Dating & Loneliness in the Technological Renaissance

I’ve been verrrrrrry single (i.e. in total isolation) for seven months now, and I’m starting to get an itching (i.e. lonely) to get back out there and date again.

The end of my last relationship left me absolutely d-e-s-t-r-o-y-e-d. A total mess. It was by far my deepest heartbreak, and surprisingly, not because I was absolutely 100% head over heels for my partner of the time. In fact, despite the love I did feel for him, there were a lot of things about our relationship I wasn’t sustainably happy with. By the time we called it quits, there was a mixture of both sadness and relief.

That relationship was never set up for success. We had a lot of weird social ties and past experiences that made the foundation of what we shared rather weak. Although we had met before through mutual friends, we actually reconnected on Tinder. We had this weird hybrid experience of meeting both on and offline, and its made me reevaluate how I’m choosing to move forward with my love life in the digital era.

Now that I’ve had the necessary time away to really begin healing the wounds of that loss, I’ve been trying to figure out how to get back out there. With all the lessons I’ve learned this past year, a lot of questions about today’s dating scene are popping up for me.

What does romance feel like now that I’ve grown into a new womxn and a new potential partner? What connection am I really longing for? And as I look back at the beginning of my last relationship and realize the huge red flags that made themselves present to me at the time, how can I trust myself with starting something new after I let so many things slide?

Speaking of sliding and swiping and general gestures from left to right, what about online dating? Are the chances of finding a good partner on Tinder or Bumble really worth all the work of swiping and small talking?

My two biggest concerns with dating during the technological renaissance are: finding authentic connection, and learning how to sustain it. In an age where everything is right at our fingertips, where communication opens up across thousands of miles with the push of a button, where “likes” and “comments” and “tweets” dictate a lot of how we receive news, social updates, or information about our friend’s or crushes’ lives, how is it possible to live in love in the moment? Is it possible to be fully present to those we’re dating?

We spend our time hunkered over our phones and computers, scrolling through photos and videos for hours at a time. How often do those mindless hours actually present something fruitful?

And where I live, there’s an additional barrier to hop over.

 I live in Seattle, and let me tell you – the “Seattle freeze” is reaaaaal. People are pretty independent and driven and dead-set on getting from point A to point B with little to no human interaction. I’d say passive aggressiveness is pretty common in the Emerald City, and although many people are polite, not many are truly friendly.

So how’s a girl supposed to just bump into a potential date in this city?! Answer: Bumping into a friendly candidate is pretty unlikely, so swiping right in bed at 11 pm is probably my second best option. But is online dating really every antisocial Seattleite’s dream?

It is a rarity that I actually vibe well with someone via an app, and when I do, it’s typically because I already know the person or have some small connection to them. We have mutual friends, or we’ve met once or twice, or we have taken a class together. So all the app is really doing (at least in my experience) is connecting me with people I already know but perhaps didn’t know were interested in me.

In addition, internet dating opens up a whole other can of worms: hook-up culture. And I could write a whole lot on this topic, but I’m sure a lot of us know the general gist. A lot of people on dating apps are looking to toot it and boot it. With all the energy I have to put into making small talk with someone on Tinder, trying to decipher if we click, the last thing I want to deal with is some person who’s just trying to get in my pants.

I mean, more power to those who are sexually liberated and find joy in those ways. As long as it’s consensual, I 100% support it. Sex is an important part of life. But for me, unless I have some emotional and intellectual bond with someone, sex is relatively fruitless. And meaningless intimacy just ain’t me right now.

So with all the conundrums that dating in the technological renaissance poses, are there any real solutions? Clearly it’s working for some people. I have quite a few friends in really happy and healthy relationships. But I’m over here, trying to get back out there, and I feel absolutely clueless with where to start!

The effect of apps doesn’t only impact how relationships start, but it also dictates how a lot of them end. At the end of my last relationship, I had to block, unfriend, and unfollow my ex in order to get a clean break. For some odd reason, admitting that feels so catty, but the truth is being this connected to the toxic people in our lives is not a good thing. Authentic space is necessary for moving on.

So how can we create and sustain genuine connection when our attention spans are so scattered? How can we find authenticity in an online world? I have yet to figure this out, and indeed there are many wonderful things about being so interconnected. But sometimes I wish I could just put an ad out there. A good old-fashioned print poster around town. None of this Tinder bio bullshit.

WANTED: cute human cuddle buddy to tell all my secrets to. Must be kind. Must not get annoyed when I communicate by singing my feelings at fairly inappropriate times. Must enjoy knitted gifts (blankets, hats, scarves, shawls, headbands). Must like guinea pigs and dogs and kittens and turtles (and all other animals, really). Apply by sending me the funniest gif you got!

Any takers?

– A

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