“I did the whole serial dating thing for a while,” said my friend in the gym once. He was a few years older than me at the time, and I had never heard that term before.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. The modern day answer to speed dating, only less personal. In the past, you had a rotating series of partners with whom to converse for two minutes, face to face. Today you have a series of partners to look at for a split second before deciding the fatal direction: left or right?
However, this decision in itself is the first of many steps before a face to face meeting may even occur. As someone who has himself now passed through seasons of ‘serial dating,’ I have realized several things, both strategic and philosophical about the romantic moment we are in.
The next step in most dating apps is that the other person must reciprocate your modicum of interest. They need to also go right, or hit the heart, or whatever action communicates interest to the algorithm. Many times, there is a match but neither person bothers to initiate the conversation, so the match sits there or expires.
Many conversations begin and then are not reciprocated; others last a few quick chat bubbles before fizzling out, and others may string out for days of occasional response only to ultimately die in the oven of “so, would you like to get together?”
If all of the above hurdles have been jumped, there still remains the initial meeting. My friend calls it date zero: it’s not quite a first date because you don’t know them — in the traditional sense — enough to officially ask them out.
It’s first contact.
It’s the revelation of the man (or woman) behind the curtain.
And based on my experience, and that of everyone I’ve ever talked to, these are typically disappointing. Men are more bald than their profile suggests, women more made-up, and both genders are chubbier, less attractive, and less confident in person. Honestly, 9/10 times this is the case.
So if the person you’re sitting with happens to be the 1 out of 10, they also must reciprocate your interest. This usually leads to:
“I’d love to see you again sometime!”
“Thanks, but I don’t think it will work out…”
And you’re back where you started.
And this is only the search for intimacy on dating apps. Though it is a large swath of American intimacy industry, it is far from the only one. In fact, one of the biggest industries in the world is the pornography industry, earning more than all major sport leagues combined.
Does the world have a problem with screen love? Duh.
But this isn’t a new realization. In fact, it’s quite old. But at what point are we going to wake up to the realization that these various hunts for intimacy by way of screens is not going to satisfy us?
I don’t know if most people would equate dating apps with porn, but for the sake of this post, I am. I’ll even lump in every message sent on Instagram or Facebook for the sake of argument.
I don’t want to imagine the amount of time spent pursuing intimacy via screens versus in person. How much does that compress another human being (or masses of them) into a two-dimensional box and force them to catch our attention so we can love them? It’s really a strange phenomena.
So I deleted all my apps. I’m discarding serial dating. Not only is it exhausting, but the constant objectification of other humans reduces me as well. It’s like the story of Judah and Tamar in the Bible: when he finally rapes the object of his desire, the Bible says,
he hated her more than he had loved her.
Objectifying people doesn’t just reduce the person being objectified, but the perpetrator as well. If your looking for a partner is reduced to an algorithm (small waist, toned arms, bright eyes…) then that simultaneously reduces you to a mathematical machine. Make sense?
So I’m tired of being a machine, in every sense. I’m tired of the porn as well as the swiping right/left. I’m tired of analyzing profiles like they’re spreadsheets that may or may not add up to the right amount.
I’m ready for the new year to bring with it a new wind of humanity; I want it to restore the sweet romantic notions I felt when I was younger, of making friends with the cute girl in class or striking up a conversation with a fellow rock climber. Like Zizek says through trademark snorts and gulps, we want to remove the risks associated with falling in love, but with that comes the elimination of the rush. Of the authentic joy and connection between two people spending time together, wasting time together.
This year I want to talk to more people. I mean talk.
This year I want to meet more people. And I mean in person first.
This year I’m doing away with screens as proxies to intimacy, doing away with two dimensional reduction of human beings.
Will any of our time spent on screens make it into our memoirs? Never. So why would we fill our lives with moments so forgettable and exhausting?