It’s been quite a while that I’ve been thinking about this topic, and as well a long long time I’ve been talking to friends or even exchanging opinions about this with strangers – and at this point I feel like I want to talk about it in public. And the good things is, I know that everyone else does, too. We all are affected by it. It’s not that I didn’t want to publish it before, it’s that I feel like now, at this point, I finally finished or completed my personal opinion about it – whether it’s due to experiences, or to courage that I acknowledged myself to stand for something. Not even due to my private circumstances right now, mainly due to circumstances that friends are in at the moment. I want to talk about dating. About love in a broader sense. Because that’s what dating should be about, right? And that’s exactly where confusion starts: Nowadays, at least most of the time, it isn’t even about love anymore. It’s about self-affirmation, senseless cat- and mouse games and group pressure.
But let’s start somewhere else. A few weeks ago I came back to Germany, excited about a new semester of university starting. New opportunities, new friends, new challenges. One of my classes in school deals with brands, marketing strategies and advertising. My professor presented the app Tinder. It’s an app that got popular in a very short time using a simple strategy and handling. People from all over the world download it on their smartphone, and each one of us understands what a red cross or a green heart means. And we all know what it is about. I won’t explain what this app aims at in detail because I’m pretty sure each person reading this right now knows, and if not, their friends can explain it to her or him.
However, my professor asked us if someone could explain how to use the app. Silence. Not even one person raised their hand. And every person in this room had the exact same thought: Well, I know how to use it, I already did before, but I’m to shy or embarrassed to admit that I use or have been using this app. Some seconds of awkward silence passed. After quite a while a girl raised her hand. Her wording reads as follows. “I’m not sure but, uhh, I guess, uhh, the red cross means a no and the green heart a yes? And, uhh, I guess then you can contact this person and chat?” Of course she’s right. But not because she’s a good guesser, simply because she knows. Which made me start thinking about why she used so many “uhhs” and why we never admit using it, and if we do, we still get some weird silent glances telling “Wow that’s so uncool”. Bullshit!
I think the digitalization, the internet, dating apps, and online dating in general is a great opportunity. I actually know a few couples that met through online dating or social media. But it may bring something sad with it for sure; we always know what the other person is doing right in this moment, whether we gain knowledge of it through Instagram, Facebook or WhatsApp. We definitely lost the tension of being excited to see someone, to hear about all that has been going on in their life for the past couple of hours, days, months or even years. We visualize their life before we even heard their subjective opinion. We judge, before we know the details; before we know the truth. We create our own truth. That’s how misunderstandings are made. We are updated, almost every single minute every day. We know where the other person is. We know who he or she is hanging out with, we know if they had some beers or some superfood in the new vegan store that just opened in town. We know what size their jeans is. We know what food their dog eats. We even know how people talk, without ever meeting them before. We feel like we have an insight in a life of a person which actually is a stranger to us. And we wouldn’t say Hi if we meet them by chance in real life. We won’t call someone we like and arrange a meeting, because there is nothing we don’t know, we are super spontaneous, act as we’re super straightforward and hang out for a few minutes to smoke a cigarette or drink a beer on the corner. Most of the time, we don’t meet someone for the first time and go out for dinner, because we’ve set up that appointment a week before, no, we meet someone to give them a little insight in our life which they already know too much about.
Besides, not only online dating has changed. Of course I haven’t been dating someone 10 years ago, because I was way too young, and 25 years ago I didn’t even exist. But maybe just because of online dating, regular dating has changed as well. The world gets more connected every second. There are myriad opportunities to get to know people you usually would never be able to meet. Why not start chatting with someone thousands of kilometers away? Why not? You can. And as I said before, that’s great. But it’s also a trap. We meet someone, are attracted by outer appearances (a non virtual red cross or green heart), tell ourselves yes or no, and then we hang out. Even if it’s for a cigarette or a hallo and goodbye at some party. A decade ago, you wanted to get to know someones personality and someones flaws before you meet them. Today it’s so easy to arrange a meeting. If you use a pretense, and both attendees know it actually is a pretense, who cares. You check out if there are some similarities, and then you think ” wow, it really fits”. You cheat on yourself. But that’s all it takes. Because as soon as you realize some discrepancies, you just have to open your app decorated with a little flame, and you’ll find something smarter, prettier, or wittier. People, or dates, are disposable. We’re given the opportunity to run away as soon as a tiny voice inside of us tells us “I don’t like that”. And we train this voice to an extent that is unhealthy. Is it wrong to presume that dating now may be easier, but was better when we didn’t have the chance to simply exchange our dates?
And now to the actual thing. If we (finally) found someone we really like, more than liking someone in a superficial way, we’re still so affected by the disposal or exchangeability and the way dating functions these days, that we are scared to really show our feelings. In my experience, and also the experience of a couple of friends (guys and girls!), it’s not appropriate to act what your heart tells you to act like. To be emotional. As said, we’re straightforward, cold hearted, very rational and sometimes even heartless. That’s what we act like, because we’re scared. And our inner world looks completely different. We’re scared to make a mistake, to be less smart, less pretty or less witty than someone else. We’re aware of the easy exchange happening around us every day. And I don’t think that we leave less impression on someone we first meet for that cigarette or beer, I really think the fear of being less impressive actually makes us less impressive. Fear is powerful, and being thrown in this digitalized world of online dating affects us even if we don’t want to, even if you’re someone of the rare persons that didn’t touch the app, somehow you can’t escape this influence that took over the most human thing we know: dating, and in the end, love.
If someone shows you how much they like you, you automatically don’t like them them that much anymore. If someone doesn’t show you that much appreciation, or let’s say “love”, you automatically like them better. It’s a hunting game. Or well-known: You want what you can’t have. And as long as you can swipe right all the time, you’ll continue to play a cat- and mouse game that makes you want more in an endless loop, but dulls you at the same time. It’s kind of like gambling; if you were honest to yourself you’ll lose with a chance of 99%, but these tiny 1% won’t disappear from your head. And these tiny 1% will tell you, maybe unconscious, this person is great, but how do I know if there isn’t something better? Someone smarter, prettier, or wittier?
And this thought won’t disappear. In my opinion, there are two different ways you fall in love with someone. I definitely experienced falling in love with someone at first sight. Sure, it’s about outer appearances, but maybe about a little more. If it would only be about outer appearances, probably most of us could fall in love with a stranger in the subway every other day. However, I also believe there is a second way of falling in love with someone. Sometimes you get to know a person, and don’t realize their full appearance or magic at first sight. Sometimes, you know a person for a while and all of a sudden you fall in love. Sometimes, in a petty moment this person is doing something hilarious, or this person smiles, or fights for some extra cheese on their pizza – whatever. I experienced both ways. And I think the way dating evolved through the possibilities of the internet and fast pace in general, we abolished the second way.
Either you fall in love with someone right away, which I would consider as very rare, or you run away from someone as soon as you don’t like a tiny piece of personality or looks. Which burries getting to know someone and falling in love with flaws. To summarize, that makes it pretty difficult to fall in love, right? I could write an endless novel about this topic, and there actually are so many more things I have to say – about monogamy, the (or my) truth about love and dating. But I think for now you got my hint and maybe you’ll think about this when dating the next person you like. I really hope dating becomes more personal and irreplaceable in the future, and if it does, it’s on us as an individual to have a certain attitude towards it. Get to know the real person, not only the surface or their life they represent on social media. Go out in the world, and get to know someone way more than just their Tinder profile. It’s worth it, I promise.