Messages and Menaces: My Week of Online Dating

By Emily Topper |

As a 20-something, I’m constantly being badgered by different forms of media. A group of friends and I can be in the same room and not speak to each other because we’re all glued to our phones. Texting is more popular than talking, and social media usage continues to grow. Whether we like it or not, the way we interact with one another is changing—especially in the world of dating.

Just a few years ago, many Americans believed that online dating sites were only used by people who were sexual predators or extremely desperate. Since then, over 41 million people in the United States have tried online dating—and now, I am one of them.

Last week, I joined a dating site called OkCupid! for a one-week trial run. A few of my friends have tried it, with mixed success. At the time, I didn’t really know what I was getting into; I assumed that I would interact with a few people but that for the most part, my profile would go unnoticed.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Within two minutes of signing up, I had two views. By the time I uploaded a few photos and filled out my profile, I had messages sitting in my inbox. I was filled with adrenaline, and pleased with the positive feedback I had received thus far, albeit shallow. OkCupid! quickly became more than a project for school—it became an all-consuming, tumultuous endeavor in the world of dating.

Although I was only on the site for one week, I had no shortage of experiences. Throughout my time on the site, I received a total of 260 high ratings and was messaged by 93 different people. Despite the variety of people that I was coming into contact with, I found that they all had one thing in common: None of them wanted to date me.

In fact, they didn’t want to date anybody. Essentially, these dating websites are glorified ways of finding someone to have a casual one-night stand with. Instead of going out to a bar to find a partner for an evening and having to feign interest, you no longer have to leave the comfort of your own home. Because of the high number of people that are using sites like OkCupid! as a way to hook up, dating is an archaic practice of the past.

Maybe I’m prudish, but hooking up with someone I met on a dating website just doesn’t appeal to me. While I see nothing inherently wrong with the act of casual sex, it’s not something that I am currently interested in.

But for my generation, that’s what dating has become. Marriage or bust. In person, I’ve had more offers for casual sex in the past year than I’ve had for a coffee date. Online is no exception, and common courtesy is no longer necessary.  After denying requests for snapchats and other picture platforms from prospective suitors, many “nice guys” took that as a reason to block my profile. If I wasn’t interested in sleeping with them or telling them they were hot, I wasn’t interesting. Period.

Experiences like this are why dating websites do more to set us behind in social interactions than they do to further us. When I signed into my dating account throughout the week, I would perk up after seeing how many people viewed my profile, but instantly deflate when I saw that only a handful of them had rated me highly.

More than once on this website, I had to take a step back. I had to remind myself that I’m worth more than what some random person on the internet thinks of me. I’m a person with feelings, opinions, and worth—not just a person with a body. But despite how bad I felt about myself when a guy didn’t rate my profile or send me a message, I found myself being as equally judgmental and shallow in my “quest” to find a match.

Frequently, I skipped over the profiles of guys who used improper grammar, who liked fishing, who didn’t watch The Office, who had weird mustaches. And when I found someone I liked, I looked over any reason to dislike them. I was as just as bad as the rest of them.

The usage of these apps and sites are destroying the act of dating. We no longer get to know people on a personal level through conversations and spending time together, but through dating profiles and social media platforms.

You (probably) aren’t going to meet your soul mate online. While it is possible that you’ll find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with based on physical attraction and profile similarity, it is also highly unlikely. We force ourselves to look for reasons to dislike people that we aren’t instantly attracted to, and push away those who are “too nice” or “not quite right.” And at the end of the day, we complain that we’re still alone.

Maybe I’ve watched too many romantic indie flicks on Netflix, but I want to go out on dates with a variety of different people. I want to go to a film festival with someone and share funnel cake. I want to make them a mix CD. I want to go out to dinner with them and not feel inclined to take my phone out of my pocket because we have nothing to talk about.  And from what I’ve found, I’m not going to get that out of a relationship that develops online. In fact, I’m not even going to get a relationship out of a relationship online. Hitting the “delete account” button at the end of the week couldn’t have felt any better.

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