We’ve all been there... Single, bored, and awake at 3 a.m. watching yet another Friends omnibus, left arm elbow-deep in a bag of crisps whilst clutching a behemoth glass of Pinot in your other hand. And while you’re really enjoying staring at Matt LeBlanc’s chiseled features, and perfect smile - he's unattainable, and has aged 20 years since this episode aired anyway. However the Tinder match you just made is 8 kilometers away, 22, and apparently quite fond of sushi and shirtless selfies. You send him a gif of Adele mouthing “Hello”, and wait for a response. A couple of days and a few messages later, you agree to meet for drinks to see if your online attraction and chemistry translates into “the real world”.
So is this what dating in the so-called “digital age” is like? An app download, or two or three, a couple hundred swipes left or right, and boom, you’ve found your soulmate (or at least a summer bae)? And with a fifth of all committed relationships starting online, it begs the question: Is this quick-fire connectivity doing more damage than good, or is this the future of dating - a place where hastily made judgment calls based on aesthetics, and 120 characters littered with emojis, symbolize all that we need to remedy our relationship woes?
The general consensus is that these sites and apps bring people together in a way that the traditional dating medium would not. It takes the guesswork out of compatibility on topics such as politics, sexual orientation, and general interests, while also allowing you to converse with potential dates from the comfort and safety of your home. Which is great for those of us who are perpetually busy, and spend our days working or going to Uni with the same people from the same area, but who are looking to date someone other than Amy the asthmatic Canadian from Molecular Biosciences class.
While these aspects seem generally positive, and lead us into a world of improved external connectivity, we must also look at the downsides of entering into a style of dating that allows, in a much easier capacity, cheating, emotional blindness, and a next-to-extinct sense of empathy, to flourish.
A recent study conducted by HTC found that nearly 25% of people in Britain still use dating apps, even if they are in a relationship. And while that number may come as a shock to some and leave others feeling disturbed by this lack of transparency, this concept seems to have become more or less socially acceptable over time.
There’s a sense of levity when it comes to online dating, it’s viewed as more casual, despite the fact these connections are built on the same structural integrity of those made offline.
While not everyone who uses these sites is callous and just looking for a quick lay, a lot of folks have become used to the notion that they have such a wide range and seemingly endless gallery of men and women to choose from, that sticking to just one person would mean missing out on the next best thing. Dan Slater, a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal quips - “Above all, Online Dating is helping people of all ages realize that there is no need to settle for a mediocre relationship.”
This revelation has created a sense of entitlement and expectation within the online dating community; the notion has provided users with the mindset that “there’s always someone better out there”, which has lead to us becoming less feeling, and more self-serving while we’re swiping right for our next date.
Though there’s nothing inherently wrong with casual dating, this uptick in juggling multiple potential partners has lead many into the realm of “ghosting” or being “ghosted”.
For those fortunate souls yet to experience such a phenomena, ghosting is the way in which people passively remove themselves from having to converse with you by, well, ignoring you, for no good or stated reason. It’s a cowardly and emotionally irresponsible way of responding to a situation that you no longer wish to be involved in, and many of us are guilty of perpetuating this behaviour.
The psychological reasoning seems to be that these individuals one matches with are viewed as little more than a profile at this stage, which leads to a disconnect in the empathy department causing some of us to think, somewhat absurdly, that ghosting them is an acceptable option - you don’t owe them an explanation, or reason, because they’re not a person you are emotionally connected to in a way that merits such an act of communication.
These concepts seem fundamentally injurious to our society, as they show a backtracking in human awareness and cultivate an environment of apathy.
So, where do we go from here?
How do we combat the callousness of ghosting, and the idea of our generation never wanting to settle or work things out? We shouldn’t have to ignore our wants and needs as they’re an integral part of human happiness, but there’s something to be said about the way in which we go about securing our pleasure at the cost of other’s finer feelings that needs to be addressed.
When did honest communication in an age of over-communication, become such a terrifying proposition?