Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2015 film, The Lobster, imagines a scenario in which all citizens over the age of 18 are required by law to be in a relationship. Those who are not are sent to a boot camp where they must find a partner in 30 days or face dire consequences. The couples that are made to work in the film are based on entirely superficial mutual qualities, such as a propensity for nosebleeds, limps or stammers.
The film, although arguably pretentious, makes a good point here – taking the idea of the dating profile to its logical extreme; past the point of it feeling more like a CV to the superficial being practically enshrined in law.
And this is where online dating is potentially problematic – it is very much like a job application; or rather, the way these sites are set up make it feel more like a job application than it really should. Of course some of that attitude is down to how one uses such sites.
So here are a bunch of reasons as to why some people hate online dating.
There’s too much choice.
This complaint can work both ways. People with little self-confidence will feel that they don’t stand a chance held up against so many people on the internet. Flipping that on its head; the normalisation of trying to form a bond with people can make it difficult to become excited about the prospect of a relationship with anyone.
This is rarely a problem in real life as you’re unlikely to meet several people by chance that are single and you are also attracted to, so getting to know that one person becomes a priority. For the low confidence issue; if you find yourself talking to someone you fancy, competition is a more abstract concept.
However, the idea that with less of a choice, you are more happy with the result isn’t gospel, and you’re statistically more likely to find yourself in an unhappy relationship. Furthermore, with less choice, it’s more likely to make a choice from the best of a bad bunch out of desperation. Which brings me nicely to…
Everyone who uses online dating is desperate.
This idea is starting to wane; it exists because online dating hasn’t existed for long and it’s still considered unusual. Everyone in their twenties now has grown up as the internet has become a part of everyday life, and so online dating is taken more seriously, and will become more so.
However, it persists, the idea that anyone seeking a relationship online is a social outcast, or has failed socially in some way and must take the human element out of trying to find a relationship. Because this idea persists, it informs the psychology of a lot people using online dating, which creates another reason why people hate online dating…
It objectifies people.
This exists as a problem in tandem to the last because to have success on a dating site, you need to have pictures of yourself – and this leads to immediate objectification. A lot of people assume still that everyone using online dating must be ugly in some way; and through fear of being thought of in this way, people organise their photos to show them in a light that isn’t representative of how they really look; causing confusion upon meeting.
This is my main gripe with some dating sites/apps, especially Tinder as it invites objectification upon its users. If a user doesn’t like the look of someone, they don’t even need to bother to get to know them. If you don’t fancy someone you meet in real life, you don’t point blank refuse to talk to them, unless you’re a cunt, and can still form a friendship from that meeting. It’s even possible that you can eventually fall for someone you didn’t immediately find traditionally attractive, despite what studies say that people decide whether they want to sleep with someone in the first minute of meeting them.
Messaging people is hard.
I don’t think many people will realise this is why they hate online dating, but I do think it is fundamentally the reason many people actually do. This is more of a problem for men as it’s far more common for men to have to take the first step. This is also more of a problem for men, as men are often terrible at writing messages.
For a start, it takes confidence to write the first message; the fear of rejection (which I’ll come to later) is palpable. After that writing a message that’s coherent, interesting and stands out is difficult, especially if you’re second guessing yourself. Few people tend to consider what the other person would be looking for in a message as well. As a general rule people want to be flattered and intrigued. People might be flattered by how they look physically, but if you’ve noticed an attractive physical quality in someone, so will have plenty of other people and so it’s likely that your message (if not creepy) will at best be uninteresting. Alternatively if you’ve noticed that someone likes a specific album or film, and write a detailed analysis of it; while it may be interesting makes you seem more interested in giving your point of view than receiving someone else’s, which isn’t particularly flattering. Insecurity, obsession, shallowness, being overly personal and arrogance are all unattractive qualities.
However, when you’ve sent of loads of messages and had no replies it’s far easier to say that online dating doesn’t work, and hate it as a result.
The fear of/the normalisation of rejection.
Or maybe the fear specifically of the normalisation. Again this isn’t something people will readily admit to, but it’s likely to be more deeply true. If you eschew online dating you’re able to maintain the belief that someone somewhere will want to date you. If you fail completely online then it’s easy to fall into the belief that no-one ever will.
The normalisation of rejection is slightly removed, and comes later. It can potentially be a benefit as well, though. If you fall apart every time someone rejects you, then it might be a good idea to try online dating, so that if rejection is just another day at the office, it’s easier to cope with.
