Is it time to say goodbye to dating apps?
The internet has been part of all of our lives for so long now that it’s hard to think of a time when it wasn’t at the heart of pretty much everything in our daily lives. It makes everything easier – shopping, chatting to friends, reading the news (so long as you take it all with a pinch of salt) and, of course, dating.
Or does it? Can internet dating ever be the same as meeting someone in ‘meat space’ (my favourite term for the outside, ‘real’ world)?
I do know several people for whom the internet has been instrumental in them hooking up with their partners. Several friends met their life partners via dating sites and many more toy with them occasionally, even if just for fun. Who doesn’t like a bit of sexy window-shopping?
My ex joined Tinder after we split up and is still with the first person he matched with on there, nearly four years later (and yes, he let me check her out before he went to meet her for the first time).
But can dating apps do more harm than good? Apart from the rise in some STIs that statisticians put down to the wider range of partners available through internet connections, we might be damaging our own chances by simply being too picky.
Having been a member of a few dating sites myself, I know that the tick-box options result in me only seeing those men the algorithms consider to be my ‘type’ – mostly musicians or unemployed poets with long hair and an air of having only recently been dug up.
I’ve always gone for the artistic type – on paper, at least. The kind of man who probably owns a cloak and definitely steals your eyeliner.
So you can imagine my surprise when I realised I was falling for someone I was friends with on Facebook. Okay, so that’s still an online connection – but we were introduced by someone who knew both of us personally and we definitely started out as friends only, with no intention of taking it any further.
Apart from anything, he absolutely wasn’t my type – more than six feet tall, he had short red hair, worked in telecoms and was clearly a Very Sensible Adult. Definitely just friend material, probably the sort of guy who’d just come hang out and help me choose my Unsuitable Boyfriends.
You can see where I’m going with this, right? Yup – I’ve been with him for four years and we now share a house and a rabble of step-kids. Had I stuck to my online dating parameters, he’d have never crossed my radar – yet he’s the kindest man I’ve ever met and better suited to me than any number of kohl-eyed emo boys.
So do we limit our options by using dating sites that encourage us to be super-picky about the kind of person we’re prepared to meet? Or is that simply a single unfortunate side effect of a social situation that we’re now stuck with, as more and more of us live isolated work lives?
The spread of the internet has in itself brought opportunities to work alone, with only a broadband line or 4G connection to connect us to the outside world. If you stare at a laptop at your kitchen table every day, how else are you going to meet people apart from online?
The internet has also given new levels of freedom to those with disabilities, who previously might have found it almost impossible to meet new people because of physical limitations.
So there are clearly major positives to internet dating.
But it definitely comes with a seedy undercurrent attached – notoriously so in the case of apps such as Tinder, which are often seen as nothing more than hook-up facilities.
But as my ex proves, even Tinder can have its moments. And at least these days there are alternatives. So, if you’re determined to go online shopping for your next date, what are your options?
One of the best known names in internet dating, OK Cupid came up time and time again in my friends’ tales of successful dating. And also in some of the grim ones, but then that’s the risk in ‘real world’ dating as well.
If you have a particular kink that you know you couldn’t live without and you’re looking for fun, then it’s probably best to be upfront about it. Although in real life it probably makes sense to wait until you’ve chatted to someone for a while before announcing that you can get only get off when slathered in goose fat, on Fetish.com you can tell people all about your greasy kink from the get-go.
Want a quiet life in the country? Or maybe you already living in a rural area and are struggling to meet that special someone. Muddy Matches specialises in bringing together people who prefer countryside and animals to cities and nightclubs.
You don’t have to be looking for a relationship to use online connection sites – you might just be after some no-strings-attached fun with likeminded people. FabSwingers is full of singles and couples who are looking for extracurricular activity of the sexy kind.
Fairly obviously, this is for gay men only. But according to the site’s owners, Slaveboys responsible for at least three marriages and several committed relationships that they know of. Another positive example of the advantages of being clear – to yourself, as well as others – about just what it is you’re looking for.
As a committed carnivore I admit to knowing nothing about Grazer, but vegetarian and vegan friends speak very highly of it. Currently available only as a phone app, Grazer works in the same way as Tinder – you swipe left or right, depending on how you feel about the people popping up on your screen – but all its members are of the herbivore variety.