Cyberspace and dating is The Purge of our generation
We are different people when in cyberspace and dating apps. It’s a Saturday evening, you’ve been talking to this new match you met on a date recently. You’re keen but know not to get too excited because… you know dating. But the signs are positive, they’ve asked to see you again, today in fact.
So you clear your schedule, figure out what you’re going to cover your birthday suit with and ponder around the house waiting for confirmation, pushing down any ideas of what could be… because you know, dating.
Time drips by and confirmation doesn’t come so you send a reminder message. “Hey are we still up for today”, your message hiding any explosive and needy feelings of anxiety and an a nagging urge to educate them about time keeping.
Your text sits on a digital screen with two grey ticks and no last online updates.
Have they read it, are they buried in paperwork, did they get abducted by a balloon wielding shape shifting demon clown living in their toilet?
Time drips impossibly slower past the designated meeting time. It’s off, it’s not happening, you want to be annoyed and maybe you are. You want to write a scathing message about being a decent human that respects other people’s time and plans. You hold back and instead channel said frustration into Netflix, a video game, extra heavy squats, ice cream, a break from dating or heck setting up a new date to help you forget the last one.
This happens so often that you’re probably desensitised by the whole thing. Knowing full well that people are their worst online and on dating apps.
Cyberspace and dating changes us
There’s a book called “The Cyber Effect” by Mary Aiken that I’ve been reading recently. It’s an interesting book that explores in great detail about extended exposure to the internet, how people can be changed and are different when exposed to it for long periods of time. That humanity’s social ability isn’t evolving at the same pace as our constantly advancing technology.
It goes on to explain that cyberspace is like a lawless sandbox where most behaviours are left to grow unhindered and unchecked. Letting loose our inner instincts and desires, we fall in love faster, become intimate quicker, and trade private information or images without following the same social cues you would in reality.
We’re basically just horny neanderthals with smart phones.
We are our most confident and sometimes worst selves with the safety of anonymity and lack of reprimand that the internet provides. This is the same when it comes to dating because lucky for us it’s also a practically lawless environment with the laws governed by whatever dating app allows you happen to be putting yourself through.
Sure, there are only a few things you can get away with on dating apps these days. But I recall a time when sending images was a basic function of dating apps because why not. With dating apps trying to help people connect romantically, giving the ability to send images seems like a great ide… oh god it’s a penis.
If you’re lucky enough to be a woman in the age of cyberspace and dating then you have probably experienced the strange phenomenon that is “The unsolicited dick pic”. Think of it as stumbling on a really funny meme and wanting to share it with someone, hoping to pull an impromptu laugh out of them. It’s that, except the meme is a photograph of a terribly framed penis, and the laugh is instead an invasive attempt to connect sexually because apparently context and consent aren’t a requirement on the internet.
It is also incredibly unlikely that these same individuals whip out their penises while ordering a soy latte, but in time will that social barrier be eroded when the effect of cyberspace bleeds into what we call reality.
Mary Aiken also explores how the younger generation i.e the nappy wearing poop grenades (babies) develop with smart phones and tablets in hand. Affected to the point where they attempt to swipe magazines instead of turning the pages, their understanding of reality being molded by a thin window to physics defying experiences presented by cyberspace.
Whats to say these poop grenades won’t become young adults with an under developed understanding of cause an effect, realistic social cues, patience and empathy.
Fear and Insecurity on cyberspace and dating
Years ago, before Tinder became a game of “Hot or Not” I had a date planned with a cute bar tender. In the spirit of the article she disappeared on the day of the date, no cancellation, no response to my messages, nothing, nothing new here right? happens all the time. A week or two later I sent her a light hearted multiple choice question, why? because I’m a little weird and I like closure.
“So I’m going to guess the reasons why we didn’t meet up.
Your ex got back in touch, admitting it was a mistake that you guys ever broke up.
Your dog died and you were so heartbroken you couldn’t bare to see anyone.
You’re actually a spy and you text me through a burner phone.
Which one is closest?”
To my surprise she texted back, apologising for not sharing her disinterest, admitting that she was scared about how I would react to the bad news.
Sometimes it’s not always being a terribly behaved individual, fear and insecurity play part in this as well. As I’ve probably mentioned in previous posts, being the bearer of bad news is tricky and uncomfortable, not to mention a lot of people are emotionally ill equipped to handle things not going their way. With the rejectee throwing angry tantrums and shaming those who would rather be honest than give painfully vague hints about their intentions.
It’s almost understandable that some daters would rather vanish into the ether than explain clear feelings of disdain and disinterest. Now thanks to the internet, they can… still doesn’t make it okay though. Cyber space again providing a way for us to behave badly.
The user on the other end of the digital path is not real, their thoughts and feelings irrelevant but weighty, its easy to connect online, its just as easy to disconnect. The fear of the digital experience becoming real and tangible is real and terrifying for some, the comparison of real life consequences and difficulties against the ease of cyberspace is startlingly too different to mentally manage.
Some rarely take that initial leap from cyberspace into reality and prefer to flutter and stalk cyberspace dating till they stumble on a feeling strong enough that it bleeds into reality regardless of their fears.
Empathy, do you have it? Sometimes it’s just about putting yourself in the shoes of your victim and acting accordingly. What would I feel like if they did that to me. I imagine that many of us are unable to see past our own noses when it comes to emotions. We put what we want and how we feel before others, which is important in its own way but unnecessarily crushing the emotions of others in order to achieve that… not so good.
Cyberspace and dating is here to stay
Seeing as how “successful” online dating is, It is unlikely that things will change. The current formula of allowing users to interact with ultimate freedom and little to no reprimand for bad behaviour is also what drives it success.
Not to mention it’s growing and overwhelming convenience, imagine tell your parent’s parents that you met your partner by swiping on the shitter.
New apps get created in order to fill any gaps left by their predecessors, Bumble having the authentic account check, Hinge needing at least 6 images to create an account. But they’re all just one tiny pug guard dog, trying to stop millions from rushing through a wide gate, none really aim to combat the raw “Purge” like effect cyber space has on any of us, and can they really? Once you’re on WhatsApp all the safety pins are off and it’s dick pic, grey tick galore.
Ultimately we’ll still be ghosting, dick picking, cat fishing, cheating and just swiping for our egos. So I can only wonder what the world of online dating has in store for generation Z.