Submitted by Caitlin Clement
You can sum up my love life this way: I’m Sisyphus and dating is my boulder. Every time I think I’m about to make progress with a guy, reach that summit, maybe find love, that boulder crushes me. Flat. Pancake flat. I hate that boulder.
Like the other day. I was talking to a guy on Tinder I actually found interesting. It started off great—he asked me how my day was going, we talked about traveling and even learned we had similar hobbies like the outdoors and a love for movies. I thought, “maybe this will go somewhere.” Then I get the make or break question: “So why are you on Tinder?” I mean, it’s valid, but I stand by what I want by saying, “I’m not here for hook-ups, but I’m willing to see where things go. What about you?” He then proceeds to say, “Ideally, I want a friend with benefits.”
And as the great Freddie Mercury would say: another one bites the dust.
I felt like a failure when I got that message. Why am I only worth the occasional f–k? What happened to the time of whispered sweet nothings and hand-written letters? Ya know, effort. It makes me feel uninteresting, worthless, irrelevant.
And here’s the thing: I’m not alone. This is the experience of a lot of women. You put in effort, you flirt, you talk about deeper stuff, get your hopes up, and then some Tinder boy says, “So, you dtf?” Ugh, romance truly is dead.
So, I did as any normal human being does when fed up with dating while under a COVID-19 stay-at-home order—I decided to do an experiment with dating apps to understand how they’ve changed the way we date. Specifically, Tinder and Bumble since those are the most popular and safest ways to date right now. I decided to up the number of swipes I did—still adhering to some standards, of course; I will never swipe for fishing photos. I also wanted to see how the number of matches I received and the conversations I had varied from app to app.
JD Stehwein, a 24-year-old from Des Moines, IA, and a user of dating apps had his own opinions about each app’s capabilities. “ I had Hinge, Bumble, and Tinder. I feel like each of them has a different vibe to them. Tinder is the least serious and Hinge is the most. They’re nice to start conversations with, so you can find out pretty quickly if you have chemistry with someone.” We’ll see about that.
Dating apps, in general, have widened the pool of potential soul-mates to choose from. This can be a positive for those who live in small towns or need to look outside the office pool. Data from a 2019 Pew Research study showed 30 percent of U.S. adults have used an online dating app or site. Look a little closer and unsurprisingly it is younger people who are doing it the most: nearly 50 percent of those 18-29 and 38 percent of 30-49 year-olds have tried to swipe their way to love.
Out of those, 12 percent say they have married or entered a committed relationship as a result of an online connection. And the stat that really shocked me: 57 percent say their experience was positive, yet 71 percent of online daters say it is very common for people to lie about themselves. But in a world full of so many choices, why do we find the need to lie?
The Paradox of Choice
In Aziz Ansari’s book “Modern Romance,” he mentions the paradox of choice. It’s the idea that the more choices we have, the less likely we are to actually choose. According to the book, millennials live in a world with more choices than any other generation to come before them, making commitment almost non-existent. We are obsessed with finding the best of the best. I’m no exception. I spent almost an hour just trying to pick out the right water bottle to fit my aesthetic. Eventually, I decided all these options were too expensive and didn’t buy any.
I realized I do the same thing when getting my swipes in. I look at the picture to see if I like the way that they look. Then I scroll down to the additional details of the product—a.k.a. their bio. For the one named Ty, it said, “Just looking for an outdoor drinking partner.” While I would normally swipe left because of the lazy attempt at a bio, I knew the purpose of this was to stop being picky. He was cute. I went for it.
A match. He sent me a message saying, “Do you know what the triple crown is for hiking?” No, I didn’t, but it sounded like a sexcapade that would happen at the top of a mountain (I’ve been asked something similar before). So my inner judgemental demon decided I was not going to respond. A few days later I was curious about what it was. So I googled it. It was the name of the three major long-distance trails in the U.S. Not a sex thing. I felt like a dumbass.
In the end, though, I didn’t really care. I had all these other options at my disposal and could find a better one anyway—the paradox of choice at work. I can immediately cross someone off the list if they aren’t six-feet, love to travel, or want to cuddle while listening to the Piña Colada Song. But this “soul-mate shopping” is hurting my chances—our chances—at love, according to Relationships and Human Behavior Expert Dr. Patrick Wanis.
I mentioned my struggles with the apps, asking him why I would often find myself interested in a guy but after a week or two things would fizzle out? He responded with a question himself: “Why did you lose interest?” Great question, doc. Maybe it’s because I am the queen of self-sabotage? I find one little thing wrong and Immediately think, “Oh, this will never work.” A never-ending search for perfection and expecting others to accept my imperfections. In reality, I lost interest because I’m a hypocrite.
