Online Dating: Serving up Choices and Confusion


Dating in this generation has a whole new meaning. It is all about choice or rather the illusion of choice, leading to confusion, pain, and a life wasted on swiping profiles for the next hit. This Facebook note by a Facebook friend, got me thinking about dating. As a single woman, i must say, i agree totally with his take on it. In this age of online dating, it is all about the illusion of choice and the uncertainty that comes with it. dating

Back when i was a teenager growing up in Nigeria, 20 something years ago, dating was not even a thing. You were either in a relationship with someone or you were not. It was straight to the relationship phase. Boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy asks girl, “Will you be my girlfriend?”, if girl likes boy, she plays coquettish long enough to not appear desperate, then says yes, and bingo, they are in a relationship. No dating as it is known today, no testing the waters, that was done at the ‘eyeing her/him up’ stage. The courtship stage did not normally involve alone time together. Maybe time with friends and families where you both sussed each other out, until one of you makes the move.

I really wouldn’t recommend this method anyway even though it is easy, clear and straight to the point. However, it does have its ups and downs, pros and cons. There is no much room for hanky-panky, it is either we are together or we are not. And of course, if we were together, we would both know where we stand. We could refer to ourselves as a couple. However, with that comes the sometimes unwanted baggage of monogamy without first discussing if we wanted to be exclusive. It is taken for granted that couples would be exclusive or at least the woman would be. She is expected to know that any cheating on her part would be greatly frowned upon. However, same is not always expected of the guy. The recognized girlfriend is allowed to complain if her man strays, but she should be prepared for the “Boys will be boys” rhetoric that will be used to dismiss her concerns.

Moving to the UK, I had to learn what dating is. It feels strange accepting to go out for a meal or drinks with someone just for the purpose of sizing them up for a relationship. I was brought up with the idea that going out with someone who is interested in you, for a meal or outings are things you do when you are already in a relationship with them. If you are spotted out together in a cosy restaurant, people are going to be forgiven for assuming that you are in a relationship. No one is gonna say “Wow, they are sizing themselves up”, it would be a definite, “Wow, they are a couple”.  Many cheating spouses have been caught out this way. So, yeah, I had to unlearn that and actually embrace the idea of dating; a no-strings attached outing with someone I am interested in. However, this also means I am acutely aware that as I am judging, so am I being judged.

Dating feels like an interview, where you are the interviewer as well as the applicant.

How am I doing so far?

Do I get a point for pulling out the chair for them or is it gonna be a minus?

Do they find my dress appropriate; is it too much or too little effort?

Do I score them a point for not staring too much at my boobs?

Do I get a point for laughing at their not so funny jokes even though my face hurts?

Do I score them a point for asking after my family?

Do I mark them down for not offering to pay the bill?

Do I mark them down for arguing about leaving tips for the waitress?

Do we compare score cards at the end of the date?

If they never got in touch again, is it ok to assume they are not interested or should I worry that they might have been knocked down by a hit and run car on their way home?

So much to worry about on a first date and even second date. And somehow, as singles, we are expected to keep doing this with as many potentials as possible until we meet the one, or else we would be considered reclusive and not making an effort to put ourselves out there.

Yes, the whole dating thing can be tiresome and tedious but I guess it is important. However, at what point do we move from dating to actually being in a relationship? Since I was not brought up in a dating’ society, and I have not dated much, I am not actually clear on this.

Is there a point in the dating process where one person tells the other, “Let’s go steady?”, and if yes, who or what decides the point?

Is it the point they ask for a risqué pic and you send them one with you in your sexy lingerie?

Is it the point when you have phone/audio/virtual/cam sex even though you have not actually met each other?

Is it the point where you physically have sex together and then assume you are now in a relationship?

Is it the point where one blurts out, “I love you” and the other says, “Yes, me too” and bingo, you are now in a relationship?

The dating rules, if any, are still very much unclear to me, which makes the whole dating thing uncertain and

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frustrating.

I must confess, I still have not warmed up to the idea of going on dates just to go score someone and be scored. I don’t mind hanging out as friends, or as people who are hanging out to get to know themselves as friends and explore what they have in common. If more develops, fine. If not, still fine. At least you liked them enough to hang out with them.

I am still one for conversation first. Conversation, I understand. Conversation I can do. In this age of online dating, this means virtual conversation.  However, as someone who has tried some dating sites, if what passes as conversation on most dating sites is what we are to rely on to make our minds up on whether or not to go out with someone, we might die waiting. The one liners of Hey sexy,” Banging body”, “Nice rack“, “Can I sit on your face, yummy”, etc. that goes for conversation on dating sites leaves much to be desired.

The anonymity that the internet provides also means people can be jerks, and by people, I mean, mostly men. Men see a profile pic as an invitation to comment on just what they wish to do to your body. And yes, it is all about sex, sex and sex.

