Online Dating and the Monetisation of Loneliness

Happy New Year! I hope that 2017 bears more fruitful than 2016 in all areas of life, especially for the plight of those living in Syria suffering the consequences of the US and Russia’s dick-measuring contest.

But January is the month of regrets and empty promises. More people commit suicide in this month than any other, and the most common reason for suicide is depression regarding the love life.

So thank God we live in an age where it’s easier to meet new romantic prospects than ever, hey? Yep, article over; let me roll out the bunting, let of some fireworks and have a nice lonely glass of champagne to celebrate how fantastically fulfilled we are and will be in this year. Oh wait, what’s that? More people are single now than ever before? Ahh shoot.

According to data analysed from the UK’s census in 2011 (Sorry for those outside the UK, but that’s where I live and that’s the way it is bitchesss!), a staggering 51% of the population is single, the first time that this has been over half way.

Now, I wrote an article not so long ago about why some people hate online dating and attempted to dispel some of the myths and put that hatred in context of what was actually going on; claiming that a lot of that hatred is unfair. However, given this data, one has to conclude that online dating doesn’t really work.

One reason for this could be that we prefer simpler choices – with our relationship opportunities increased massively now that the internet can introduce us to strangers with little hassle, we are more likely to feel regret about the choice we do make and exacerbate problems in a relationship if we feel that it would be easy to find someone else.

I think it’s more to do with the attitude towards dating and relationships that has been informed by online dating.

For a start, having a profile laid out like a CV, you can find out a lot of information about someone straight away, often irrelevant information. Starting a relationship like this misses out a fair chunk of getting to know someone and so our emotions towards people we meet online are normalised; we don’t care as much.

There is an attitude as well, when it’s so easy to meet someone online, that you don’t have to try so hard to get to know people in real life. This is bad because, the people closest to us are those that we share experiences with; so bonding with people in real life is far more fruitful than finding someone with common interests online.

But perhaps this isn’t so much of a problem; having so many more opportunities online makes it less likely for people to stay in emotionally abusive relationships, which is definitely a benefit. Who even says that you need to be in a relationship to be happy?

And THAT is more of the problem here. With Tinder and the online dating culture, there is even more reinforced pressure to be with someone – how relationships define you have changed, but advertising and the media are constantly ramming that notion down your throat.

So here are some more cynical ponderings on online dating. It works pretty much exclusively for attractive people. In real life, you can get to know someone and become attracted to them later. Online, if you’re not an immediately good-looking face, you can forget it.

Attractive men and women will receive plenty of attention online, and so will never feel as though they’ve run out of options, even if the majority of that attention is not what they’re looking for. For people less visually attractive, few will ever contact you, or reply to you and so it’s easy to give up hope.

Alarms bells should ring when online dating starts to feel futile. Before you use online dating you can tell yourself that you just haven’t met the right person yet and there’s still time. Afterwards, having been exposed to thousands of potential dates on the internet with no success, you begin to feel that there is something profoundly and horrifically wrong with you.

But don’t worry. Most dating sites have an answer to that! You can pay them to access the full range of features, which apparently make it easier for you to find a date. BULLSHIT! All online dating sites will manipulate the less attractive, make them feel worthless, maybe even getting towards the point of suicide, all while advertising in the media to club every singleton over the head with how much they need a relationship and then make you pay for extra services that won’t help you any further than the site already has.

My utter hatred for the way these businesses are run is usually reserved for mediums and other charlatans who prey upon people’s grief, but I think this might even be worse. So many people are single now, a lot of people in the country are deeply unhappy; as you can see by how bonkers the world’s becoming. While online dating may work for some, it is incredibly damaging to everyone else.

But, online dating could be a force for good; it just needs to operate on a more level playing field. The monetisation of loneliness is a cruel business, and so we need to find a way in which to operate a successful matchmaking service without resorting to preying upon people’s low self-esteem to turn a profit.

There are plenty of relationship psychologists around, so finding what personality traits complement each other is better than finding common interests. MatchAffinity does this, but requires you to pay to use it. Abolish profile pictures, or use avatars from basic traits (eye colour, hair style etc.). Instead of making money from getting users to pay for extra services, make it from side-products – greetings cards, gifts; like moonpig or something similar.

But, hey, that’s me living in an ideal world and keeping cynicism at bay. If 2016 has proved anything, it’s that people don’t need much of an excuse to become psychopaths, but despite my bleak outlook on life, I can’t quite kill the small modicum of optimism lurking at the back of my brain, and feel that I must believe that love is greater than fear.

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