The conversation about dating apps is annoying me
Updated: Nov 9, 2021
The ‘summer of love’ can do one too
This article was originally posted in my newsletter - the Tiff Weekly.
This isn’t the ‘summer of love’: it’s the summer of great uncertainty and low-level anxiety. I suspect the ‘summer of love’ was a term coined by non-single people who like to characterise single people in a comedic way for copy. Single people aren’t court jesters for boring people and single or not single, we’re all feeling a lot of pressure as lockdown lifts and we’re re-learning how to socialise.
Re-connecting with friends, while trying to pace ourselves and manage our social anxiety is tough. There hasn’t been a single social occasion I’ve been to where I’ve not agonised the next day about something I said the night before. So, the idea that single people will be released from their coops and go off and shag around in a hedonistic daze under the guise of the ‘summer of love’ is irritating.
The government may have tried their best to stop us non-cohabitating people from having sex by making it illegal, but as with the prohibition of the 1920s, dating and sex never really went away and so this perception of single people unleashed into the wild now that it’s government-mandated is also false. At the same time, there’s no denying that dating has got a lot easier and more pleasant with the re-opening of the pubs. No one is missing those freezing cold dates that were wondering around in the dark with a can of beer. However, according to the media ‘dating is back’ and so what comes with it are slightly lazy and dreary articles that criticise dating apps and the bad behaviour that the technology apparently encourages.
Whether it’s in work or love, living under a pandemic has lead to a collective longing for something more meaningful in our lives. My friend, Nicola Slawson, wrote bravely in her newsletter last week about how the panic settled in about how lockdown has affected her chances of motherhood. The thought that time is slipping away from you when you’re longing for something is truly terrifying and so what annoys me about the conversation happening around the summer of love and dating apps is that it doesn’t give seriousness to the depths of that longing.
Most people on dating apps right now, women and men are longing for connection. People are looking for their lobster (lobsters supposedly mate for life.) I, therefore, get irritated when apps are presented in a way that is off-putting when they can be hugely helpful and positive tools to help you get what you want. Dating apps are a far better and more important use of technology than a large majority of the apps out there. Tracking my run and funny videos are cool, but something that can help me find love, no matter my age or location could actually change my life. Yes, there are bad actors on the app, as there are people who stay in Airbnbs and trash homes, but that doesn’t mean that should tarnish the value they bring to our lives.
The argument goes that because the apps give you a lot of choices, that people behave like people are disposable. In my heart and from watching a lot of Sex and the City, I know this isn’t true. The people who believe they have lots of choice of sexual partners and want to date people casually and like they’re disposable objects, hold those beliefs and act in that way, apps or no apps. Pre-apps, these were the guys who trawled bars to pick up their latest dopamine hit with a calculated neg. I’d argue the apps make it harder for these people – it’s far more efficient to go to a bar or a party with lots of people present to pick someone up, rather than investing the time in swiping, chatting and organising going on a date one-on-one. A f**k boi will always be a f**k boi, app or no app.
The perception that there’s a lot of choice on dating apps is false. The reality is that those of us who use dating apps know how scarce and precious it is to meet someone who you have a true connection with. Finding potential suitors on the apps takes a lot of work and we’re all so exhausted from the past year or however long it’s been, that it’s no surprise that we’re going to have dating app fatigue, alongside all the other fatigue we’re experiencing. The narratives around the toxicity of the dating apps aren’t helping.
I’m not going to pretend that using dating apps isn’t hard work. I’m just going to argue that it’s worth it. I acknowledge that I’m white and conventional in all the ways someone can be and I live in London which has a wide pool of people and yet, I still find it hard. I, therefore, can’t imagine how much harder it is for other people and I don’t want to minimise how challenging that must be. Dating, like so much of life, isn’t a level playing field and how hard it is for different people will vary hugely.
So yes, it’s really hard and there’s no equality to how hard it is. But it’s not just hard because you have to give lots of time to swiping, messaging and going on dates, dating can also be so confronting. Each date you go on holds a mirror up to you and so it’s legitimate that you may be hesitant to step out into this unknown and frightening world because we’ll discover a lot about ourselves and we may not like all of it. So much growth can happen when you’re putting yourself into the dating arena and in some ways, I feel sorry for those who don’t experience the hardship of dating fully because it builds an armour and resilience that I’m not sure if you can get elsewhere.
The people who are dating should be treated with the utmost respect – do you know how brave it is to get dressed up and go out and meet a stranger with the hope of love in your heart? People who are on that journey should be bought presents to celebrate it like how we celebrate all the milestones of coupledom.
I recently learnt that I was paying lip service to wanting a relationship, but was actually very unwilling to let go of single life. Because despite what you may be led to believe, single life is actually really, really great. It’s so peaceful and you only have to deal with your own mess. Adding someone to the mix of your life takes a lot of work and patience and having to compromise is annoying. We’re told that relationships and love should happen effortlessly, when that isn’t the case and so committing to a person and doing the work takes a huge leap of faith and it’s easier to wake up on your own in the weekend mornings and read alone in bed.
So yes, dating apps are hard work and dating is horribly confronting, but I want to alter the perception of dating apps and the role they can play in finding love. They take a lot of time, dedication and bravery, but does your longing not deserve that? Are we fixated on blaming the tools without examining ourselves and our fears? Anything worth reaching for in life is utterly terrifying and I’m grateful that tools exist that give me back some control over my destiny and increase my chances of finding my lobster.