You text ev­ery day, but you haven’t met. Meet a new type of dater...


It’s just a bit of fun. Ev­ery­one does it

When it comes to things that bug us about dat­ing, we could write a book. Ghost­ing, bench­ing (where dates ‘pause you’ only to get in touch at a later date)… we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced it all. But we’re most con­cerned about a new phe­nom­e­non we’re call­ing The Vir­tual Boyfriend. Yep, there’s a new breed of dater lurk­ing in cy­berspace. There are an in­creas­ing num­ber of peo­ple you swipe right for, match with, never meet, but you’re still there for them to sound off to af­ter a hard day at work. Sound fa­mil­iar? Thought so. They might be real peo­ple, seek­ing real feel­ings, but they’ll never com­mit to a real date.

‘It seems to be hap­pen­ing all the time,’ says Amy, 34, a copy­writer from Worces­ter. ‘I’m cur­rently mes­sag­ing this guy Matt* and we get on re­ally well. We’ve crossed over to What­sapp, we’re in touch a cou­ple of times a week, but we’ve never man­aged to sync a date. The flirt­ing makes me feel good, but I don’t think we’ll end up meet­ing, so I guess I don’t know what I’m do­ing.’

Many of you may have jumped to the ‘he’s clearly not sin­gle’ con­clu­sion, but dat­ing ex­perts say you could be wrong. It might not be be­cause they’re flaky, dis­or­gan­ised or busy – it might be they’re just look­ing for some­thing other than a re­la­tion­ship (no, not ca­sual sex ei­ther).

‘A lot of peo­ple turn to dat­ing apps when they’re not ready to date,’ says Ly­dia Davis from match­mak­ing ser­vice Mu­tu­alat­trac­ ‘For ex­am­ple, they’ve just bro­ken up with some­one and want to see who’s out there without ever feel­ing ready to meet up. Oth­ers use it as a way to pass time and have no in­ten­tion of meet­ing up, or as an ego boost.’

But while you might be search­ing for a long-term part­ner (and get­ting peeved over non­com­mit­tals), not ev­ery­one is. In a re­cent study of the VBFS, over 70 per cent of Tin­der users ad­mit­ted to never hav­ing met up with some­one they’d been talk­ing to on the app. What’s more, a tiny 4 per cent said they used Tin­der to find a re­la­tion­ship, while a whop­ping 44 per cent re­vealed they only use the app for a con­fi­dence boost.

Not ev­ery­one thinks it’s so bad. ‘I’m talk­ing to sev­eral guys at once,’ says Gemma, 23, a stu­dent from Not­ting­ham. ‘I’ve no plans to meet any of them. I’m not look­ing to set­tle down and it’s just a bit of fun. Ev­ery­one does it and I’d rec­om­mend it. It’s nice to get at­ten­tion.’

Ly­dia ac­knowl­edges this, but be­lieves it’s not good for you in the long run. ‘Apps have cre­ated a plat­form for us all to act in a way we never would in per­son,’ she says. ‘As much fun as it is chat­ting to some­one, you’ve got to meet them in per­son to see if there’s a real con­nec­tion. And in the end, it’s just a waste of ev­ery­one’s time if noth­ing’s go­ing to come of it.’ You have been warned...

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