By Marie Dubreuil
After my dad passed away, I was more than ever convinced I needed some space and fresh air to reflect – possibly – but mostly to get away from what was happening back at home. In a sense, coming to study in London came right on time. And I’ve been blessed with so many wonderful encounters and opportunities.
One of them include meeting the one I’ll call my partner in crime. I’ve never been a huge believer in “looking for love” as such, but rather think this is something that comes quite naturally in its own time, at its own pace and in its own form.
A lot of what happened in my personal life on that level led me to think of the ways people meet nowadays. So many of the people I know – who are either my age, i.e. in their early 20s, or slightly older – have a profile on a dating app. Because they crave for validation and companionship, while being totally in control.
Apps like Tinder are easy to use – anyone interested simply signs up, adds a photograph and a short bio of themselves; afterwards, it’s all about swiping right if the brief profile of a user is of interest and left if it isn’t. It’s as easy as ordering food on Deliveroo, renting a film on Google Play, or placing a new order on Amazon.
And maybe that’s the issue.
“We have the attitude that “this person is great but maybe there’s someone better out there” which can be a problem,” says top dating blogger and founder of The Dating Awards, Charly Lester, to Marie Claire.
“Dating sites have definitely broadened the net, but they have made us a lot more picky,” he adds.
I think people now tend not to give themselves a chance to truly make it work with someone; whenever a conflict arises, they can just say “next” and go back shopping for another partner, abandoning any opportunity to form a strong bond with the other person.
I recall some of my friends, who use these apps, expressing their concern about their new profile picture, and asking for advice on what to say and how to respond to this message or that one. I think I understand why a part of society slowly moved from meeting potential partners in bars to the online world.
Swiping is easy, and texting is easy, no need to even go outside. It keeps a certain distance between people.
But the same way we curate our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and God knows what other social media profiles, we curate our written words too. Because we can, and because we want to sound and appear a certain way to a potential future special someone. No one wants to sound desperate or needy or preachy. And if someone doesn’t respond to something, or doesn’t get it, it’s not as awkward online as it would be in person.
These digital tools are like shields in a way – protecting us – but I also believe they are masks. And when it comes to romantic relationships, masks have to fall down at some point.
Comedian Chris Rock raised this very issue when he said that “on first dates we don’t send ourselves but we send our “‘representatives;’ we send our best selves.”
Another specialist, biological anthropologist and leading expert in the science of human attraction Helen Fisher, replied to the question, “can a dating app know better who your soulmate is?” during an interview at a live Ted summit.
Her answer was this: “Nobody can know better than you can. The only true algorithm is your own brain. These are introducing sites; they’re not dating sites,” she explains. “We can give you people who are the right size, shape, colour, background, educational level, interests, etc. But you’ve got to meet that person in person. We don’t know your childhood. Nobody knows your childhood except for you,” hence the importance of spending time with a person. “The more you get to know somebody, the more you like them and the more likely you are to fall in love. So you’ve got to give people a chance.”
Ever since I entered adulthood, I’ve been more and more surrounded by people who were trying to fight aloneness in looking for a partner instead of looking for themselves first. I grew up in a family that taught me to be my own person and build myself up, before I build anything else with anyone.
And I guess one of the plagues of this century isn’t only that people are looking for love, but how they’re looking for it – trying to commodify it and make it simple and quick.
The truth is, I don’t think it’s supposed to be. Nothing worth it comes easy – that’s what they say, isn’t it? I didn’t choose who I fell in love with; I simply did.
I think people are misled with the illusion that they have a choice in matters of love, because dating apps somehow led to believe that – it gave the illusion of a multiplicity of choices, the illusion that we get to choose, the illusion that we can “connect” through a screen better than in person.
Psychologist Barry Schwartz popularised the notion of the “paradox of choice,” explaining that while we think more choices would lead to a happier life, they in fact lead to deeper feelings of loneliness. In this globalised world of fast food, fast internet connection, fast travel, where people of my generation leave the nest and fly to new horizons away from families and neighbourhoods, we very often find ourselves alone and without guidance, and tend to want everything – including relationships – to be convenient and effortless.
But love isn’t a purchasable commodity, it is not something you look for and find; it is something that finds you – and very often, when you least expect it to.