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A Dissection of Online Dating

The slow-burn romances of Austen's novels are behind us - instead, Louise Cheung observes the four stages of digital dating.

By Louise Cheung, BA English Literature

THE CROFT /Whether you are looking for love or a bit of fun, the dating apps are endless and the emotional roller-coaster you embark on gives you more of a rush than attempting to write a 3000-word essay due for the next day.

Picture this: your friends all have significant others, your sisters, brothers all have partners and then there is you (who is still single), sitting in your room all alone with only tomorrows to-do list to occupy your thoughts. Sick and tired of waiting for your love life to change, you take matters into your own hands and download the apps: Hinge, Tinder, Bumble, thus entering into what I call the 4-stage cycle.

1. The Excitement, The Rush…

Creating a profile isn’t as easy as one might think – it takes time and precision. From selecting the best photos of yourself whilst ensuring you have just the right number of pictures with your friends to thinking of witty prompts that you think will best encapsulate your humour, there is no denying that a dating profile feels like work. However, once you complete it, the excitement from the overwhelming choice of people that flood your screen makes you immediately forget it ever took up time.

Swiping left and right is both thrilling and terrifying as you watch someone you met once upon a time ago on a drunken night out pop up on your screen, or even worse, your best friend’s ex appear. Dating apps take advantage of this urge to meet the love of your life quickly, creating this fast-paced, swift action of rejecting or liking someone within a matter of milliseconds.

Judging someone based on a series of pictures and one liners becomes normalised as these dating apps that promise you love and all the in between become a game, one that requires no thinking but a mere glance at one’s looks.

It may seem like a hard pill to swallow but filtering through people on dating apps pushes your morality out of the window as you unconsciously objectify everyone you see online. However, it appears as though this is a small price to pay in the pursuit of love. Dating apps make you feel as though you’ve been given access to a seemingly unlimited supply of people, ranging from the outrageously good-looking ones to the slightly lesser ones. The possibilities are endless as the people on the apps that include both the weird and the wonderful spark an exhilaration in you.

Your imagination can’t even begin to fathom the types of people you’ll meet and the potential for something new in your life, and yet it becomes a reality when meaningless, flirty chat online turns into an actual date.

©Louise Cheung

2. The First Date Nerves…

You tell yourself that it is just one date that will probably go awful to prevent yourself from throwing up from first date nerves. The anticipation begins from the moment you wake up as every minute that goes by brings you one step closer to your date. Getting ready becomes a self-inducing state of mayhem as every item of clothing in your wardrobe no longer seems good enough for the stranger you’re meeting at Steam.

The jump from digital to reality is vast and terrifying, and your thoughts begin to wreak havoc on your already anxious state of mind. ‘What if they think I’m a catfish?’ or ‘what if THEY’RE a catfish?’ run on a loop throughout your brain as you are seconds away from meeting them. The countdown is up when you lock eyes, and almost instantaneously, these thoughts vanish.

Despite the dreaded first date nerves, dating is an incredibly amusing and fun experience. The idea of talking to someone who only wants to talk to you creates this special feeling that is often overshadowed by the negative connotations 21 st century dating brings (e.g. ghosting, ambiguity with exclusivity, not truly committing to one person in the hopes someone better comes along). Dating is complex, and online dating only adds to this confusion. More often than not, online dating is a case of trial and error, and for whatever reason, you may most likely find yourself right back at square one, feeling a little less positive than before.

3. The Boredom…

Once you’ve been on the dating apps for a while, the exhilaration gradually wears down and starts becoming bleak. The monotonous routine of going on Hinge and seeing no new likes or attractive people gnaws at your conscience and the sense of annoyance starts building. The people you find attractive seem to disappear altogether on the apps, leaving you with the remainder, many of whom think that by saying comments like ‘are you petrol cos I need to pump you in the back of my car’, you’ll find their objectification charming and their audaciousness as confidence (and yes, this was a genuine comment made by a guy on Hinge).

The dating pool you once thought could never run dry now looks unpromising and bare, with the same five people you have no intention of chatting to that keep cropping up. You soon find that everyone is a carbon copy of the other as every Hinge prompt you once thought was somewhat witty is now just a recycled line. It is with this pit of emptiness you feel that the thought hits you: dating apps are a modern-day Pandora’s box.

4. Emerging Into Reality.

Sick of the chats that make you feel as though you are talking to a brick wall, you delete the apps and by doing so, break free from the toxic addiction that dating apps trap you in. No longer are you stuck in this depressing wheel of failed talking stages and utter boredom that leave you deflated. No longer are you nit-picking at yourself, wondering if it is your physical looks that you believe have become a repellent for guys. Instead, you give fate another chance to work its magic, hoping this time round, it will be your turn to be lucky in the love department.

It is not all doom and gloom with online dating – even with the first dates that remain solely first dates and the many types of people you come across, the one silver lining you can rely on is that you will always have a story to tell your friends. Online dating pushes the boundaries of your confidence, encouraging you to be brave, and slowly you find yourself dealing with the small talk a bit better and feeling less self-conscious of what the other person might think, focusing on the present.

Featured Image: Louise Cheung

We're approaching the end of 'cuffing season' - are you in the four-stage cycle?