Looking back at my fairly recent online dating experience, or what I refer to as my “social experiment year” (oddly timed to happen during a pandemic) I am hesitant to repeat the process again, but also missing parts of it that made me feel excited and loved.
It all came to a screeching halt after a long term relationship (a “situationship” if I’m being honest) breakup – actually, is it even a breakup if he ghosts you? – and then a heartbreak of a breakup from a short term relationship that left me questioning everything I thought I knew about dating and relationships.
I was emotionally exhausted by it all and decided to shut it all down. Close up shop.
“We’re sorry, this window is closed for the season, we are no longer accepting applications or inquiries at this time. Please feel free to check back at a later date, we apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your interest.”
But while I was conducting my experiment in the wild I had noticed a trend in the men I met online, and sometimes dated if we made it that far. For some reason they felt the need to tell me all of the little inane details of their daily lives. Sometimes with photos included, like their own personal social media site.
I refer to it as “dear diary syndrome” to my friends.
It begins in the very early stages of messaging and texting, usually before we’ve met in person or gone out. The effort to make conversation revolves around what they did that day, what they ate, how the day/week/weekend is going.
“How’s your Monday?” “How was your weekend?”
Or my all time favorite: “How did you sleep?”…you get the idea. And I understand where it’s coming from and why, I really do, in the beginning.
In the VERY beginning...
Maybe you exchange a message or two of typical cocktail party small talk: how’s the weather? How about those “insert your local sports team here”? etc, but shouldn’t it pick up some sort of traction or branch off from there? Shouldn’t there be some sort of desire, or goal I would even consider it to be, to get to know someone a bit on a personal level to see if you have any common interests or lifestyle practices before you expend too much energy and invest too much time?
Ideally before you even meet, to determine whether or not you should meet in the first place, a time saver basically.
Don’t you want to know something more about the other person beyond what they did that weekend, what they ate for breakfast or how busy they are in a very abstract way, and only an abstract way of course, let’s not get into details about why or what they do…
“Sorry, just been a really busy week”
There needs to be a dating conversation flowchart with prompts or something.
The question some who are reading this may be asking is ‘why don’t YOU ask questions to get to know them? It’s your responsibility too you know’ (insert eye roll here) and that would be a great question if I didn’t put in the effort…but I did.
I’d ask questions and follow up on comments, go into a bit more detail about what’s going on in my life with the hope of a more fleshed out response or possibly (hope of all hope) a follow up question directed my way.
But, it rarely happened.
Have we lost the art of conversation now? Is that ‘so 2019’?
Or is it because of dating apps and the plethora of choice that comes from using them, or just too much screen time overall (thanks to the pandemic) that we no longer know how to interact in real time?
In my attempt to try dating apps again (after a hiatus from the early days after my divorce because that was a shitshow) I have endured more one sided conversations than I can count. I have received messages telling me how many meters he swam that day, how far he hiked and how bad his sinuses were that he had to use a Neti pot for relief…this is within our second day of texting.
Dude, I don’t even know you. That’s information I would barely tolerate from my own family, let alone a complete stranger. What’s next? How your latest bowel movement was too loose??
The same guy also let me know that his neck was in pain from all of the swimming he had done, because he has to let me know once again how many meters he swims each day, and when I suggested that he use Tiger Balm to find relief his response was “I would but I can’t reach it” followed by the devil emoji that is usually reserved for sexy talk.
WTF?? How did I misunderstand or get lost so quickly in this conversation??
I’m not playing this sex talk banter game with you to puff up your ego, or get you off like a 1980’s 900 number. They have websites for this kind of crap.
Or another guy who’s typical response to anything I sent him was three letters: wow, omg, lol and the ever popular “sup”…usually unsolicited around midnight…Needless to say, I stopped responding. What can I possibly add to this?
Others have told me about something gross that happened at work, or sent me music links to B side hits to show me just how musically cool they are then dissing anything I send back as “not my taste”. That same guy texted about his rocking, super expensive stereo system too, with photos, because…we’re back in high school now I guess?
Sometimes I can’t even get past the initial hellos without some smarmy comment about how sweet and innocent I look but he’s sure there is “more to my story”. What does that even mean?? Yeah, actually I’m a stripper on the side and only doing the online dating thing to bring in more customers.
Most of the time it doesn’t even get far enough to go on an actual date, instead it’s just a texting/messaging wasteland of useless information that sucks up time and energy from your life. A fact that you only realize way too late in the game…
This isn’t dating. This isn’t even trying to date. This is just lonely guy time talking into a void. You don’t need me, on my phone, to witness it…trust me…you really don’t.
You need therapy.
Or a friend, a hobby, something – but not a dating site.
I’ve had this discussion with friends and family, especially with male friends and family, to figure out what the hell is going on. The consensus is that most men our age, that are divorced and back in the dating pool in their late 40’s through early 60’s, have reverted back to where they left off the last time they were dating.
That puts most of them at around 22 years old, give or take a few years.
And I know that there are women with the same issues, I won’t argue or deny that point. There are women on dating sites that want to be “popular” to prove their high school experience wrong, or to feel sexy again after a long and tedious marriage that has left them feeling less than desirable. I’ve been there, it was part of the motivation for trying to date again to be honest. I wanted to see if I was truly “marketable” (my words exactly), if I could still attract a nice guy or two like I did back when I didn’t have to think about it.
Back when I was 22, give or take a few years…
But…I have read a ton of relationship books and been in therapy since my divorce began. I’d like to think that I’ve done the work, and that I continue to do the work, so I can be better at a relationship and communication the next time. I am a work in progress like everyone else, but the key here is that I am putting in the work and willing to learn new habits.
I am willing to learn and create new rules of engagement and relating.
From what I can recall of those halcyon days of dating in my late teens and early twenties, when it was all so easy, is that we didn’t have the option to meet people online. It wasn’t invented yet! We had to go out and have interests, hobbies, activities and/or jobs that randomly mixed us together and created it’s own ecosystem for dating.
And we had to have some form of real conversation to secure a date…didn’t we??
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