Words by: Kiera Eardley Art by: My Tieu Ly
Hi, my name is Kiera, and I’m your perpetually single friend. Welcome to the world of singledom in 2021! There are plenty of options, not a lot of commitment, and the drinks aren’t exactly flowing (thank you, 10 months of lockdown).
First things first: modern dating is hard. It’s a phenomenon unique to our generation, for better or for worse — and if you don’t believe me, try explaining Tinder to your nearest octogenarian. We don’t have the Friday night dance halls of our grandparents’ youth, nor the reliability of a weekly drive-in movie date or the reassuring formality of ‘going steady’. For everyone before us, the line between friendship and relationship was clearly defined, the process of crossing that boundary both well-documented and well-trodden. But for us? It’s all grey area. A lot of photos, a smattering of vapid texts, and very little substance. To be frank, I hate it all.
Alas, modern dating is a necessary evil. You have to put yourself out there to meet people, and — especially during a pandemic — apps seem like the only way. Dating apps promise us instant gratification and an ostensibly fast path to love, but it’s a path littered with ghosts, catfishers, and commitment-phobes aplenty. Am I selling it to you yet?
If you’re as single as I have been for the past two-and-a-half years, you’ll be familiar with the culture of replaceability that characterises modern dating. We’re told we can find romance with a few swipes and some witty opening lines, but it feels more like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands in a river full of eels. And all the eels are looking for a girl who “doesn’t take themselves too seriously and has a passion for health/fitness/hiking”. And then when you do catch a fish, it often decides it can’t be bothered with you after all, so you end up wading back into the river again and again and again, with your hopes set a little lower each time.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m a reluctant user of dating apps. I avoided them for a year after my last relationship, worried that a profile would do nothing more than scream “I’M SINGLE AND I’M NOT THRILLED ABOUT IT” to every eligible male in my 15-kilometre radius. But then lockdown happened, and with it came boredom and a stinging, persistent loneliness. So I downloaded Hinge.
Creating my profile demanded so many questions. Which photos make me look good, but not too good? What bio makes me sound funny and laid-back and intelligent and fun-loving all at once, and within 50 words? How can I tell if the guys I match with are interested in a relationship, or something casual? How can I tell if I want a relationship, or something casual? A year later, one question still sticks: do I really want to meet my next boyfriend through an app?
The tangible lack of seriousness that underpins my every in-app interaction tells me I’m not the only one with this concern. While everyone on dating apps obviously wants to meet somebody, I don’t think many of us ideally want to meet their partner online. We’re all desperately trying to avoid embarrassment by appearing nonchalant and non-caring in a situation which, at its core, actually demands a lot of care.
But the worst part? The small talk. The small talk. I will die a happy woman if I never have to ask another man on Hinge what he does for work, what he’s studying, what his dog’s name is, or about that one time he got robbed on a train in Barcelona because ha-ha he’s been to Europe twice so he’s really cultured. I’ve come to abhor the process so much that I actually dread opening the app.
My fondly monikered Hinge Doom Scrolls — which mostly occur on Sundays when I’m feeling lonely or bored or inexplicably optimistic — just confirm my simmering hatred for the entire state of affairs. The scroll occurs as follows: (1) unpause my profile, with fresh hope that my perfect male counterpart awaits me on the other side of the screen; (2) scroll through ever-worsening profiles for five minutes, hope dwindling with every swipe; and (3) re-pause my profile, feeling worse than when I started and wondering if I’ve set my standards too high or if I’m just doing something wrong.
I’m describing dating apps as a breeding ground for self-doubt and a place to wallow in eternal romantic solitude, for sure, but it’s not all bad. None of them have stuck, but I’ve actually met a handful of great guys on Hinge. Most importantly, dating apps can provide a hit of fleeting optimism to distract from dreary pandemic life — although the odds are against me, who’s to say I won’t find someone amazing the next time I open Hinge?
So, that’s that: it’s not always pretty, and my positivity about modern dating has taken countless hits, but dating apps can be fun! Deep down, I’m definitely hoping to meet the right guy in a bookstore (à la Notting Hill). But for now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m due for another Doom Scroll.