Doing Online Dating Differently

According to Albert Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. If this doesn’t describe my online dating life then I don’t know what does.

To my friends, most of whom are in relationships, I am a hopeless “Tinderella.” Tinder really became big when I was in my first year of undergrad. Bumble, Happn, and all the other apps followed closely behind. After having had a series of longer and less than satisfying relationships in my teen years I was ready for a change.

Online dating swipe-style apps revolutionized how I met people. They made it easy to find dates and filter out certain deal-breaking characteristics before I even committed to the first date. I used the apps pretty consistently and in such a way that I was actively meeting people and going on dates. Over the years, online dating apps effectively facilitated my meeting two people that I would later have relationships with. Both relationships ended, one due to distance and the other due to drastically different priorities, but overall I still valued these experiences and the time I spent with these people. Tinder helped create experiences for me that I likely would not have had otherwise. At this point I was convinced that online dating apps worked.

After my second Tinder relationship ended, I took my usual half-a-day grieving period and then started swiping again. I think online dating can be great when you’re going through a breakup. It can serve as a distraction, a compliment, or a reminder of what else is out there. For me, the various swipe apps allowed me not to fixate on what I thought I had lost but rather to realize what an opportunity I had gained.

In the year that followed that breakup I admittedly went on more “Tinder dates” than I can count. I fell into a vicious cycle of swiping, matching, getting my hopes up, and soon after being drastically let down by the outcome. On several occasions I outright deleted my accounts in frustration, only to feel bored and lonely a few weeks later and re-download the apps. The experience was so repetitive that there were people who I would match with time and time again who would send me messages such as, “8th times the charm, right?”

I began to realize that I was allowing myself to fall into this cycle and, subsequently, I was swiping on, talking to, and going out with the same kinds of people (if not the same exact people) time and time again. I was also using Tinder/Bumble/etc. as some sort of trophy, amassing hundreds to thousands of matches and carrying them around in my pocket as some sort of accomplishment. This realization was unsettling to me. Frustrated, again with online dating but also with myself this time, I realized something had to change. I decided that, for the next few months, I would set some rules, limitations, and boundaries for myself in order to drastically alter my online dating habits, and hopefully my outcomes as well.

1. Know what you want from the experience

All too often a match will ask me what I’m looking for. I realized I was better at telling them what I wasn’t looking for. Coincidence of wants, an economic term that describes how interactions cannot take place unless each party has what the other wants and is willing to participate, can also be used to describe dating. In my opinion, coincidence of wants is a huge factor in compatibility and without both parties knowing what they are looking for, it will never be achieved. I decided I would pursue dating, whether casually or seriously.

2. Stop swiping to your limit

I think I had begun to play these swipe apps like a game, seeing each match as a point. When you’re being “introduced,” for lack of a better term, to so many people at a time, it is unlikely you'll be able to forge a connection.

3. Stop swiping on the same people

If I had matched with someone a handful of times and nothing had ever come of it, then I decided I should probably take that as a sign and stop trying. I resolved that I would swipe on people I hadn’t yet talked to, even opting to lower my age range a few years as opposed to requiring that the person be older than me.

3. Message or Unmatch

As I previously mentioned, I used to carry matches around like a trophy. Those connections sitting in my pocket weren’t doing anything for me! I decided that I would message each match within a few days of matching, especially if they had not messaged me first. If I were to decide I did not want to message a person then I would unmatch them. Also, if a conversation died, I would unmatch.

4. Have meaningful conversations

I needed to stray away from my typical mundane conversations on the various platforms. I decided to do some research and come up with a variety of interesting things I could say to start a conversation.

5. Ask them out

Finally, I decided that I would be proactive in asking people on dates. I figured that this would be a clear and forward way to communicate that I was looking for dating.

In November, I resolved to carry out my online dating in these ways for the following few months. I was able to meet a few wonderful individuals in this time. I went on a couple dates and, despite not finding a connection, I must admit that the dates were better, as were the conversations I was having on the apps.

Unfortunately, exams came rolling in and I was unable to be as strict or as proactive as I had originally planned. On the day of my last exam, I signed in to do some unmatching and messaging that I was falling behind on. Typically I would unmatch any conversation that had died without thinking twice about it as part of my resolve for change. One conversation in particular struck me as odd though, because I didn’t remember it at all. I opened it and realized that I had messaged the person, and they had replied but the conversation had never continued from that point. Likely I had opened the conversation and, in the chaos of exams, had forgotten to reply. I felt awful. This person’s profile didn’t have much on it but they seemed to be nice and I was unhappy that I had inadvertently “ghosted” them.

I messaged “Let’s go out,” to which they replied, “Straightforward lol but sure”.

Unfortunately, due to the holidays coming up, we weren’t able to meet before the break. We did, however, start chatting on that day. Soon, numbers were exchanged and texting turned to calling. The caliber of the conversations has been exceptional and I’ve found myself looking forward to talking to this person daily.

Perhaps it is a little unconventional to talk to someone for so long before meeting, and certainly it is not my ideal situation, but maybe it’s all meant to be part of the dating-differently experience. Regardless, we have our first date next week and I could not be more excited. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

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