I wouldn’t be offended if I got sexual messages from people I hardly know on an explicitly adult site. I know what to expect from adult sites before signing up. It is about instant sexual gratification.

However, I would be offended if I got same message from someone I hardly know on a dating site. I am of the belief that dating sites is not a sex hook up site. The name ‘dating’ suggests that you are interested in a date and at least getting to know the person and probably, a relationship.

There are so many choices out there that people just can’t be bothered with the conversation.  Emojis have taken the place of words.  Emojis are used to covey emotions. We are left guessing at what these pictures really mean.

Is she blowing me kisses?

Does that heart mean he loves me?

Does that smiling emoji means they think I am sweet and funny? 

Emojis are just another cop-out. We can use them without any commitment. Keep the other guessing, keep them on tenterhooks. Since there are so many emojis options available to us, all we need to do is click and send. No effort, no actual communication, just more confusion for the person at the other end.

Talking of options, with the arrays of profiles available on dating sites, many are quick to move on rather than stay and explore the possibilities with someone that already caught their eye. If they don’t get the response they want to their “Hey sexy, wanna cam?” one liners, they get offended. Some do not hesitate to tell you just what a bitch you are for ignoring their monosyllable “Hi” and boring “Hey”.

In this age of online dating, the art of good stimulating conversation is getting lost. Attempts to draw someone out of their shell and get to know them by kicking off a conversation is seen by the other as boring, unnecessary or just plain waste of time. Telling them about your interests and asking them what their likes and dislikes are, are now seen as desperate and pathetic. Don’t even attempt to discuss politics or ideologies with them because that would immediately get you marked as a boring nerd! Why discuss current affairs when you could be exchanging emojis and be sending pictures of yourself in your sexy undies to keep their fickle attention?

Which also reminds me, are we moving past the dating stage into the relationship stage when someone I have only chatted with a few times starts asking that I send them ‘risque’ pics of myself just for their eyes only? Just asking.

Anyway, online daters are impatient to move on to the next profile.

Think it is too soon to skype cam? Move over.

Don’t wanna send selfie of yourself in barely there undies ? Move over, thousands more profiles to swipe, babe!

Want to explain why calling me sexy at first chat isn’t the best chat up line? Move over, grumpy feminist!

Don’t want to share with that stranger at the other end what colour of nightie or undies you are wearing right now? Move over, prude!

Don’t wanna engage in phone sex or watch your potential date cum on camera? What century are you from, dinosaur? Move over!

Yeah, I am still very confused about this modern dating stuff. It is supposed to give us more choice but what it seems to be throwing at us are more confusion and limitless jerk asses.

Online dating provides a stark reminder of all that is wrong with our society. On dating sites, people can’t be bothered to hide their blatant racism, sexism and classism. As a black woman who is on a few dating sites, I should know. What with the random white guys who are quick to tell a black woman that they prefer black women because they are feisty in bed. One told me he loves the texture of black women skin. I still have no idea what he meant by that.  What with the random guy who types the dollar sign and says, “Lets hook up, I can pay”. Yes, you are a black woman on a dating site, you must be looking for some random guy to pay for the good life you obviously can’t afford because well, you are a black woman!

Oh, how I despair at those dating games and insults! If one thing, I am actually glad I don’t have a daughter because dating 8I would be so worried at what she has to face in this age of modern dating and its attendant pressure. Yes, I have a son, however, the patriarchal nature of this society we live in means I don’t have to worry as much about how he would fare in this dating malady as I would if I had a daughter. He is a man and as such, he stands to benefit from the patriarchal bullshit. All I can do is continue to teach him to respect women, respect people’s boundaries and of course, respect himself.

I have met some wonderful people on dating sites, in fact, my last two serious relationships were with people I met on a dating site. The one person I nearly came to marrying, in spite of my objection to the marriage institution, was my ex-girlfriend whom I met on an adult site. So yes, online dating site is a good way to meet people, go on dates and start a relationship. If only we did not have to kiss or even encounter so many frogs in our attempt to meet the one.

In the long run, we come to a stage when the novelty of so many profiles to choose from wears off. Where phone sex just isn’t enough. When staring at those hot hard abs or curvy, bootilicious bodies on our laptop screen just wouldn’t do.  And we realise what we want, or at least, I realise what I want, is a loving and comforting face to come home to. Someone to cuddle with, not just another profile to stare at or another phone sex with a virtual stranger! A hot profile pic on our laptop or phone wouldn’t be enough for those nights we want a physical presence. We want to cuddle with someone we care about and who care about us.

