I almost always cancel on first dates these days.
Not because I don’t want to go per se – but because the anticipation is almost always more intense than the actual experience. In the age of Tinder, Hinge, OkCupid, Match, eHarmony, JDate, HowAboutWe, Plenty of Fish, Christian Mingle, Stir, Chemistry, Nerve, Sparkology – and on and on and on – before you ever meet someone, you’ve spent so much time communicating with them, you feel like you know them.
But you don’t.
It’s something my friend K has warned me against – Don’t text too much! It ruins everything! She might be right, but instead of actually setting aside time to meet new guys and actually going outside of my apartment and actually passing up a girl’s night to spend an awkward hour or two with a stranger – I find myself preoccupied with swiping left and right and carrying on conversations via apps and messenger. I’m not the only one – this past weekend alone, I looked at friend’s online dating profiles, helped select photos, attempted to go on a double-ish Tinder date with my roommate and went on a Hinge date. I spent lots of time looking at my phone or someone else’s, but the only “dating” I was an active participant in was for a handful of drinks on Saturday night.
And yet, it’s Sunday before a long week ahead, and I’m exhausted of dating. I toyed with the idea of skipping writing this blog and just playing on my dating apps instead – but then I couldn’t resist sharing the question spiraling in my head:
Are any of us actually dating? Or are we… apping?
In a place like New York City and especially with my new move from the away-from-everything Upper West Side to the middle-of-it-all East Village, there isn’t a need for online dating. (I know many people have met online and been very happy, but bare with me here.)
Every single time I go out – or just walk around my neighborhood – I see at least a dozen or more guys that are attractive, around my age and not sporting wedding rings. In every coffee shop, every store, every grocery market, every corner – there are men doing the everyday things that I do. And yet, I rarely notice these guys because I’m responding to a tiny red flame icon popping up on my screen to let me know someone has favored me, liked me or is a match. And the guys probably don’t notice me either (with my head down and all), because they’re doing the same exact things.
We all are: during a two-hour wine and pizza pairing on Friday night, I caught myself unable to not check my phone at least twice. Even though my dear, dear friend J had to head back to London after a long stay in Manhattan, I still checked my Tinder while waiting for him to pack the last of his things. I checked my screen while stopping for water on a run on the East River. When I was shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond, I was carrying on a conversation on Hinge. I’ve opened an app while writing this very blog. When I hosted a housewarming brunch for my new apartment with my friends, all of us looked at our phones – and some us played on dating apps – while laying out in the sun and drinking champagne for just a few hours.
It’s so addicting to connect online that we forget to connect in person. Surely not just in terms of finding love, but have we all grown so attached to our phones that we forget to make real commitments offline? Have we grown so dependent on online dating that we just surf around instead of simply… looking around? Are we more concerned about getting paired, that we don’t really look into why we’re marking X or checking ‘yes’ on hundreds and hundreds of profiles… with faces we will ultimately completely forget?
Are we all forgetting how to actually… date?
Call me crazy and guilty of delusional ideas about love (hey, wouldn’t be the first time) – but wasn’t the way our parents did it a little more fun? More exciting? More romantic? You know, when you would come home to check your answering machine to see if someone called? Or you set a time and a place to meet them… and you just showed up. Or you didn’t have the ability to Google them before you met, so you just asked them questions instead of a search engine. Or when there was no misreading between the text messages, and you only could communicate via the phone, so you spent time talking instead of wasting time saying ‘Hey, what’s up?’ for the third day in a row?
I’m just as guilty as everyone else – but as I dive back into dating again after the end of Mr. Unexpected (and as I write this new weekly column for Women’s Health), I’m going to make an effort to put down my phone and step back into my life. Instead of wasting time on an app, I’m going to invest my time in doing things that I love, and therefore (hopefully) meet someone that shares those same interest.
Because I’ve been single for a few years now, and though I haven’t been doing it wrong, maybe I haven’t been enjoying it quite as much as I could. Maybe I haven’t actually been dating at all – I’ve just been playing. I’ve been apping.
And if I do want to meet someone – the someone – I don’t want to just text him, swipe him, favor him, like him, nudge him…
I want to date him.