinge, Bumble, Grindr – you name it, singles are bound to have, or tried, at least one of these apps. Not to mention individuals in an open or poly relationship. But what happened to the ‘old fashion’ way of meeting someone and getting to know them in person rather than online? Why is dating defined by someone swiping right on your photos and a few words that are supposed to tell them all about you? Where is the spark, the butterflies, the connection?

I’m fairly new to online dating, joining up a few months ago to see what all the fuss was about. At first, I can admit it was a pretty good ego boost seeing the likes tally up and knowing people out there liked what they saw (who doesn’t like knowing someone out there finds you attractive once in a while?), but that faded pretty quickly. The constant swiping through profile after profile, reading very scant blurbs about individuals, just wasn’t cutting it anymore. I just wasn’t connecting with the profiles. And at least for me, connection is a big thing in all my relationships, platonic or romantic. 

First impressions matter. But how does a photo or a selection of photos provide that? Photos that you are choosing to present your best, ideal self. They say ‘pictures are worth a thousand words’, and yet most pictures are the same iteration: a huddle of guys (hello? Which one are you?), girls in their pre-going-out photos, or even just the same selfie, with a slight difference in angle. In each profile, I am not reading a thousand words, merely a few that don’t say a lot about who you are. There’s not a connection there. I can appreciate how someone looks in a photo, but just basing my first judgement on how attractive I find them isn’t a good starting connection. And honestly, it’s a little degrading, putting ourselves up for show for the perusal of someone to ‘like’ us enough to potentially get to know us. A photo is just a snapshot of who we are as people at that moment. But a snapshot is fleeting and leaves no connection but perhaps a little spark of attraction. 

And don’t get me started on the chats. Now, I will congratulate anyone who makes the first move by messaging first, because, honestly, it can be intimidating. However, why must the first thing said be a truly terrible pickup line? I’ve had my fair share of these, and I’m over it. I get that it’s the first message, and maybe it’s just to break the ice a little, but there are some seriously terrible lines out there that really aren’t selling me on why I should want to know you better. There’s been a few who have made the first move by interacting with something I’ve put in my profile, which already gets you bonus points. But ultimately, chats end up stale, with the guys – primarily – resorting to small talk each day rather than actually trying to know anything more than ‘how I am’ (for anyone who knows me, you know I loathe small talk). And so, the cycle begins again with swiping right and left and trying to engage with someone who can hold a conversation. But the lack of connection in profiles and chats is not the only issue online dating seems to have. 

As a cis woman who identifies as queer, bisexual more specifically, I’ve found my experience with online dating to be a little isolating of my identity. My Tinder profile is set to ‘everyone’, which is supposed to allow me to see, well, everyone. Yet I feel there’s a slight imbalance in whose profiles I see, with Tinder showing me, more often than not, people who identity as a ‘man.’ I find this quite frustrating as Tinder is furthering heteronormative ideals by being more selective of which gender it shows. I am a bisexual woman, and I want to explore both sides of my sexuality without this limit, as it were. But how can I if dating services seem to favour heteronormative relationships over queer? 

Now, although it may seem that I hate online dating (okay, I do a little), I’m not saying it is the worst thing in existence. I know many people who met their partners online and are in happy and healthy relationships. Sometimes it works for some people, and I’m happy for everyone who does find someone this way. Not to mention online dating has opened a whole new world to people who find it intimidating to meet someone new in person first, allowing them the online space to get to know someone on their own timeline and terms. 

It is even a great place to explore yourself and your identity. I was talking to friends the other day about our ‘types’ and what we look for in partners, and we were all a little stuck at first. I don’t necessarily believe I have a ‘type’, but it is certainly true we all favour, if subconsciously, certain traits either physically or internally. So online dating allows you to explore what you like and don’t like in a person and therefore get to know yourself a bit better too. 

Whether you like online dating or not, it certainly isn’t going anywhere, so neither will I. While I’m certainly more of a traditionalist in that I’d rather meet someone in person, you’ve got to move on with the times if you want to keep going forward. And apps like Tinder or Hinge are leading the way. So I’ll keep my profile up, I’ll keep searching for that connection to someone – and certainly avoiding terrible pick-up lines – and maybe one swipe right will lead to someone great. Don’t get me wrong, I am still holding onto the idea of a meet-cute moment, but until then, it’s swipes, likes and repeat. 


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