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the online dating experience

Source: Dean Mitchell / Getty

We talk about screen time hindering kids’ development today, but can we also admit that adults face their own problems with screen time? Maybe we don’t play as many video games or participate in the seemingly endless new array of social media platforms, but we spend a lot of time on one phone and laptop-based platform and that’s this: online dating. It seems that all of the meeting and greeting happens in apps these days. If you aren’t a good texter or expert DMer, you don’t even stand a chance out there. If you can’t represent yourself accurately and attractively using font and emojis and GIPHs, you’re screwed—but you won’t be doing any screwing. I fear that the better we get at communicating via little screens, the worse we get at doing that in real life. Here is how online dating makes us bad at dating in real life.


We want instant wit

Everyone seems so witty online. They can formulate their responses, editing, deleting, and perfecting the message before sending it. In real life, people aren’t usually that witty, that often. So the IRL date can feel stale.


And quick exchanges

We also don’t really think about how long someone takes to respond online. Well, we do, but if they take a while, we assume it’s because they’re busy, and not because they’re thinking of what to say. We are unprepared for the IRL experience of sitting there, with someone, waiting for them to formulate a response. There can be lulls in the conversation that we aren’t used to.


We are distracted

When you talk to someone online, you get to multi-task. They don’t know you’re doing it, but we’re all doing it. You’re online shopping while Facebook chatting with a friend while DMing a guy on an app. Then you can forget that in real life, you don’t get to multitask on a date. But our attention spans have shrunk.


We’re online dating while IRL dating

We’re so addicted to online dating that even when an online match turns into an IRL life one, we’re still online dating. We’re swiping away on our phones, under the table we’re sharing with our dates. That doesn’t exactly make us present.


Reality doesn’t meet expectations

The reality of someone will never meet the massive expectations created by their online persona. People can tailor their identity and communicate style online in a way that they cannot do in person. You’ll always feel disappointed by your in-person date because the online version was too good to be true.


We can’t read facial expressions

We’re getting worse at reading facial expressions, body language, and overall non-verbal cues. There can be so many miscommunications in person because our skills are limited to interpreting DMs these days.


We don’t watch our own expressions

We’re also so used to not having to be aware of our own facial expressions. When we DM someone, he can’t see our face. So by the time the real date happens, it’s easy to forget to watch those expressions and that body language.


Or understand tone

We’re also getting worse at understanding tone. Really. Was that sarcasm? Frustration? Disgust? Excitement? Your date can’t post an emoji in the air to communicate his emotion.


There are no real GIPHs

We also do a lot of communicating via GIPHs, just sending a little mobile image expressing our experiences. We’re spoiled in this way, and can get frustrated just using our words to express ourselves IRL.


Conversation comes from thin air

When you’re talking to someone online, you have access to an endless array of topics. There are articles and online gossip and social media threads at your disposal that you can discuss. That’s not the case when you’re just sitting at a restaurant. You have to pull the conversation topic out of thin air.


We are impatient

We are becoming very impatient. If we don’t feel sparks right away, we believe that nothing is there. Communicating online creates false but fast sparks, and we expect those to be there in real life, too.


And we are picky

We also start to see people as commodities, and we believe there is an endless supply of them, in all varieties, online, just like shoes and handbags. We believe we can be perfectionists and picky.


We’re unprepared for interruptions

We’re unprepared for the raw, unfiltered, and clunky world of real life. Like a server getting your order wrong or a nearby customer saying something loud and rude. You don’t deal with that when you talk to someone online. The environment is protected.


We always feel catfished

Your date will never look the same in person as he does online. We choose the best photos of ourselves online. We’ll always feel catfished, and that will always set the date off on the wrong foot.


We focus on the superficials

We become accustomed to focusing on superficial things like appearances, profession, and hobbies. That’s how we create our profiles. We have forgotten how to interpret the more nuanced parts of somebody.

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