Ten years is a really long time to be single. It’s also a good amount of time to see the natural evolution of a thing. Since I was born in 1982, online dating is one thing I’ve gotten to observe.
I’ve seen online dating evolve from lengthy profile setups that took hours if not professional help to complete, to simply importing Instagram photos with zero information required of you or offered to the swiping party. Even the effort we put in to join online dating has become a pittance, so it’s no wonder the participants have become such passive, jaded swipers with attention spans that last the length of time we spend on the toilet.
Yes, I am aware that you have a co-worker whose best friend met her husband on Tinder, like, two days after she broke up with her boyfriend of five years. We’re all very happy for Jessica.
But in 10 years (that’s 3,650 days, kids), all that I’ve ever done is swipe through faces, go on bad dates or go on good dates that have led to literally nothing at all. The third option is rare enough to count with the fingers you have available while holding a Starbucks.
And now, 10 years into being single, I do not have any interest in playing the game. And I don’t think it’s just me. I think I’m witnessing the decline of online dating to the point of its inevitable demise.
The illogical nature of online dating has always perplexed me. It took the far-fetched notion of love at first sight and made it something you were supposed to be able to find with your thumb.
The notion of “matching” with someone is the most cursory exploration of compatibility imaginable, and it’s only gotten more superficial over time. There is nothing, and has never been anything, about online dating that actually connected two people.
Any time I’ve been in a relationship with someone (we’ve acknowledged that hasn’t happened in a while), it’s happened because attraction and friendship were allowed to develop over time. Online dating is the microwave version of relationships, and I’m the underdone burrito with an icy center that nobody wants.
First dates in the online dating world aren’t dates. In the IRL dating world, two people are often acquainted, at least in some loose capacity, before dating, which creates, if not a respect, then a fear of consequences. Online daters have never been burdened by this.
Stand her up, never text her, it doesn’t matter. We weren’t introduced by a mutual friend who would think less of me, we don’t work together so I won’t have to see her every day, I could just disappear into the night and once I unmatch with her, she has no way to contact me ever again. Don’t worry, I didn’t give her my last name.
Online dates aren’t dates. They’re sitting down at a bar with a complete stranger while taking turns talking. I have never had any success really connecting to someone in the span of two glasses of chardonnay. I like to think both myself and the other party would feel more invested if we were introduced by a friend from camp.
One part of online dating’s evolutionary twilight that stings in a particularly painful way is the decline of effort. The amount of effort single people put into online dating has moved from excitement over a shiny new toy to people who can barely be bothered to move their thumb an inch to the right or left.
Where once I had an inbox full of messages to respond to, now I just have an endless scroll of unresponded-to attempts at starting a conversation. I’m talking dozens upon dozens of men who just never bother to write back. What was the point in the right swipe, I wonder?
The date tally is even more shameful. I used to go on at least a date a month. I went on three dates last year. The conversations that do begin in an app fizzle out after mere moments. The only way I actually meet a human being in real life is if I put forth 100 percent of the effort. Suggest we meet, suggest a date, suggest a place, suggest a time.
If I don’t complete these requirements, the conversation won’t last much longer than “How’s your weekend so far?” And I don’t do that often because I want someone to reciprocate my effort. But no one does. Are we exhausted, over it, or is this just not a thing anymore?
I always sort of went along with online dating because I didn’t want to be the kind of person who was closed off to possibility. Instead, I should have just been myself. I should have just followed my instincts the first, not the 50th time, a man on Tinder asked me to do something overtly sexual, if not offensive, the very first time he sent me a message.
I should have done what I knew was right after flipping through my first 1,000 faces without so much as meeting for coffee. Now, at what I can only imagine is 100,000 faces or more, I’m being very oddly validated. The voice in the back of my head was right all along. I was always going to end up here, with nothing. I wonder what I could have done with all the time I’ve spent looking at faces. Wait, you know what? I don’t want to know.
For 10 years, I didn’t listen to my conscience. I kept participating in online dating because I thought I had to, because it was there. No one would offer anything or anyone so much time, so many chances to come around. But I did, because online dating built an answer to a constant question ― only that answer was a lie.
The question was: Where are single men? Where do single men go? Where do single women find single men to speak to? Honestly, it’s the most difficult question I’ve ever been faced with, and I’ve taken two bar exams.
So when online dating offered up a bottomless bucket of single men to interact with, I jumped at it, and I kept jumping, and jumping, no matter how high in the air the apps held the brass ring.
Online dating is full of single men, and full of single women. And absolutely nothing else. There’s no connection, no premise, no real incentive to hold attention and engagement. There’s only so many times you can offer me something without delivering it before I decide that you were lying from the beginning and I start to realize it’s the end for you. I think it’s 10 years.
You can read more from Shani on her Medium page.