With online dating, which is now one of the most common ways of finding a partner, the thought of terminating our Tinder accounts might seem as terrifying as a bad blind date. Swiping to find a soulmate seems second nature to the millions of millennials who were still in their dating infancy when apps reared their algorithmically-tuned heads, and meet cutes are a distant memory for most.
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With this in mind, the thought of not messaging our dates might have millennials running for their charger. We are so used to pinging WhatsApps to potential paramours and being up-to-the-minute informed on what our friends and partners are up to that the distant days of actually waiting for an IRL interaction to catch up seem like a very different time. So why am I cutting down digital contact with my dates this cuffing season?
A few months ago I was pleasantly surprised to be asked for my number whilst several ciders deep into a local folk festival. True, the quick Thursday night drink we grabbed a week later didn’t quite compel either of us to commit to a second date, but there was something faintly delightful in the now unlikely discovery of a potential suitor IRL. Without being preceded by a carefully curated profile, a painstakingly put-together photo highlights reel, and a barrage of witty banter exchanged over text beforehand, the date was an opportunity to actually get to know one another from scratch. Where once this would have been standard first date fare, it felt novelty. There was something exciting about taking the digital dating formula out of the equation.
Strolling home from my pleasant-but-not-shared-Netflix-account-potential encounter, it struck me how much time I’d saved. Whilst dating app active millennials sink an average 10 hours a week into sifting through endless gap year pictures and emoji-encrusted bios, I’d landed a drink after a quick conversation and a few messages. It reminded me of a simpler time, those heady teenage years before dating apps took off and when we were at the mercy of meeting someone in real life.
Limited by our frugal 300-texts-a-month deals, we would ferret away our precious message allowance for that special someone, each SMS from our crush a delectable treat to be pored over and replied to with care
The communication of a blossoming romance before smartphones took off seemed to me a similarly simple affair. Limited by our frugal 300-texts-a-month deals, we would ferret away our precious message allowance for that special someone, each SMS from our crush a delectable treat to be pored over and replied to with care. A one word response was an undeniable utterance of passive-aggressive rage — the thought of wasting those precious texting tidbits, our contract allowed made a simple “k” a panic-inducing sin.
On the contrary, a long and eloquent prose — sometimes so profuse it would be split between multiple messages based on our character limit — was a luxury. There were no strings of white and green, a single thought conveyed over tens of tiny WhatsApp bulletins. We were secretly flattered by the 10 cents per text tariff being lavished on us. Courtship was alive and well through our Nokia screens. In between our scant SMS allowance meet ups were arranged speedily, a brief back and forth set to whatever ringtone you had painstakingly purchased the precursor to plans to meet at the grotty gig the in-crowd were frequenting that weekend. For all we roll our eyes at the limiting scope of a smartphone-less world now we were certainly smarter when it came to pinning each other down beforehand.
We conduct entire relationships between our devices before we’ve even met, weaving in jokes that would make the most integrated married couple cringe
Now that the glow of our smartphone screens are the illuminating force in our lives, and Tinder reigns supreme, the rules have changed. Entire etiquettes have reared up ruling how long to take to text, when exactly a conversation graduates from a dating app to your messaging medium of choice, and how early is too early to move a budding romance offline. We conduct entire relationships between our devices before we’ve even met, weaving in-jokes that would make the most integrated married couple cringe. When my partnered-up friends act confused about by my complaints over a lukewarm first date I struggle to explain that it’s not the date itself that’s a disappointment — it’s the loss of the elaborate fantasy we’ve constructed beforehand, the intimacy and hope that flourishes on our phones and then is dissipated over a tedious drink where that elusive spark fails to ignite.
The complex rules that govern the messaging side of dating can also be particularly troublesome for the anxious amongst us. From the agonies of who should text first to the dreaded double text and the terror of a blue tick marking that your witty repartee has gone read but not replied — for any of us who have screenshotted a string of messages to send to the group chat for in depth analysis there’s no doubt that technology can be triggering. Worrying about what exactly is the appropriate amount of time to text back takes away from one of the most fun and exciting times of a new relationship. I’ve decided that I want to enjoy that stage a little bit more, to bask in the gloss of meeting someone new, and to look forward to seeing them without the tedious and unnecessary complexities of wondering what exactly they meant by their last message.
A healthy dose of nostalgia aside, technology is almost undeniably a positive force for dating. The profound effects of online dating are in their infancy, but already increased racial and social diversity in relationships directly correlating with the ascent of the app has emerged, and early predictions suggest that marriages made in a digital dating world will be stronger and longer lasting. As much as I may long for the monotonic bleep of a flip-phone those are difficult points to ignore.
Rather than revolutionizing the way we date it seems that our technology could well be putting a dampener on actually getting down and dirty
Still, the amount of face-to-face communication people are engaging with is waning in the wake of technology paradoxically designed to make getting together easier. Dating apps, social media, and the group chat seem to be replacing rather than encouraging interaction, with young people now spending over a third of their leisure time online. Unsurprisingly a lack of contact is leading millennials to have less sex than previous generations, with many experts citing our digital obsession as the main mood-killer. Rather than revolutionizing the way we date it seems that our technology could well be putting a dampener on actually getting down and dirty.
So could turning off texting really improve how we date? With research suggesting consumers are becoming increasingly turned off by technology perhaps it’s time to use our dating apps as the virtual introduction agencies they were designed to be and then take our love lives offline. If we all stop it with the strings of messages that never materialize into a meeting then we’d have aeons of free evenings to plug into actually getting to know one another. Put down your device and find out about a potential partner in real life — their mannerisms, their quirks, their sense of humour — the parts of people that rarely emerge from behind a phone screen. And if you need me? Try me on my Nokia.