On­line dat­ing de­coded

Miss FQ - - Contents -

Ijoined Bum­ble a few months ago for a story. I know, what is this, a fu­tur­is­tic fol­low-up to How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? Well, kind of, yes. At least it was go­ing to be, ex­cept the minute I started swip­ing — past all the men I work with, and the men my ex works with, and any­one who’s dated some­one I know — it be­came clear that find­ing a vi­able match in such a small and in­ter­con­nected dat­ing pool as Auck­land was go­ing to be hard enough. The idea of go­ing on to po­ten­tially ruin some poor guy’s rep­u­ta­tion in print was un­think­able.

My dreams of be­ing the next Andie An­der­son dashed, I shelved the pro­fes­sional agenda and fo­cused on a per­sonal one: get­ting back in the game. Re­cently out of a six-year re­la­tion­ship, my opin­ion of dat­ing apps and the peo­ple who use them had un­til this point been in­formed en­tirely by In­sta­gram ac­counts like @tin­dernight­mares. Thank­fully, the kind of mind-bog­gling misog­yny that keeps such ac­counts tick­ing over is some­thing I haven’t re­ally en­coun­tered to date. My night­mare re­mains to do with prox­im­ity. Be­cause un­less we’re talk­ing a su­per-hot hy­brid of the Ryans Gosling and Reynolds, the idea of walk­ing into an off-site work meet­ing and dis­cov­er­ing some­one I just hooked up with sit­ting at the table doesn’t sound like a recipe for sex­ual chem­istry. It just sounds a bit awkies.

Ini­tially I tried widen­ing my ra­dius (not a eu­phemism). Frankly, all that got me was RSI (also not a eu­phemism). You see, it doesn’t mat­ter how many op­tions I’m pre­sented with, I’m still go­ing to swipe left if you live more than a $10 Uber ride away. Yet I also want some­one with whom I share sev­eral de­grees of sep­a­ra­tion, and I’m con­tin­u­ally re­minded that no such thing ex­ists. This week I traded Snapchat de­tails with one prospec­tive suitor

(Mum, Dad, don’t think too hard about that), and the first snap I re­ceived was my as­so­ci­ate edi­tor’s let­ter page in the last is­sue of Miss FQ, with the words, “Your magazine is in my flat”. I hadn’t spec­i­fied where I work. He’d had my full name, thanks to Snapchat, for all of two min­utes. And sud­denly — lest I be ac­cused of ‘kit­ten­fish­ing’ — I had to pref­ace any would-be date with “Oh, by the way, that’s not my real hair”?

Herein lies per­haps the big­gest prob­lem with on­line dat­ing. You might not be a mid-40s house­wife pos­ing as a 19-year-old like the orig­i­nal Cat­fish, but if you’ve ever Face­tuned a photo or ’grammed a beau­ti­ful flat-lay fea­tur­ing a niche book you have no in­ten­tion of read­ing, you (and TBF, me), are half­way there.

It’s not just about craft­ing a par­tic­u­lar aes­thetic. On­line dat­ing apps al­low us to ‘fil­ter’ the way we talk — the not-so-in­stant mes­sag­ing medium giv­ing us space to re­spond more thought­fully than we might in per­son. But rather than mit­i­gat­ing all of that awk­ward first date con­ver­sa­tion, we’re just post­pon­ing it. If any­thing, the first date be­comes even more un­com­fort­able be­cause the chat isn’t as good IRL (to say noth­ing of the fact that ev­ery­one left their flat­ter­ing black and white fil­ter at home).

And even if your so­cial me­dia style is less ‘high­lights reel’ and more ‘what you see is what you get’ (power to you!), sorry to say you’re still set­ting your­self up for disappointment. Be­cause of­ten the dis­crep­an­cies be­tween our on­line and real-life per­sonas aren’t the re­la­tion­ship road­block. It’s that we know too much about each other’s real lives be­fore we meet, which cre­ates a con­fus­ing set of ex­pec­ta­tions that are dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate dur­ing happy hour. Sex and re­la­tion­ship ex­perts call this ‘pre­ma­ture es­ca­la­tion’. As one expert, Chris­tine Hassler, told the New York Post: “It’s like you’re on your sec­ond date in terms of info, but your first date in terms of phys­i­cal chem­istry… you over­think what you say and do in­stead of be­ing your nat­u­ral self.”

As an expert stalker (uh, I mean, re­searcher), this rings very true for me. Not to brag, but give me your first name and a visual, and within sec­onds I’ll be look­ing at your house on Google Street View and read­ing through a PDF of your CV with the fi­nan­cials of your tech start-up open in an­other tab. All of this sat­is­fies my jour­nal­is­tic in­stincts, but cut to our first date and your anec­dote about get­ting food poi­son­ing on hol­i­day in Tu­lum, and I’m si­mul­ta­ne­ously bored and stressed try­ing to steer the con­ver­sa­tion to the bit where you meet Leonardo Di­caprio at the pool bar. Also, yes, I know your last ven­ture went bust after you fell out with your busi­ness part­ner — tell me about the new com­pany you reg­is­tered on July 12, 2017.

Need­less to say, all of this ad­min re­ally takes the fun out of the dat­ing game, so I’m go­ing to fol­low the ad­vice of match.com con­sul­tant Whit­ney Casey and keep pre-date on­line com­mu­ni­ca­tions with my next match brief and lo­gis­ti­cal. In the mean­time, I’ll re­sist the temp­ta­tion to do a full-scale back­ground check and let the con­ver­sa­tion hap­pen or­gan­i­cally, which, co­in­ci­den­tally, is ap­par­ently how I’m go­ing to be meet­ing my next sig­nif­i­cant other. This ac­cord­ing to my tarot reader, who says it’ll be in March next year, and to­tally off­line. Sorry Bum­ble matches, it’s not you, it’s my cards. I’ll spare you the un­so­licited deck pic.

Give me your first name and a visual, and within sec­onds I’ll be on Google Street View

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