The recent rant, conducted over Twitter – as all good war of words these days are – by Tinder after Vanity Fair published a pretty damning article accusing the dating app’s ‘to swipe or not to swipe, that is the question?’ policy, and a few thought-provoking articles that arose from the debris of this 30-tweet ‘Twittersphere’ aftermath, made me pause to contemplate the kinds of lives that we, as fledgling twenty-somethings, are living in this fast and furious world. More importantly, how we’re dating… or rather, how we’re not dating.
I have no qualm about admitting that I personally loathe the mere thought of a hook-up or a one-night stand – and no, I’m not asking everyone to “put a ring on it” before they get skin-to-skin (or, to put it more eloquently, intimate) with someone else, just to maybe get to know the person a little bit better before they do so and hell, maybe even to date them first but I’m asking a lot here, aren’t I? – but for Vanity Fair to suggest that online apps like Tinder are responsible for the prevailing shallowness of and loose morals amongst (mainly) twenty-somethings the world over is grossly inaccurate.
Are Facebook and Instagram responsible for the pitiful birth of selfie kings and queens? (Think: “Just a little purple hair,” and another excuse to take a selfie and upload it to Facebook. Yay! Oh, to be twenty and brainless…) No, they are not… No more than Ashley Madison is responsible for creating cheaters.
We cannot blame online dating apps and social media for the way people use and then freely abuse each other nowadays. There’s a terrifying culture that condones meeting people online and then, because they aren’t ‘real’ to you, you’re allowed to feel justified in your treating them like a thing rather than a person. There’s a quote that I love that says something along the lines of, “Things were created to be used, not people…” but sadly, it’s the other way around. Instead of valuing each other as living humans, as people who cry, love and dream just as we ourselves do, we use each other until we’re done… and then it’s onto the next one.
Now, I’m not saying that I am innocent – at least not in theory, if not in practice – of this kind of behaviour and I don’t really know anyone my age or even slightly older who, in the past, hasn’t added someone on Facebook simply because they were a ‘Mutual Friend’ or they received an invite or message from some good-looking stranger (and even if you didn’t accept it or reply to them in the end, I bet you still spied on their profile to see who they were) anymore than I know anyone under 35 who doesn’t take selfies these days, be it on their own or with a few friends.
Like most (reasonably) sensible people my age, I’ve always been cautious of cyber threats (and psychos…) and although I have made mistakes when it comes to online interactions, I can proudly say that online dating and the so-called ‘pressures’ of social media have never yet enticed me to make out with or, Heaven forbid, have sex with the first ‘handsome’ stranger that I’ve chanced upon online, whether I’ve jumped on the Tinder bandwagon and swiped ‘Left’ or ‘Right’ or not – and what’s more, whenever I have befriended someone online – with the exceptions of creeps and that random Greek dude who couldn’t even hope to converse with me in English but presumed to invite me on Facebook all the same – I would like to think that I have tried to be fair to the people I’ve met online and have always, first and foremost, respected the fact that, as much as they are intruding on my life, in a sense, I am also intruding on theirs.
Yet, I am affected by the so-called ‘Dating Apocalypse’ and it does bother me when men only want to get to know me because they are attracted to me on a physical level. Yes, it’s flattering when it stops being faintly annoying but mostly, it’s just worrying for me.
Everywhere I look, people are meeting and connecting (both in person and online) but then, because we have so many other responsibilities, we toss excuses like, “Oh, I’m really sorry but I’m just too busy focusing on my studies and/or work,” or “I’m not ready for a committed relationship just yet…” about and expect the other person to accept it and just… settle for less.
Well, I’ve never been particularly good at ‘settling’… So, in the eyes of the world, I suppose I would no doubt be worthy of global pity, given that I’m twenty-one, ‘loveless’ and single – but honestly, if all that my fellow twenty-somethings are game for is: casual hook-ups, endorsing misogamy, shunning long-term, meaningful relationships and seeing how many people they can bed before the year is over (how’s about that for a New Year’s resolution?), then I will gladly die alone – but I won’t blame social media or dating apps for my relationship status (or lack thereof) and my mistakes one way or another.
It’s not like sex and supposed love haven’t always been confused by most people the awkward side of thirty but people used to find real, lasting relationships a lot easier to enjoy and to value. These days, if you make it past three months with someone, I’m likely to think that person could be your so-called soul mate or partner.
