We know that we’re all online dating, whether we’re swiping via apps or using websites, but how do we really feel about using technology to find love? NPR is here to look at the culture of online dating with their series, “What Makes Us Click: How Online Dating Shapes Our Relationships.” One recent episode features two dating experts, UC Berkeley Ph.D. sociology candidate Skyler Wang and senior content strategy for the dating app Zoosk Megan Murray, and they have some really smart things to say. Here’s what makes us click when it comes to online dating:
- We think that it’s super weird to meet IRL. The NPR host gives a pretty interesting stat: the PEW Research Center says that 60% of people living in the U.S. say it’s “a good way to meet people” (and 15% less thought that was true in the past). As Skyler mentioned, when he and his friends are heading to a bar or club, his buddies will actually find people via dating apps to hang out with wherever they’re going. That’s a massive change from the past when we thought of bars as totally legit places to meet people that we could hook up with (or even fall in love with).
- We’re getting way too specific and picky. Both dating experts talked about how online dating is making us think more carefully about who we want to date… and it seems like that’s making us pickier than ever before. They joked about finding someone who likes guac as much as we do. While we definitely shouldn’t date someone who hates guac (that’s super weird), it’s kind of ridiculous that things have gotten to this point. What happened to keeping an open mind and believing that love is going to happen when we least expect it? It can’t be smart to expect to meet people who fit such crazy criteria.
- We’re shopping for people to date. Skyler coined the term “relationshopping” to explain that we’re literally shopping for people that we can go out with. It sounds nuts when we think of it like that… but of course, this is exactly what we’re doing. When else can we say that we want to go on a date this Friday night and then basically conjure a guy out of thin air? Of course, there’s no guarantee that we’re going to have a good time or even make a real connection. But it seems like we focus more on the process of swiping and searching for guys than the dates themselves.
- Literally everyone is online dating. Both Skyler and Megan, aka online dating experts (one researching them for his Ph.D. and one literally working at a dating app), are dating this way. If that doesn’t take away any lasting stigma that the process might hold, it doesn’t seem like anything could. At least we can take comfort in the fact that if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for us, and we should feel absolutely no shame in meeting people this way.
- We might be turning people into objects. Megan said that she does feel “objectified” sometimes when she’s online dating. As she said, “There is a giant red X on someone,” like when we’re swiping left on someone. This is something that most of us have probably thought about before and then quickly move on, and yet it’s an important point. It’s good to remember that there are people behind the screen and that we can’t just treat them like cute vs. ugly guys.
- Some of us are even tracking our online dates. Apparently making lists and spreadsheets of the dates that we go on and the qualities that we loved and hated in people is a thing. And it’s becoming a big trend. As Skyler shared, “People use lists nowadays to basically get a better sense of who they’re attracted to and to really put a very quantitative twist to something that didn’t use to be like that. Why are we wearing Fitbits? Why are we tracking how many calories that we’re eating? It’s a really new cultural phenomenon that has basically encroached onto our dating lives as well.”
- We should realize that dating is always tough no matter how we’re finding partners. Megan talked about how the process of finding a romantic partner has always been difficult and that she doesn’t think that will change anytime soon. So whether we’re meeting guys the old-school way or are committed to using technology to find love, we should remember that it’s totally okay if it feels like a slog sometimes. It would be kind of weird if it didn’t.
- We shouldn’t lose hope when it comes to finding love. As Megan put it, “The romance and the magic sneaks in there no matter what. If you really care about them and you meet them, there’s gonna be there indefinable moments or something that you realize. There’s always gonna be some sweet little thing that comes through.” Awww. It might seem like we could never find our dream guy within the sea of faces and messages and emojis, but it’s definitely possible, and we just might have our most romantic relationship yet.
- We still have to take in person dates seriously. As Skyler says, we should think of dating apps and websites as a way to meet people. But the apps can’t date for us. We have to make sure that we’re closing our apps and going into the world on actual physical dates. Sounds good to us.