To meet, to know, to love — and then to part, is the sad tale of many a human heart.”
— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Tinder. Bumble. Grindr. Coffee Meets Bagle. I bet most of you, once-upon-an-app-filled-life, installed these on your phones. Being a late bloomer in the dating app game, my hesitations with technology-facilitated quests for relationships comes from a belief in the deeply personal and private nature of romantic relationships.
But the waves of change are unavoidable and riding them is an option that many of us uncomfortably take. For various reasons, we try. And take chances.
Dating apps are one of the hallmarks of the digital age. It used to be that dedicated dating websites or chatrooms (like YM) served as the online meeting spaces for Romeos and Juliets. And if you want to meet the other person, you go for an EB (EyeBall) meet-up.
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We’ve gone a long way from desktops to smartphones. Today, at the palm of your hand, with the tip of your finger, you can easily build a dating profile with that picture perfect pose (beware of Photoshop skills level 999). What’s more is that the preferences can be customized to fit in with your desires. And then a quick swipe to the right or left, wait a bit, wait for someone to match your preferences.
Voila! Start a chat and make the date-of-your-dreams come true.
But the circle of human feelings isn’t that simple. Simplistically speaking, “liking and falling in love” is convenient, easy, affordable these days. The buffet of choices is there. Preferences can be tailor-fitted and available in retail and premium prices. Despite this “automation and digitization of love”, most people remain in the apps; meeting the wrong people and still searching.
Have you heard of the Paradox of Choice?
The Paradox of Choice, in simple terms, states that the availability of so many choices does not necessarily result in easy and successful decisions. In fact, too many choices worsen our ability to make the right decisions. And the combined feelings of disappointment and frustration affect our chances of trying again.
As they say: once bitten, twice shy.
But wait. No, don’t kiss dating goodbye (apology accepted Joshua Harris). No, don’t quit the apps–that is if dating and app-ing are your thing. Otherwise, feel free to do so.
There is no prescription to finding the right, lasting relationship no matter how many times you read Erich Fromm (The Art of Loving) or Roland Barthes (A Lover’s Discourse) because love is a journey, not a destination; a becoming, not a being.
So how do we escape this curse of so many dates with so little love?
“I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love only one.”
— Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments
Here’s some advice:
Align what you do and who you meet, with your life goals. Don’t do anything unnecessary to avoid unnecessary hate and heartache. Time waits for no one and efforts can easily be wasted.
Stick with your principles. Don’t lower your standards out of fear or insecurity; remember: it’s your lifetime we’re talking about, so don’t settle for anything less.
Don’t go out with the intent to love. Go out to know. Go out to understand the many types of people. Sometimes, what we assume to be a quest of love turns out to be a journey of self-discovery. Love blooms in the process, not outside of it.
When in doubt or high in feelings, step back and think. Ask: “Do I really want this?” “Is this what I really need?” “Am I just afraid of being unable to find another?” Let your heart do the feeling and your mind do the thinking. Don’t commit while your heart is full.
Sexy time is not a requirement to know another person. Dating apps are notorious for being “hook-apps”, the go-to for those who want to get laid or have “fun”. Again, ask your self: “Is casual sex something aligned with my life goals?” Decide from there.
So go on. Move forward, brave heart. Because …
“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.”