Minor change here at Dear Abi: we’ve decided to switch to answering one question per column, to enable me to give your questions longer and more detailed answers. As always, you can ask Fuck.com’s resident agony aunt about anything that takes your fancy at email@example.com. I mean, if you send in something that isn’t related to sex, kink or relationships in some way we probably won’t print it, but nobody’s stopping you asking...
I'm a mostly-straight woman in New York, and I’m in my early 30s. My last relationship ended about a year ago, and since then I've been dating around using a few different sites and apps, mainly OKCupid and Tinder. The results have been up and down: a few quick flings, a some one night stands, and absolutely nothing substantial or particularly interesting. There have been plenty of times where I've wondered what I'm doing dating online and deleted both apps, only to end up reinstalling them a few weeks later out of boredom, or something. Sure, it makes it easier to meet people, but something about it feels a little superficial. Like it makes lovers or flings or sex partners or whatever a little more interchangeable.
Am I doing online dating wrong? Should I call it quits, and resign myself to just meet people at bars and through friends?
Yours in frustration,
Bored of Tinder
According to this paper from Psychological Science in the Public Interest, the journal of the Association for Psychological Science (nobody could accuse me of citing bullshit facts in this column, see!), by 2009 almost a quarter of straight couples made up of internet-using adult Americans who had got together in the past couple of years had met online - and amongst same-sex couples that figure rose to a slightly ridiculous 61%. The authors also suspect that those numbers would be much higher today than they were six years ago.
Oh, god, though, I do know what you mean. I’ve come to the conclusion that you have to be the right sort of person for online dating. After I found that same-sex-couples statistic I took a break from working on my column to go and stare at women I match high with on OKCupid for the one millionth time, just in case She is sitting there with a 99% match potential and a well-written profile. I’ve spent God knows how many hours doing this over the years, and you know how many online dates I have actually had? Zero, that’s how many. As usual I found a variety of women who could potentially be Her: as usual, I didn’t message any of them. Trying to craft a message that doesn’t make you sound like a twat is hard enough all by itself, and I write things for a living, for God’s sake.
The internet is very good indeed at some things - instant access to an astonishing breadth of information, for example, and finding photographs of cats doing dumb shit. It’s ridiculously convenient for keeping in touch with people when they’re not sat in front of you at that moment, or for having conversations with the only other person in the world as passionate as you are about well-preserved animal penises or videobombing news presenters. What it doesn’t do such a great job of, though, is helping you figure out what someone is going to be like when you meet them in real life: there’s no animation in a photo, no tone, none of the rapidly-changing microexpressions we use every day to communicate with people face to face. You can’t tell if someone’s face looks better in motion than it does static, or if their voice sounds weird, or how they move when they’re curious. We need those things to form a judgement of a person.
This clearly isn’t a bar to entry for a lot of people - the stats are clear, and I have plenty of friends who’ve been successful. It might be, though, that - like me - you’re not someone for whom online dating works terribly well. And that’s okay: you sound grumpy about the idea of having to “resign” yourself to “just” meeting people the old-fashioned way, but isn’t that the best bit?
I’m a great believer in the idea that you can’t force a relationship. Here’s the thing: bars and parties are fun, and your friends likely know some excellent people. Joining groups and picking up new hobbies will enhance your life in numerous ways quite apart from the fact that it might be a way to meet Them, whoever They are. You’re in the only city in the world I can truly compare to my own in terms of sheer metropolitan scope - every kind of person you can imagine is out there somewhere, and there’s no sense in sucking all the joy out of finding them by turning it into an endless list of photos you’re not sure about and awkward dinner dates that make you seriously question your life choices.
In essence, I’m giving you the same advice I give to couples hoping to find someone who wants to have a threesome with them:
either it will happen naturally, or it won’t
In mostly-single solidarity,
Abi Brown is a freelance writer and general pen-for-hire devoted to sexual deviancy, far-left politics and wearing too much jewellery. Find her at her website or @see_abi_write.
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