“Dating in this day and age is nearly a full-time job! If you’re not on top of things, your potential partner just might slip through the cracks of the web,” says my single friend, Patrick.
We’re sitting at a booth in a busy coffee shop in downtown Toronto, glued to the glowing light of our phones. He reaches across the table to show me the three different dating apps that he’s currently using. I’m half-amused, half-surprised that one of my most outgoing and well-connected friends has resorted to looking for his life partner via the Internet.
He opens up one of the apps and shows me a photo of a cute girl. He ‘swipes right’ on the photo, signaling his interest. (On the other hand, ‘swiping left’ indicates indifference and rules out a potential match.)
“Hopefully she swipes right, too. I love the thrill of a match. So, you see? Love is, quite literally, now in our hands.”
We laugh at the cheesiness – and truth – of the sentiment.
Dating has evolved drastically in the past couple of years. Prior to the web, my experience of modern dating consisted of a face-to-face introduction, followed by a courtship through text messaging, phone calls, home visits, attendance of social events, and engagement in mutual interests and hobbies. There used to be such a stigma around Internet dating. Today, however, it’s become the new normal.
In this fast-paced, digital-oriented world, I’ve found the best way to capture my attention is to offer options – coupled with convenience and immediacy. These dating apps have capitalized on this formula. Once you subscribe to these apps, you’re presented with a seemingly endless pool of eligible singletons. And a decision on whether you’d like to get to know a person takes place in a matter of microseconds. It takes longer to decide on what one might have for dinner, a comedian once wrote. And it’s true.
Making a memorable first impression through a profile photo and a few words about yourself has never been more important, never been more crucial. The entirety of a person now boils down to those two things.
Some might take issue with the superficiality of the decision-making process, but these apps work on the premise that if you’re not physically attracted to someone or are not intrigued by what they have to say – would you approach them at a party or gathering?
Probably not. Swipe left.
For Patrick, a “match” (i.e. when both parties ‘swipe right’ on each other’s profile) doesn’t really amount to very much. Matches can happen often enough that one is still presented with choices. You can hold multiple conversations with matches and unless it’s fully disclosed, no one will know it.
It’s a rarity that someone is treated with honest-to-goodness significance. These days, everyone tends to be treated as an option.
Perhaps that’s the issue that plagues my generation. We’re terrified of making choices. We’re scared of finality because there’s an inherent risk in being tied down --- a fear of getting things wrong.
Society today bombards us with the convenience of selection. We don't have to fully commit to any one thing; be it our consumer purchases, our hobbies, or even our careers. This works for modern day capitalism.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s done wonders for the economics of the heart.
“You think you’ll find ‘THE ONE’ on a dating app, Pat?” I ask.
“I don’t know, I’d still like to meet the person I’ll spend the rest of my life with organically. I’d much rather she be introduced to me by a friend, or if I’m lucky, meet her at some random public place like a park, a bookstore.”
I nod and agree.
His phone beeps and I pick up mine as well. We’re answering emails, checking our social media accounts – completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle around us.
So much for finding love in a coffee shop.