It’s not to say that dating wasn’t messy in the past – quite the contrary because it was and always will be for most of us until we (hopefully) find one or even two people whom we really connect with in every way that matters in life but what scares me is that, as a whole, we just don’t seem to want things to last anymore. We don’t even really want them to begin…
An excerpt from the supposedly warmongering and rather disturbing Vanity Fair article – entitled “Tinder and the Dawn of the “Dating Apocalypse”, written by Nancy Jo Sales – quotes one of her female U.S. interviewees as saying: ‘”There is no dating. There’s no relationships… They’re rare. You can have a fling that could last like seven, eight months and you could never actually call someone your ‘boyfriend.’ [Hooking up] is a lot easier. No one gets hurt – well, not on the surface.”‘
The anonymous young men quoted in the article echo similar sentiments. One said: ‘”I always make a point of disclosing I’m not looking for anything serious. I just wanna hang out, be friends, see what happens… If I were ever in a court of law I could point to the transcript… I think to an extent it is, like, sinister.”
We’ve adopted the ‘fast food’ approach to dating and relationships as well… and along the way, we’re adding a lot of unnecessary hurt and heartache to the lives of others, as much as to our own.
A new dating phenomenon known as ‘ghosting’ – i.e., you get to know someone a bit, you chat online and maybe even meet up in person a few times and then, out of the blue, you vanish from their lives, without even bothering to tell them why.
An article by Heidi Priebe – entitled: “Why Good People Ghost: The Rise Of A Dishonest Dating Culture” – explains it better, as she drew from her own perspective and experience of this.
Priebe writes: “But for the first time ever this year, I experienced the full ghosting experience – of meeting someone I was crazy about, feeling an intense connection with them, being altogether sure that the feelings were mutual – that they were different than the other shady people I was used to dating – and then having them disappear into absolute thin air. I can’t pretend it doesn’t suck to be ghosted.”
She continues with, “I know I’m not the first or last to experience the phenomenon but it still felt a bit like someone had punched me in the gut when it happened. The disregard is insulting. The lack of closure is maddening. You move on, but not before your self-esteem takes a hit. The only thing worse than being broken up with is realizing that someone didn’t even consider you worth breaking up with.”
I know as well as the next person that yes, things don’t always work out between people and sometimes even when one has sincere, strong feelings, the other does not and I think it’s perfectly okay and impossibly human for us to make mistakes and have a few regrets before we settle down or fine-tune our adult lives but it’s not okay to try people on for size like they’re a pair of jeans or shoes and then, when you’ve worn them enough, you can either throw them out, donate them to charity (here’s hoping the next guy or girl wants you, babe…) or return them to the store.
Life doesn’t work like that, so why should ‘young love’ and would-be dating? If you want to date someone, then date them. If you want to be single, then damn well stay single and ‘friendzone’ the hell out of anyone who might think of you as more and above all, if you want cheap sex, then have cheap sex and meaningless relations… it’s nothing to me and I believe that we each get to choose how much or how little we’re prepared to accept from other people – but before you do anything, please make sure it’s what both of you want or agree to. Or at the very least, make your intentions clear to the other person… It’s not even about what’s fair, it’s just about doing what’s right.
In general, as starry-eyed twenty-somethings, we don’t care about what we do, we’re young and reckless and life’s too short not to have fun and blah, blah, blah – but one day when we’re older, years after we’ve left our terrible twenties behind, and things finally start to hit home, forcing us to realise just how shallow and empty, how lacking of meaningful relationships and real connections our young social lives really were, we cannot try pull a Vanity Fair move and even attempt to start blaming social media and dating apps for this depressing state of affairs, when, at the core, we as young adults are at fault – just as the baby boomers of the post-WWII climate and ‘Generation Xers’ of the 1960s and ’70s were.
We can’t lay the blame at the imaginary feet of Tinder – because deep down, we know better than that. The internet has never given anyone loose morals or encouraged appalling, wanton social behaviour, it has merely exposed them and truth be told, the rest of us over in good, ol’ ‘Generation Y’, who are still fairly respectable, level-headed and caring beings, despite our generational faults and our own occasional lapses in sanity, are perfectly mindful of the choices that are busy making and breaking us – and those around us – on an almost daily basis.
In her article, Priebe further writes: “The texting. The dating. The small talk, the drama, the hooking up and breaking up and falling half in love and then having it all fall to pieces. After playing the game for long enough, we all inevitably start to wonder if we’re the only honest player left. Until that scary moment where we check ourselves and realize that we’re just as bad as all the rest. We’re dating multiple people at once. We’re taking things too far before we decide how we feel. We’re keeping people around ‘just in case’ and we feel no remorse – because we see these things as necessary measures. We are desensitized to the ways in which we’re using other people, under the guise of ‘Well, that’s just how it works.’ It’s easy to hate the people who’ve flaked on us but it’s harder to admit that we’re a big, consuming part of the problem.”
We know it too… We’re all conscious of the rise of selfie kings and queens, just as much we’re wary of these shallow Tinderellas and loose dudes… yet sadly, as much as we could be the cure for it, at present, we’re all still a part of this disgusting disease and we’re #shameless about it too.
[Date written: 13/08/15]