That’s a dangerous game to play though, because with rejection en masse; when the act of rejection itself doesn’t hurt, it’s easy to become severely depressed without consciously realising why. To then have an oblique hatred towards online dating is understandable and not entirely unfair.
It monetizes desperation.
This, I believe, is the best reason to hate online dating, if you must. Despite its successes, this is inescapably true, and will likely remain so, no matter how popular or accepted the medium becomes.
Most online dating sites, if they don’t insist you pay to be able to use them, will offer some sort of upgrade where you can access extra features. The latter is really rather deplorable, as most people starting out will not pay up front, but after months of little success, will, without even considering what extra they’re being offered, and whether it’s helpful, pay in a desperate bid to find love, without considering if their approach is flawed.
However, to condemn online dating for this refuses to realise that pretty much any and all companies selling you anything do the same; especially those that sell beauty products. In fact online dating isn’t really so bad, as there are a few sites that can be used for free with success, but can be upgraded for people who have a more specific intent, or want to use it in a more specific way.
But, notice that I said a few…
There are many online dating sites and apps that can make you feel like shit. Some sites require you to have a specific trait which you can do nothing about (usually based around being physically attractive). Some sites, like eHarmony, don’t let people make a profile unless they match other vetted users to enough of a degree. As discussed before, a lot of sites require you to pay, which many people can’t justify doing. Apps like Tinder, require people to have a smart phone which they may not want, or as before, are unable to afford. I may well write another article on why I’m skeptical about smart phones – if I do, I’ll link to it here.
Tinder particularly pisses me off for this exact reason combined with its popularity. It’s a private rave to which I’m not invited. The exclusivity of these sites whether intentional or not, is again a good reason to dislike online dating – as often people will feel forced to concede and pay for something to be able to use them; which is, of course, deplorable.
Then there is also the issue that not everybody has an internet connection. But to criticise online dating as a result, while not unsubstantiated, is fighting a losing battle- while the internet exists, people will use it to do anything that can also be done in reality.
However, to say this a problem with online dating is a sweeping generalisation; it’s a problem with the companies. I’ve no right to tell people to change their habits if their site works for them, but I will implore people to boycott the likes of Tinder and eHarmony and join more inclusive sites such as Plenty Of Fish (which can be accessed by anyone who has an internet connection). To shun the exclusive and encourage a level playing field will create a better society in general. Love should be available to everyone.
It’s too formal/it’s unnatural.
This point and the next are the antitheses of each other, so they can’t both be true, I’ll leave the decision up to you.
This idea is similar to the parody of dating in The Lobster – each profile you view is a selection of data, which can often cause you to focus on the superficial, rather than the important. It’s nearly impossible to show your personality truly in this format, and there are many red herrings. I don’t care if someone has a second language, or what someone’s level of education is.
There is also the issue that it might be difficult to form relationships of any sort in this way. Part of getting to know someone, is, well, getting to know them. You can find out their likes/dislikes and discover more about their personality in this vague but more natural manner. When you find out information about someone like you’re reading their CV, you may end up bypassing a crucial stage where otherwise, your feelings may grow.
This, however, is a point of contention, so let’s bring it to the final point.
Society has a poorly informed idea of romance.
Again, this is a reason why it might be hated, not a reason for it to be hated. That the pervasive idea of romantic love is still the Shakespearean romance is not all too helpful. Watch Alain De Botton’s talks on romance to get the full idea, but settle for now with the gist.
The idea of finding a soulmate that you can wholly love, and that such love will develop from first sight is just not remotely scientific. Humans, by nature, are imperfect, and so there is no perfect person – you cannot love someone in their entirety, but celebrate their great qualities and accept that there are some less favourable ones, which you can live with, yet still dislike.
With that, we should change our ideas about dating. There are many throws of the dice, many relationships that could work. It is after all a numbers game, and you’re more likely to find someone you enjoy dating with a wider search, and being able to, without dancing around the issue, exclusively talk with the intention of dating to people that you find interesting.
It may well be that fundamentally a lot of people hate online dating, because it doesn’t reconcile too well with that traditional idea of soulmates and romance. The issue then is not with online dating, but with an archaic attitude in society. We should endeavour to break down attitudes that restrict us personally, especially when it comes to love.