It's Not the Mechanism, It's You (and that might be a good thing)


I keep hearing women say that there are no good men left.  

So they go on or OKCupid or Eharmony and browse for the next Mr. Maybe. 

And then two weeks later when the shiny new toy has lost its sheen, and they've been on three or four dates with men they can't keep a conversation with, they say there are no good men left again and complain about how online dating sucks ass.  

Except it's not the mechanism, it's you.

Maybe that's a good thing.  

See, maybe you just don't understand--truly understand--online dating.  

Let me break it down for you.

It's simple: online dating is a mechanism to making an offline connection. That's it.

It's not meant for weeks of conversation over the built-in mailing system, or chats, or anxiously checking your Likes or Winks or Stats or Views.  

It's not meant for you to feel better about yourself, to check your inbox and think, "I have so many messages, it must mean that I am desired." 

It's not meant as a salve for your soul, as a splint for that broken heart of yours, or as a replacement for being the right kind of person who draws in the right kind of person.  

It's a mechanism. A gateway. A digital means to a potential real life end.  

So if you're not having any luck, or if you hate the process, or if you're searching and searching and waiting and still feel sad and lonely, it's not the mechanism, it's you. 

And again, maybe that's a good thing.  

Maybe you don't like that you have to figure out the best way to display yourself like a commodity to be viewed and clicked and wooed, to find just the right angle on that selfie you're taking so no one can see that the crinkles around your eyes are getting deeper....

...even though you earned those crinkles from years of laughter or squinting into the sun on a hot summer's day while you watched your niece practice handstands in the pool.

Maybe you don't like that because you have to describe yourself in X number of words or less, you find that you're penning down the same tired cliches as everyone else ("I like to dress up and go out, but I also love to stay in!")...

...even though you are beautiful and vibrant and nuanced and just last weekend, you quietly sat with a friend on a Friday night as she bawled her eyes out because her sister's kid has cancer.

Maybe you don't like that you've actually done your best to present yourself as a real, whole person online, one who is sweet and caring and looking for something real and meaningful, and putting every vibe in the world out there that you're more than the photos you post, more than your hobbies or travel habits or income, and there are STILL men who message you with, "HEY SEXY ARE YOU DTF?" 

Maybe, just maybe, you don't like the fact that just because you now have access to MORE doesn't mean that you have access to BETTER.  

Better conversations, better connections, better people.  

Because an algorithm can't determine someone's character.

A profile can't be anything but reductive.

And those little rules we make for ourselves on who makes the cut rarely have anything to do with the quality of their being, and everything to do with the quality of their punctuation or cropping skills or sentence structure. 

I'm not saying that online dating can't be right for you or that it doesn't work for some people.  

I am saying that maybe instead we should focus less on making hundreds of fleeting, one-dimensional connections (a view, a wink, a deleted message) and focus more on making a few whole, real connections with the people we meet in real life.  

Because you never know what the ripple effect might be when you stop desperately seeking The One and start proactively trying to be the kind of person who makes your barista's day better with a smile, or takes the time to help a friend move, or can have a deep conversation with a man without needing to touch pants parts afterwards because having a deep conversation with anyone is a beautiful thing and what we were meant to do as human beings. 

I guess I just want everyone to know that building a life worth living alone is part of building a life that is worthy to be shared.

You don't have to force yourself to do a thing you hate or that is dissatisfying or frustrating in order to achieve the "shared" part. 

So maybe it's not the mechanism, maybe it's you. And that might be kind of awesome. 

Author's Note: I've been writing this post over several weeks after my second shortest stint attempting to online date (the shortest was last summer at 14 minutes from sign-up to account deletion. Still pretty proud of that one).

It marked the 2nd time in two years I couldn't even complete a full month searching for the next ex-Mr. Naked Redhead online and decided it was worth the loss in payment to simply cancel early.

I think online dating can certainly work for some people, but, at this point in my life, I feel none of the urgency that maybe others do to "find someone." So every time I logged on, I felt very much caught in this mad scrabble to notice and be noticed, and it just felt...wrong.

I met some perfectly nice people, but at the end of the day, I realized that I'm a social enough person that I regularly meet perfectly nice people without help from a site that manufactures weird Pavlovian reward through a button entitled "wink." 

My two cents. :) 

Photo by Balakov on Deviantart