I got a taste of my own medicine with this next Tinder match. The guy’s bio was significantly longer than Ty’s, although that’s not hard to do when it was literally one sentence. He had been to every continent besides two, spoke Spanish, was cute, and lives in Boulder, CO. I immediately swiped.
He starts off with the question: “If you could live anywhere in the world you haven’t been, where would you pick?” Wow, this Romeo really knows how to ask a girl obsessed with traveling the right questions. The conversation goes on, even transitions into Spanish, mind you, which takes some work. Then I message (in Spanish) “What other countries have you visited?” Nada. No response. What the hell, man? What did I say?
That one stung a little bit. It made me realize how much I hate vulnerability. So much so that I’m probably willing to stay single and become a spinster. I mean, hey, Queen Elizabeth never married and she turned out to be a badass. Vulnerability; the reason why I’ve had such terrible luck with men.
We’re Lonelier Than Ever
I don’t think I’m the only one. Dr. Wanis says this unwillingness to commit to anything is becoming an issue among younger generations. We’ve become lazy—people don’t want to choose someone but then miss out on something better. Quarantine has also revealed people’s true intentions on the apps, according to Holland Haiis, Human Connection Expert. They’re exacerbating the loneliness. “It’s making them feel even more isolated because where they believed they had relationships, they’re seeing they don’t because these people don’t want to talk. It’s crickets.”
I’d been making small talk for weeks with this guy, Colin, on Tinder and he wanted to meet (before the stay-at-home orders, of course). We even exchanged Snapchats to make communicating easier. At first, I was excited. “Someone wants to take the time to meet me!” Then, just like the water bottle, I found the risk of rejection too expensive. My insecurities popped up like the little sh-ts they are. What if I’m not good enough? What if he was lying all this time and I’ve been catfished? How do I know he’s not a murderer? I started making excuses about why I couldn’t go. I mean, heck, he just wanted to go for coffee, and I was already talking myself out of it. Long story short, he left me on read.
“The fear of commitment could be fear of failure,” Dr. Wanis said. I hear ya, doc.
I have 99+ likes on Tinder and 50+ likes on Bumble and I don’t say this to brag. In fact, it’s kind of embarrassing that I supposedly have all these guys that “like” me yet here I am at 20 having never had a boyfriend. I find myself asking the question, am I not interesting enough to get to know on a deeper level? According to Haiis, dating has convinced us that hook-up culture is what we want. “We’re not really enjoying the depth of what intimacy can add to the layering of a relationship and our lives by hook-up culture,” he says. The reality is I’m convinced that people have forgotten how to be vulnerable. Myself included. And I think that’s why so many people are afraid to make that first date.
On Tinder, I have matched with about 20 guys, Bumble about 15. Out of those I only started messaging five of them on Tinder and two on Bumble. Out of those still, I only got to Snapchat stages with one of them from each app. And getting there was a lot of work. I could understand why people need a break from dating apps every once in a while. It’s a little exhausting and crushes any form of pizzaz dating is supposed to have. For those I chose to stop messaging, it was usually caused by one of three things. I got the “you dtf?” right out of the gate. They humored me with flirting and then proceeded to ask if I was yet again “dtf.” Or they were just downright boring and gave me half-assed answers.
Not all is lost it seems. Sarah Swanson, a 21-year-old from Arvada, CO, found her current boyfriend on Tinder. “I do think it is a transition from the ‘normal’ dating scene, but I don’t think it’s completely different because once you meet someone on a dating app, you still like to go on dates and do things together.”
At the end of all this, there was one guy that got farther than the rest. The last man standing. The conversations were about our personalities, wants, dislikes, hopes for the future. Sure, there was a bit of flirtatious language, but it felt like he was actually trying to get to know me. That question did eventually come up: “Why are you on Tinder?” We both agreed we were looking for something deeper than a hook-up. Crazy.
We talked about what we looked for in a significant other and even shared some of the sh-t we’ve been through in our lives. I found myself getting excited when we talked. That never happens. We’ve even discussed a FaceTime soon—the substitute for a date with all this COVID-19 going around. We’ll see how it goes!
In all reality, even with this one outlier of a guy, I will be deleting every dating app I have on my phone. Whoever told you they don’t take work are f–king liars. I’m exhausted from the constant conversations with multiple guys and having to weed them out. Swipe right, swipe left, swipe right, swipe left. It has sucked all the excitement of dating out of me. We’ll see what happens with this guy, but I need to go on a dating app cleanse.