Good morning, dearest and darlingest reader. How’s the world with you?
Yesterday was a lovely day for me, partly because so many of my close friends had lots of good news to share, but also because I got to spend most of the afternoon on Skype to my friend Steven, who is currently teaching dramatic stuff to bambinos in Italy. Steven is a very good friend to have for many reasons, but mainly because he is just as good at silly voices/inane chatter as he is at serious and intellectual discussions.
In a slightly odd mixture of the two, yesterday our conversation wandered into Tinder territory, and the conundrum of online dating in general. I should make two things very clear before I continue:
1) I have absolutely no problem with people who go in for online dating, nor would I judge anyone for the origins of their relationship. One of my friends is now blissfully happy with (and engaged to) a guy who got hideously drunk on their first date and behaved like an idiot, so it clearly doesn’t matter how things start out.
2) Having said that, I fear and mistrust online dating with an extremity of feeling that I usually reserve for my hatred of Keira Knightley.
If the good people at match.com are to be believed, a quarter of relationships now start online. This is all very well and good: modern life is very busy, stressful and it flings us into all sorts of faraway geographical locations and bizarre schedules. In times and places like these, it makes sense to engage with your dating life through a convenient and easy to navigate service. I think that there’s something quite sweet about talking to someone for a bit before you meet them to gauge how well you get on, and obviously it’s handy to be able to pick and choose the photos that go onto your profile. Best face forward and all that.
However, there are some very practical issues to consider when dipping one’s toe into the man-made reservoir of online dating: firstly, the safety issue. It’s a well-worn topic, but you can pretend to be anyone you like online, and that’s just creepy. Watch an episode of Catfish and you’ll see where I’m going with this. In addition, real life doesn’t work like that: you don’t get to re-write conversations half way through because you’ve realised that the sentence you’re about to say doesn’t come across very well, or re-style your hair to look more like that photo of you from so-and-so’s wedding when you looked really nice. It’s just not possible, unless one of you has got hold of Bernard’s Watch, in which case we should probably be putting it to better use than manipulating dating situations to your advantage.
If you’re particularly busy and/or attached to the idea of smartphone apps, then Tinder is the online dating forum for you. Call me naive, but the idea of simply swiping through reams of potential partners makes my skin crawl. According to Steven, the guy who invented Tinder said in an interview that he doesn’t understand why people have a problem with the app’s format, because it’s simply a digital translation of what we do when we are out in bars, clubs, etc. We scope out the talent, if you’ll excuse that hideous turn of phrase. It’s a valid point, but we are evolved to look for potential partners when we’re around other human beings: we’re trying to continue a species, here. Smartphone apps and technology in general are supposed to be making our conscious processes better, not bolstering our innate instincts. Educational podcasts, tools for early learning, apps for locating the nearest pub showing the Arsenal match and more are all there to challenge our brain power and help us to see as much of this amazing world as possible. (With the possible exception of the football/pub app, which I realise is just something I find very handy on a Saturday afternoon.) Why do we need apps and websites to help us do something that we can do perfectly well on our own in the real world? We’re hard-wired to find each other attractive and then do something about it. There’s no need to bring Apple into this.
My main problem with online dating is that it takes all the fun out of meeting someone and finding that you share a spark. This conversation happens between the women in my social circle quite a lot:
“I really like *insert guy’s name*.”
“Aw, that’s great!”
“No it isn’t. He gives me butterflies, for Christ’s sake.”
My friends and I don’t like liking people. It makes us feel vulnerable and girly and, as you can see, a bit grumpy. But I would so much rather get cross about being emotionally exposed than go about my love life in the same way I go about banking or applying for jobs. Ok, the butterflies are a pain, but they’re also pretty important, and you don’t get them with an app. How can someone give you butterflies when you’ve never seen them smile at you?
I think the crux of the matter is that underneath many, many, many layers of sarcasm and a predisposition to sneer at lovey-dovey stuff, I am actually a bit of a romantic. Urgh. How embarrassing. As I said, I don’t have a problem with online dating per se, but I hope that it never overtakes the joy of meeting someone for the first time and feeling like your insides have become the London Butterfly House.
Have a truly joyous Tuesday. Make sure you drink plenty of water.