*Swipes left. Swipes left. Swipes left*. “Oh, he does look kind of cute”. *Swipes right*
Online dating. Don’t get me wrong, online dating has been an amazing platform to meet people with common interests and hobbies. It is also the knight in shining armour for those people with social anxiety but is trying their best to connect with other humans. Some even say online dating has made the idea of ‘finding love’ much easier than how it was previously done before match.com or even apps like Tinder, which was to meet through friends and family. Some people have sworn to have given up on love, met their soulmates through online dating sites that have led to marriage and happily ever after. But despite all the good that comes out of it, online dating undoubtedly does have an ugly side.
1. You never know what’s behind the screens.
To begin with, online dating does have some common grounds with social media platforms in how people use them to portray their ideal self (the person you want to be; the perfect version of you) instead of their actual self (the real, imperfect, flawed you). The pictures and information about many users are carefully curated and cherry-picked to sound ‘how amazing of a person they are’ and to encourage you to consider swiping right.
“Duh, isn’t it like the entire point of being on a dating site?” you might ask. Yes. You are right.; but the portrayal of the ideal self doesn’t end there. In most cases, it creeps into your chats with your matches where instead of being yourself, you’re constantly trying to be something that you’re not. To seem more interesting or to sound even smarter or to just look even better with some edits. This also comes with the need for validation from others, where each time you get a match, it works the same as the social currency of likes, comments and shares of social media.
As I said, it goes the same for social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook where we’re constantly trying to put the ‘perfect’ content instead of real, raw things; instead of about the actual self.
2. Human judgment is often clouded by outward appearances.
As much as the idiom ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ has been ingrained into our minds since the beginning of time, the reality is most of the time the tendency to swipe right is highly based on the looks of the person; how ‘hot’, ‘pretty’, ‘handsome’, or ‘date-able’ they are, judgments of the looks that are highly biased from the social construct of beauty standards set by society. As much as this seems like just choosing from options available, unconsciously and unintentionally we’re conditioning ourselves to judge people based on their looks.
It is only natural to look for an attractive partner as we humans are conditioned that way evolutionarily, but it is also no secret that when online dating sites are used to find love, the physical attractiveness is not enough. Moreover, initial judgments based on only looks can even cause you to swipe left on someone who is maybe more compatible with you than all the other Mr / Miss Pretty Faces.
It is important to acknowledge here that judgement through looks occurs in real-life situations too. However, online dating exacerbates the problem of judging based on looks where people become mere options that we simply swipe through.
3. The risk of choice overload.
Initially, online dating might just seem like it’s opening a door to this new world with countless fishes in the sea; but sometimes too many choices might just turn into a burden instead of a blessing. We’re constantly given options and choices (mostly equivalent ones) to be expected to choose from for our happiness, but we are also told that there’s always a better choice out there. Without a clear plan, many people do wind up endlessly searching for the ‘perfect partner’.
Making a choice can be so overwhelming as you need to navigate through many chats to decide the ones you’ll respond to, do your research, keep a conversation going with a potential someone and decide if you’re ever going on a date with them. And sticking with the choice can be even more overwhelming when you know there is always someone out there on the dating site who is going to be more compatible with you. Eventually, you’ll feel mentally drained by the myriad of options.
Online dating sites, as much as glorified to be the place that single people find solace in, can cause a discrepancy between actual and ideal selves, might influence you to judge others by their looks and suffer from over-choice. The purpose of this article isn’t to point out the flaws of dating sites, instead to create awareness about the downsides. There are millions of us going to dating sites for a myriad of reasons and it is extremely important to understand the kind of impact and consequences it can have on us as a person.
As much as there are high tendencies for all of the above to occur, being aware of them might just help us to be more conscious when we’re on dating sites. Regardless, online dating has its fair share of benefits when used wisely with sufficient education on how to stay safe while using them.