As my Facebook friend succinctly puts it in his note-

We realize that this more we want is a lie. We want phone calls. We want to see a face we love absent of the blue dim of a phone screen. We want slowness. We want simplicity. We want a life that does not need the validation of likes, favorites, comments, upvotes. We may not know yet that we want this, but we do. We want connection, true connection. We want a love that builds, not a love that gets discarded for the next hit. We want to come home to people. We want to lay down our heads at the end of our lives and know we lived well, we lived the fuck out of our lives. This is what we want even if we don’t know it yet.

Yet, this is not how we date now. This is not how we love now.

If our modern dating and the array of choice it throws at us is giving us more grief than pleasure, more confusion dating 3than certainty and more self-doubt than empowerment, it is high time we questioned just what it is we want from those sites and how far we are willing to go to get exactly what we know for certain we want.

Now, time for me to get on Tinder and get active on Instagram, problem is, I hate apps that are solely dependent on phones cos I prefer doing things on my laptop. It is creepy to think this actually makes me the old generation. OK, time to move with the times; I better get swiping local profiles for hot dates and place my order! Or not.

Comments

  1. says

    Online dating has its downsides (i.e. the creeps, the con artists) but it also has its upsides. It makes finding people with common interests and views a lot easier (e.g. social/political/religious views, smoking and drinking habits) instead of weeding through dozens or hundreds of dates and meetings. If I still lived in Canada or somewhere like London, having the ability to reduce thousands of people to dozens would be a boon, saving time, effort and money.

    For people living abroad with culture and language barriers (I live Taiwan and have lived in other Asian countries), online dating sites are often the only way to meet people. There are often only a few hundred or thousand potential people to meet in a city of millions, so websites make dating and making new friends a lot easier.

    In a way, dating sites are a bit like matchmakers in countries where arrange marriage was (generally) a choice for the couple and not forced, like Japan and its “omiai”. Both type of matchmakers try to find compatible people based on interests and backgrounds, and leave it up to the two people to decide. Such meetings are not obligations, they’re about two people getting to know each other.

  2. Numenaster says

    As for the question “When are we in a relationship?”, there are cultural norms that provide cues, but they vary a LOT by individual sub-culture. I think there is no way to be certain without asking explicitly.

  3. Sam N says

    My impression is that, yes, people are very confused about what online dating is all about. But given the lack of an instruction manual, it’s up to you to decide how to use this tool. The following are things I’ve learned, and why I value online dating:

    First of all, I was tremendously shy talking with women I had a crush on, to the point where even when they were clearly interested in me, I had trouble talking comfortably with them or making a move. Simply going on many dates has made me far more comfortable with this such that if I had a blind date tomorrow, I know I’ll be able to make easy conversation. I still get nervous, but it no longer interferes with my ability to communicate effectively. This didn’t magically happen, I had to have 20 or so very awkward dates and learn from them. Even now, there is some awkwardness here and there, but I know how to handle it and that it doesn’t mean the end of the date.

    Secondly, it’s given me a much better picture of qualities I find attractive and essential for a committed, romantic, relationship. When I entered my first committed relationship with having scarcely dated, I really didn’t understand what I was getting myself into. Dating lets me evaluate whether a woman is comfortable with my preference for explicit and open communication--this is a must for me. When I was first dating I found it easy to get caught up in intense emotions during the date and would get confused why I no longer found her attractive down the line. Now I can recognize lasting attraction much more easily.

    Now that I have those skills, I far prefer dating within or at the edge of my real life networks of friends and acquaintances. I don’t think the woman I’m currently dating, that I absolutely adore, would be going so well if we had met online. That we had a mutual friend in common endorsing each of us ensured that we were willing to look past a mistake or some awkwardness and actually take that time and effort to discover what causes our friend to think we’re both great people. And by doing that we’re finding we really like each other. But without having that extra bit of evidence from our mutual friend, why should we have had the faith to put in that extra effort?

  4. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Raucous Indignation- As it is an important issue that affects the heart, the present and the future, I’d rather over-think it than under-think it. Thinking about it seriously means one can be aware of the pros and cons, not thinking about it seriously means one might end up making a life costing mistake. If something is important, think about it seriously and you’d be prepared for whatever comes with it. No maybes.

  5. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @left0ver1under- Fair enough point. Online dating should help streamline the number of possible dates if tailored to fit specific area or interest. However, with this illusion of choice, we can’t help but wonder if restricting our setting to people just near us wouldn’t mean we are missing out! I know i am guilty of this. Sadly, more choice, more confusion, more waste of time.

  6. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Numenaster- Thanks , that was helpful. Nothing beats direct communication. just ask and clear the air.

  7. Yemisi Ilesanmi says

    @Sam N- Glad to know that online dating helped you overcome your shyness talking with women. Online dating has its pros and cons. As with most things in life, there are people more than willing to abuse it, however many will still benefit from it. Wishing you all the best with your present date.

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