Online Dating is Scary
As our wedding day approaches (11 days, y’all!) it’s natural (I think?) to look back at how we got here. Over the last several weeks, I’ve thought a ton about just how lucky I am to be in this place right now, with this man. There are so many things – SO MANY – that could have easily kept us apart. Timing, distance, an unwillingness to take a chance, all of these could have easily rendered this whole thing – our whole future together – impossible.
I will no doubt be going into a lot more detail about our love story (please don’t gag) at a later date. How we went from being Justin over here and Kristy over there to being an US. It’s a piece of my story that deserves time to create and room to breathe, and is so far my favorite part of myself so I don’t want to rush it. That said, there is a key element that is far less lovely, far, far less enjoyable than the relationship that’s resulted, and far easier to summarize: the way we met.
If you know us, it’s no secret: we met online.
Literally Nothing to Lose
I don’t think the bottom line of my online dating story is that different than many other women. I was single, I didn’t want to be, so I decided to give it a try. The piece that makes it a little different? I decided to turn it into my own version of a social experiment and give three online dating mediums a try all at the same time. I was in an interesting (read: very, very depressed) place in my life. I’d just been through a major tragedy that had left me fragile and open, and (what felt like) emotionally indestructible at the same time. I figured this was probably as good a state as any to dive into the weird, often icky, uncomfortable world of online dating.
With the guidance and support of my therapist (literally…she thought it was a good idea and spoiler alert – she was right!), I created profiles and fully leaned into Tinder, Bumble, and OK Cupid.
Bumbling through Tinder
So a brief run down for anybody who doesn’t know how these work:
- Tinder – it’s an app, you create a profile and it “matches” you with people based on proximity. It’s almost entirely based on appearance – a photo pops up and if you’re feeling it you swipe one way, if you’re not, you swipe the other. If they’ve swiped the “interested” direction on your photo, it’s a match! You can message them, they can message you – it’s a communication free-for-all!
- Bumble – it’s an app, you sign up through Facebook (unless this has changed) and it matches you people based on proximity. Sound familiar? The key is here that women are “in control” whatever that means. Basically women make the first move, and men can’t contact you unless you make the first move. Once you match, you only have a certain number of hours (24? I think? ) to contact them or your chance goes away. I found this to be exceptionally annoying because it seems like the app thinks women are timid and unwilling to make the first move, so we’d better rush them into things. Quite the contrary – I was often too busy living my actual life to fit a message into their deadline window. C’est la vie.
- OK Cupid – it has both an app and web interface, and it’s much more “traditional” in terms of dating sites. You make a profile, answer some questions, upload some pics, and get to talkin’.
So for the most part, these apps are a combination of 3 things – stressful, gross, and boring. Stressful because it’s a lot of pressure to put yourself out there authentically. To find pictures that represent you accurately (I had a folder of these in my phone and it was titled “Yikes!”). Initiating conversations with people who seem nice, but you aren’t sure are (but then, isn’t that exactly the same in real life?). To reply to a message with another thoughtful message, when most of the time all you “know” about them is that they have a really cute pet and hate milk.
It’s gross for the obvious reasons, especially for women. People can be jerks. I especially found this to be true as a chubby girl trying to date online. Beyond the normal “hey baby” (and much, much worse) yuck factor, there was a sickening presence of entitlement that is sadly familiar to most women, and most plus-sized women especially. For every kind, wonderful man, there are at least 5 that don’t deserve public interaction. There was name-calling, inappropriate sexual advances, mansplaning (which was somehow the most offensive), spammy messages, an overabundance of toxic masculinity, etc.
Men – complete strangers – felt entitled to comment on my appearance and character. Gross is a gross understatement (see what I did there?).
Finally, online dating can be incredibly boring. It’s a lot of sifting through people you would probably never be interested in speaking to in real life, avoiding your coworkers and people you knew in high school (just like real life!), scrolling through message after message that only says “hey.”, and most annoyingly, crafting thoughtful messages that go unread – or WORSE – read, and never replied to.
OK, enough, Cupid.
By now you’ve probably gathered that online dating isn’t a walk in the park, nor is it for the weak at heart. It’s not all that different from real-life dating, except people generally feel more empowered to say things they would NEVER say to your face when they’re behind a keyboard or basking in the blue light of their phone screens.
Do hear me out though – it wasn’t all bad (obviously). Some people are nice (just not THE ones). Some people are funny (just not “forever” funny). The time I spent online before I came across Justin’s profile and was all hearts for eyes and texting my BFFs and gushing because I had the MOST INSTANT AND INTENSE CRUSH OF MY LIFE wasn’t completely miserable (just mostly). The most significant take away from the experience (other than my soon-to-be-husband, of course) was the way online dating made it easier to get to know myself.
I’m not going to take you on a mushy “I found myself through this” journey, because I didn’t. What I did find were the answers to questions I’d have probably never asked myself. I learned that sometimes it’s fun to feed the trolls – it really annoys them and usually confuses them until they stop. I learned (re-learned? reinforced?) that there are a LOT of really, exceptionally bad men out there. It’s a good idea to be aware. And when I saw Justin’s profile for the first time, (and our 99% match rate, and his cute sweater and the kindest eyes I’d ever seen), I learned that making the first move (especially when you’re sure it’s the right one) is always a good idea.
What about you?
Have you ever tried it? Did you love it? Hate it? Find your person? Still looking? Fill me in! My experience is only one of literally millions, and I can’t wait to hear from you!