It's the age-old question—okay, maybe not age-old, but at least a few years—should I or should I not online date?
Photo: Getty Images. Homepage image: Adam Katz Siding
Why I've Resisted
Poll any number of women, and you'll get a variety of responses as to the merits of using dating apps.
"It's great practice."
"I met my husband on an app."
"My friend's friend met her husband on an app."
You name it, I've heard it. With so many opinions (and in my case, so little free time), the answer to my question is an elusive one. Friends have shared horror stories including but not limited to: Texting with a guy all day only to arrive for the date and be stood up. Having an awesome, idyllic date with a guy and then never hearing from him again. Thinking you're in a relationship with a guy only to find out he's still active on the app through which you met. I could go on. The bottom line: I haven’t heard many that end with 'happily ever after.'
Giving It A Try
Discouraged but feeling guilty for putting energy into every part of my life except dating, I decide to forge on and sign up. My profile photos populate directly from my Facebook account. Thinking most of the images are decent, I don't give them much thought or curation. A few show me dressed up at parties, a couple with girlfriends, one of me skiing and one of me surfing. I think I look like a fun, adventurous person who has a lot of hobbies. I assume (incorrectly it turns out) that these photos—showing me doing the things I love—will attract a like-minded man with whom I'll eventually share these activities.
The Waiting Game
I sit back and wait for the matches to roll in, just like they seem to for my friends. But they don't come fast, or even slow for that matter. The matches do not come. Confused and defeated, I ask my brother what he thinks the problem is. (He's the best when the situation calls for brutal honesty.) He asks to see the photos I've posted to my profile. I show him proudly, scrolling through one by one and explaining why I thought each was a good choice. He actually gasps.
"I haven't heard many stories that end with 'happily ever after.'"
"These are horrible!" he says with a mixture of empathy and shock.
"Why?" I ask incredulously. "These photos make me look fun and sporty!"
"That’s not a good thing," he says plainly. "Sure, it's cool you have a bunch of hobbies, and I'm sure someone would be psyched about that once he's dating you, but don’t lead with that. No wonder you haven't gotten any matches!"
Like I said, he's great with brutal honesty.
The combination of bad photos, no matches and my broken spirit is too much, and I remove myself from the app. Experiment failed.
Flash forward three months and even fewer dates, and I decide to dive back in, this time with a different app, in which the women are in the driver's seat. I curate a better selection of photos (at least according to my brother) and dip my toe back in the water. A friend tells me one of the reasons I was unsuccessful in my first attempt is because these apps work on an algorithm—and they only work as hard as you do. If you don't put the time in each day to go through your presented selections, then your photos don't turn up for the guys using the app. That makes sense to me—during my first go-round I often forgot to check the app for days at a time. Her theory holds water. This time, I'll be more committed.
Back To Basics
The first few days, I make a point to go to the app each day and swipe, swipe, swipe. It's oddly exhausting. I'm good about it for approximately a week, until one day I'm mindlessly judging people's photos and pumped-up self descriptions when I realize I've zoned out for probably 30 minutes. Thirty minutes. Thirty minutes of my life that I could be talking to someone, working, watching a TV show I love, working out, anything other than swiping. Thirty minutes I can't get back. And that's when I realize dating apps just aren't for me. Lucky in love or not, they aren't my thing. I delete the app and don't look back.
"And that's when I realize dating apps just aren't for me."
Truth be told, it's not just about wasted time. Even as I swiped, I couldn't shake the feeling that my person wasn't on these apps. I've always felt that doing the things I love and becoming the woman I want to be will lead me to "him." (That is, if he exists. I'm also comfortable with the fact he may not.) That may sound like a cop out, and maybe it is, but I believe in following my gut, and that's what it's telling me.
Some may argue I'm shooting myself in the foot by avoiding these apps. They may be right. But now I have 30 more minutes each day to do the things that make me who I am, and I'm okay with that.