BEWARE: THE VIRTUAL BOYFRIEND
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 Mutualattraction.co.uk. ‘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...