The Fiction of Online Dating

by | May 31, 2023 | All about Love

Are we just writing a fantasy novel through texts?

As a dating app addict with a PhD in disappointment, I’ve had my fair share of trying to romanticise hopeless situations. I’ve been an unpaid psychologist, a trauma dumpster and so many other things that I just wish I could put down as job experience on my CV, since that’s what they feel like – work, that isn’t your classic 9 to 5.

And I blame myself – there’s something so enticing about turning men online into a cute little arts and crafts project! It can be hard to imagine this person residing in your phone has a life of their own. So you give them one – which coincidentally is everything you need in a partner. My best friend summarised the phenomenon perfectly:

“We fall in love with the potential of what someone could be. It sounds selfish, but when you’re online you don’t think about this person’s life, just how they can fit into yours.

“Then as soon as you find out this person is separate from the idea of them in your head, you feel disappointed.”

However, when it comes to online dating, are we all just volunteering as fiction writers?

No matter the amount of urban legends of successful Tinder couples you hear, do you always feel like you’re let down by your own experiences? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone!

Illustration by Yoan

Once you fall into a routine of doing the same thing and seeing the same people, meeting people “organically” feels almost impossible. No matter how much I manifest the cute Tesco cashier asking me out, dating apps still feel like the best bet – an easy way to find someone who is a romantic interest – nothing more or less.

It’s so easy as well – it’s like if you could put a filter on dating IRL. No getting the ick (unless they are REALLY bad at texting), no more seeing your date trip on the street… It’s a reduction of attraction to lines of text, which you can interpret in a way that’s convenient to you.

While it’s fun at first, after you’ve ghosted half of your matches, you might want to meet your newest cyber crush. And this is where the fantasy comes crumbling.

The person you have fantasised over and seemed perfect over text is hardly ever what you expect. Sooner or later you are faced with the harsh reality – dating apps are more than a game, and it’s not a Player 2 on the other side.

When meeting people in an online bubble, they are more of an attractive concept. When things get serious and the fantasy novel we’ve been writing in our Snapchat DMs ends, we may find ourselves repulsed by the completely human qualities of the person next to us.

And if you think the “D” in dating stands for “Disaster”, you’re not the only one. 45% of users say they felt frustrated from online dating, 35% say dating platforms made them feel pessimistic, and 25% say using the platform made them feel insecure.

Is online dating just a race to disappointment then? Not necessarily.

Worst case scenario – it can be a learning experience. Forget about your cousin and her boyfriend who show up at family dinners and make it all seem so easy! Take the opportunity to learn more about yourself – what you enjoy and what you are looking for in a relationship.

Be honest with your date – be upfront about what you are searching for in a partner. It’s a good conversation starter and can save you the frustration of finding out they want to sleep around or hate dogs on your fifth date.

Do you always feel let down by your matches? Maybe it’s time to tone down your standards, go out of your comfort zone. Grab a coffee with someone who isn’t usually your type. Once you learn to let go of your fantasies, you will find it is easy to appreciate something about nearly everyone you meet.

And most importantly – have fun! Nobody said dating needs to be serious. Enjoy the process and take your time, gush over your success and laugh at your failures.

Like, did you really want to get married to your Tinder match at 22 anyway?

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