I haven’t been in a relationship in three years, and I hardly go out anymore, by choice. Maybe that will have to change soon, but, for now, I find myself both unfortunately and fortunately on all the dating apps, holding onto hope that someone is out there for me in that vast black hole of the online dating world. When I recently opened up Tinder one evening late at night, I found myself swiping mostly left with an occasional right swipe. I eventually matched with a really cute 30-something-year-old man.
In my experience with online dating, virtually no one makes the first move. I’ve started referring to free dating apps as “gratification apps.” Online dating is the ultimate ego booster. You can easily get a high off of scoring matches with people you believe to be beautiful who also think you are as well, and many leave it at that. It’s become a quick way to feel better about yourself, but when it comes to finding something more meaningful, like I am searching for, online dating can quickly become dull, and its matchmaking abilities increasingly unrealistic.
To save time, I often copy and paste, “Hey, What’s up?” to all of my matches, or, if I’m in a really good mood, I’ll write, “Hey! What’s up!” for a little bit more animation, hence the explanation points. It’s not that I don’t care enough to think of something cleverer to say. I’m just not going to fish for something too interesting, because 1) Who really has time for that when there’s a flux of guys to text, and 90% of them won’t write back to you anyway? And 2) I’m lazy and exhausted from the online dating culture, so I will go no extra special length to impress the opposite sex unless I get an actual bite from the other end of the fishing pole.
Online dating is the ultimate ego booster.
As I swiped through potential matches on that recent evening, I finally got a bite. That 30-something-year-old responded to my “Hey! What’s up?” message with “Hey, how are you doing tonight?” The communication started off slow at first and then progressed to a surprisingly interesting conversation and a strangely deep dialogue.
My match’s name was Jordan. Jordan was around 35 years old and in and out of work. He was an artist like myself and lived full time in Jersey, but he would rent hotel rooms in the city to get away from his life back home.
His lifestyle, along with his attractive pictures, immediately made him interesting to me. I wanted to know more. I liked the fact that he was being so honest with me and open to holding a dialogue that was deeper than, “Where do you live?” and “Can I come over?” which usually is the normal starting point in a conversation on any dating app. That’s a turn-off for me.
What was he running away from? When I asked, he didn’t hold back. He spoke about the loss of his mother at a young age and how much he missed her. I opened up about my father’s passing and my friend who passed four years after my father’s death. We both experienced death at a young age, and we expressed how we both felt like death couldn’t be that scary since people we loved were already there waiting for us when it was our time to go. We spoke about our continued anxieties and pain surrounding those deaths and how we both had demons still to conquer within us. He spoke about his mother, and where he grew up, and how it reminded him a lot of her. It might have been a bit morbid to some, or too heavy a conversation to hold with a stranger, but I think it was because we were both strangers that it made it easier to open up. The experience was a comforting reminder to both of us that there are others out there who have gone through similar painful situations.
Eventually, I realized that it was close to 2AM and we had been conversing for almost three hours. I fell asleep. I woke up to a message from him, “I wish you hadn’t fallen asleep.” I messaged him once more to see if he was still around to meet up for coffee, like we had discussed the night before. He didn’t reply back. So I just left it.
With no resolution to our conversation, I was frustrated. “I don’t get it!” I thought to myself. I just had an open, substantial communication with a stranger online. We connected, no pun intended, and then nothing. I figured he was the kind of person to run away from things, his past, his demons, past heartbreaks, the list of assuming what it was continued. I also considered the fact that maybe we had spilled too much of our personal lives in one sitting before meeting in person. For me, sometimes, it’s okay to do so, but other times it’s better to hold off on such deep intimate life facts. It really depends on the situation and how I feel in the moment.
We connected, no pun intended, and then nothing.
So maybe he was just feeling lonely and wanted to talk to a woman, and I just obviously happen to enjoy deep conversations with strangers. I realized that while the internet had obviously changed the way we communicated with each other, it also, more importantly, served as a coping mechanism for lonely hearts. Sure, Tinder is for hook-ups, but it is also a free therapeutic online service to assist those who are lonely and don’t get enough attention. I realized that my conversation with Jordan had served its purpose for both him and myself. It was a short ticket to the (therapist’s) couch. I couldn’t help admitting to myself that for a little while I felt noticed and seen. Jordan was in a hotel room by himself, possibly entertaining the idea of dating someone but also okay to just talk to someone he didn’t know of the opposite sex. We were both totally comfortable giving out personal information about our current and past life experiences. Jordan most likely knew deep down he would probably never see me in real life. Even though nothing came of our virtual meeting on a physical level, it served an emotional purpose, even if for a few hours.
I could easily over-analyze this whole interaction, and think that his words, “I wish you hadn’t fallen asleep,” might have meant that he wanted me to come to his hotel room, or, maybe he just wanted to keep talking, and if so, maybe if we had kept talking he would have eventually gotten the courage to set an actual time and place for coffee, but this was what it was.
I have had a few other conversations like the one I had with Jordan where it gets deep, but then we don’t actually meet in real life. Honestly, it’s what I often come to expect now. I am really in awe of the people out there that connect online, meet up in real life, hit it off, and eventually get married. Yes, there are people out there who do get lucky on these apps! But I have come to believe that people experience online dating very differently on a psychological level than others. Maybe some people are just wired to connect with someone they met through on online dating service.
Even though nothing came of our virtual meeting on a physical level, it served an emotional purpose, even if for a few hours.
Maybe if Jordan and I had met in person we would have connected deeply, if our online interactions were any indication. I’m not saying it’s not possible to fall in love with someone you meet with through an online dating site, because it is, but I wonder if for someone like me it will have to be in the flesh first, and not through the glaring screen, because of how I personally view the world and the people in it. It’s more exhilarating for me to meet someone face to face first because of how my brain integrates them and their characteristics. Yes, I need to be attracted to them in a physical way, but what comes after that is the conversation and how they act towards me and I to them. It’s very different when I’m online because I immediately judge someone solely on their photos, and how they answer me through a message, and I miss the human interaction, which fundamentally is the most important part of meeting someone and falling for them. In the end, looks only get you so far. And when you are online I believe you are painting a photo in your mind of how this person is, how they act, and if that photo doesn’t meet your reality when you finally meet them IRL, it becomes very hard to erase what you thought this person was prior to meeting.
I guess I’ll keep swiping to see if there could be a miracle that birth’s from the online universe, but my guess is the miracle will be someone who I meet at my local coffee shop, or through friends, or better yet, someone who comes up to me on the street and says hello.
by Elizabeth Scholnick
Illustrated by Fernanda Sanovicz
Elizabeth Scholnick is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer. She is passionate about various political matters, such as: global warming, marginalized people, women’s rights, and animal rights. Right now she is working on a few personal projects. One of them being her first documentary which is in the middle of editing. She loves turkey cheeseburgers and nice hot feminist men. Follow her on Instagram @cultureshockkkk.
Fernanda Sanovicz is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Brazil. Inspired by personal experiences, street-art, and typography, she creates drawings, posters, silkscreened prints and zines. Follow her on Instagram @fesanovicz and @fesanovicz_clicks, and see more of her work at fesanovicz.com.
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It's Not Personal is an inclusive dating collective and growing anthology. INP creates opportunities for women/womxn to share their dating experiences in safe spaces, empowers them to find comfort in their relationship statuses, and inspires them to have a healthy relationship with themselves through the tools of art and writing. INP does workshops, events and has a monthly column with BUST Magazine Online, as well as works to raise money for RAINN. For more information, be sure to follow It's Not Personal on Instagram join the Facebook group, and send art and writing submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.