When I swiped right to a gorgeous real-estate advertiser who joked about owning fluffy handcuffs and smooching behind the bike shed like school kids, I never thought it would turn into two years of emotional chaos. Emails, phone calls, constant text messaging, snap-chats—a connection through every online realm, but not in real life.
Social media has nearly monopolized current ways of dating. Apps such as Tinder, Grindr and OkCupid have become a popular way for college students (and young adults in general) to meet up with someone they may be attracted to. These apps let you judge whether a person is worthy of your right swipe simply from a few of their photos and a cringe-worthy bio. And for those who aren’t using these applications purely for an ego boost, the next step is the conversation. What once was real-life meetings that involved the subconscious analysis of body language, social cues and conversation, is now an analysis of a sentence, a phrase, a greeting—all in a typed message. For those who “meet” people through the realm of social media and dating apps, these face-to-face intuitions are falling into the abyss.
Prior to downloading Tinder, I believed that it was unnatural for people to meet online and that real relationships could only happen organically. Still, part of me felt that meeting people online would be a good thing, especially if we shared similar interests and, in terms of Tinder, we mutually attracted to each other. Let’s get one thing straight though—meeting a person online for the purpose of a relationship was irrelevant to me as there is only so much you can know about someone without face-to-face communication. Genuine human interaction reveals a lot about a person and what they think and feel about you. My opinions, however, gradually started to change.
Unfortunately, people are generally more confident online than in real-life. I know I was. When I first started talking to Jake*, we immediately had a connection. Straight off the bat he asked if we could meet—he was visiting family in Adelaide and lived permanently in Sydney. Lacking any self-confidence and possessing too much nervousness, I declined, knowing that he was flying out the next morning. What ensued was a constant back-and-forth messaging between us.
Maybe this is why I felt like we were connecting on a deeply personal level, despite the fact we hadn’t met the other. And maybe this is why I began to feel an innate sense of comfort when I started speaking to him on the phone, which became an almost daily endeavor.
This type of communication continued from April until October, when one weekend he was back in Adelaide for a wedding. Again, my nerves tried to get the better of me, but I eventually gave in and met him down Bank Street in the bar district. He was heavily intoxicated and I was sober, and the meeting wasn’t how I had expected it to be. I concluded that, despite being roaring drunk, he was too good of a person for me and I practically shut him down anytime he tried to express his feelings towards me. This barrier I had put up for myself would eventually be the reason for the demise of our “relationship.” And yet, the connection between us grew after meeting.
Over the next year, I visited Sydney on four separate occasions, and each time I was either stood up or left disappointed that Jake didn’t make the effort to see me. When I confronted him about it, his words to me were, “I was scared to see you because I felt like if I saw you, I’d be desperate to see you again.” He said our relationship would not progress, that we were in limbo.
While I genuinely agreed that our relationship was not moving forward, I was annoyed at myself for believing that it was ever a real “relationship” in the first place. He played me for a fool, and he knew it. For months after this revelation I was in denial. He had emotionally manipulated me the whole time.
It’s been almost two years since I first started talking to Jake, however we are no longer a part of each other’s lives. We are no longer friends on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, and we don’t have each other’s numbers. Prior to cutting each other off, he told me he was in a new relationship and he felt that, considering our past, it would be inappropriate for us to talk. These days, he rarely crosses my mind. And being in America for the last three months has definitely helped me move on.
However, the other day I received a message on Facebook. An unexpected apology from Jake. As much as I wanted to send him an essay outlining everything he did wrong and how he made me feel, I told him it was in the past, and it was a part of my life I didn’t want to think about anymore. I didn’t want him to know I still care, and probably always will.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.