Groundhog Day is one of the greatest movies of all time. If you don’t accept that then I’m not sure we can be friends. It tells the tale of a guy who is forced to relive the same day over and over and over again, trapped with the same people in the same town doing the same things until, after eight years, eight months and 16 days he eventually breaks the cycle.
It is Bill Murray’s character Phil that I feel like when I swipe on dating apps these days. With a couple of slight variations (which sometimes result in accidental likes when I mean to look at a different picture rather than actually like them), online dating apps involve the same things; look at a face, swipe. Look at a face, swipe. Look at a face, skip through another few pictures, swipe. Over and over and over again.
Faces blur into one. Rarely do any stand out, as everyone follows the same advice – a main picture of looking straight at a camera so it captures your face in a well-lit way and with you smiling. Some are better looking than others. Some pull a face. Some are gaspingly ugly. But all are met with the same response; one or two seconds of looking before an arbitrary decision is made and they get swiped. To hell with their carefully crafter bio and interests.
I’m not knocking the concept of online dating or dating apps. They absolutely have their place and have resulted in me meeting some incredible people and having some incredible dates that simply wouldn’t have happened had I not been a swiper. But they do reduce the process of finding love to a mechanical rather than emotional one. And it’s draining.
My phone pings. Someone on Hinge has liked me. I review it, looking at their profile. Mostly there is an instant reaction and I say no. Sometimes there is some interest from me and I really look hard at their profile before replying. Never is there a feeling of “wow-I-can’t-believe-my-luck”.
To date, I’ve not had someone like me where I was blown away by how they looked, or something incredible on their profile, so it’s become more a case of expecting mediocrity and having all my expectations met. And I’m sure it’s exactly the same situation for those people I swipe on, like and message – a quick look at me, a mental “meh” and a swipe left.
The longer I’m on apps, the more I expect nothing good to come of them. I expect things not to go anywhere, or to turn up on the date only to find that they weren’t as good looking as I thought, or that there’s just no chemistry, or that they find me cocky, or one of a thousand reasons why it’ll never work. Women I’ve spoken with expect a guy to ask for more intimate photos of them, or to send dick pics, or to ghost them, or to generally be a prat. There’s a danger that these expectations become a horribly self-fulfilling cycle.
Standing out from the crowd is near-impossible. What you write is irrelevant if no-one reads it. Swiping constantly is useless if no-one swipes back. It’s simply an endless sea of faces looking out of your phone at you, most of which never care if you look back. Whenever one person does something original it gets shared on Buzzfeed and suddenly everyone is doing it, creating a conveyor belt of smiles, bikini pictures and “I love nights out as well as staying in and snuggling on the sofa”.
Maybe I’m just feeling jaded as it’s been so long since I met someone – anyone – via online dating apps that I clicked with. Someone who actually has things to say rather than proceeding through the standard series of closed questions before simply not responding anymore. Getting ignored by those you’re attracted to is draining.
But I can’t stop. It’s not that I’m addicted, far from it – just like the fact that the point of golf is to play as little golf as possible, the point of online dating is so you find someone and don’t need to do online dating anymore. Swiping doesn’t stop me from looking for opportunities in real life to meet someone, it simply gives me another set of options to try and make the most of.
Bill Murray eventually managed to break his endless cycle of waking up to Sonny and Cher, and if he can manage it then I can dream of the day when I swipe on someone incredible, we get on like a house on fire and it just works. And if I can do it without dropping my toaster in the bath with me at any point, all the better.