I thought that navigating online dating in my 30s would be a leap forward compared to that era of my early 20s, when I used to try and hold a drunken conversation over deafening music in a sweaty, crowded bar. However, I was wrong.
There’s no point reminiscing folks (trust me, you will). Times have changed. Choice seems to be the main advantage, opening up a world of options full of profiles to peruse. Yet it is often missing that age old mantra, ‘Quality over quantity.’
I approached online dating in my 30s with the same tenacity I do with all things in life; with a sense of purpose and open honesty. I wanted to find something long lasting, meaningful, and I was optimistically confident going into it that with all that quantity out there, surely something would come along? But it’s often felt like I’m playing a game where no-one is clear about who they are or what they want. And you’re just another profile amongst an ever long swipe fest of options.
“Online Dating in your 30s can feel like playing a game. Except that you have no idea what the rules are, who you’re playing with, or if the people involved are even playing the same game as you. Some are playing multiple games at once and other times, players quite simply vanish.”— Amy Roullier, The Authentic Optimist
Online dating is fundamentally shallow
Being brutally honest, online dating appears just an ego boost for some people. According to Tinder, 42% of people online dating already have a partner. Turns out that everyone wants to be wanted, even if they shouldn’t be actively participating in searching.
For the truly single, online dating in your 30s provides a big market of people to choose from, which sounds great, right? However online dating also encourages split second decisions based on a couple of images and a short bio. People are always looking for the next best thing with a mindset of, ‘I can do better’. Online dating can be really shallow and ironically, whilst online dating is in itself, connecting with lots of dating prospects. Actual human connection is a hard thing to find.
The on-going virtual relationship
Frustratingly a lot of online dating in my 30s has remained, well, online. People seem to want to feel wanted and they like the idea of actively dating and looking for love. But in fact quite often they don’t actually have the time to commit to any kind of relationship in person. They either never get around to taking the next step of meeting in person. Or it ends up a relationship that’s virtual, mostly through text messages and voice notes.
I know phone calls are a bit 90s, but I’d take a proper conversation any day over occasional messages that drag out for weeks and don’t even lead to an ‘in person’ date at the end of it. As Ice White once said, “Messaging must come with purpose, and that purpose is to meet.”
Online dating actually sometimes feels like an active avoidance of an in-person relationship for some. There are a lot of emotionally unavailable people out there my friends. And they don’t care about wasting your time or leading you on.
Keeping options open
The sad reality is that online dating is all about extensive choice and so it feels extremely rare to find a person only having one conversation with another at a time. It’s that quantity quality saga again. Because people can date multiple people at once, they do. But the time and investment put into the conversation you are having can then feel limited and a little meaningless when it’s one sided and quantity is prioritised.
Frustratingly, it feels like I’ve often got suckered into the whole ‘If you can’t beat em, join em,’ mindset. I just got tired of putting effort into conversations that felt one-sided or dead end, and so widened the conversation – not that having ten dead end chats at once is any more fulfilling than the singular – And maybe that’s what online dating does to everyone in the end?. Forces them into a numbers game because quality is so damn hard to find.
Prepare for dick pics
Another penis. Yawn.
As a woman, dick pics feel part and parcel of navigating online dating. You receive them, unsolicited or otherwise. Any men reading who do this – Not cool, seriously not cool. It removes anything quality about an interaction if a person is sending a snapshot of their downstairs before they’ve even asked what you like to do with your free time. Here’s a list of quotes by women and their thoughts on this issue. Number 8 is a personal fave.
Requests for semi or full naked photos
Disturbingly men request this quite early on in a conversation and far too often than makes me comfortable. Personally this is a No from me. But when the requests become frequent, it can pressurise the environment and feel like a normal request to be adhering to. And if you are made to feel like someone will only stick around to see an image in person once they’ve ogled a few grainy underwear snaps pre-in person date. When you’re feeling uncomfortable and being encouraged to send a little skin to continue a conversation. It’s hard to feel like there is anything quality going on.
Never nice and a real shitty part of online dating in your 30s. But unfortunately up to 80% of people have been ghosted online. With so many options, no-one seems to like to quite rule anything out. Which is why you rarely get a, “Hey, you seem nice and I’ve enjoyed the chat but you’re not for me.” Another casualty of the online dating quantity saga.
However ghosting is a norm and sadly I realise that I’ve done it too. I tell myself it was the nicer kind of ghosting – a slow disengage rather than the disappear and block completely method. But either way, who am I kidding, it’s still ghosting. I have now adapted my style in this area with a simple message to say that I’ve enjoyed the chat but I’m not feeling the vibe. It feels like a nicer way to end a conversation with someone. And I can ease my conscious that I’m not being a total dick.
The next step up from being ghosted is getting blocked. This one utterly baffles me. Did they really think I was going to chase someone who wasn’t interested in me? To the point where blocking feels like a necessity to halt all contact? Apparently yes. Because blocking happens regularly and it’s pretty shit.
Mainly because when you’re a reasonable person, who wouldn’t ever chase to obtain, you can’t quite get your head around why complete eradication from life is necessary. I can only put it down to the fact that I’m just not considered a real life person with reasonable feelings, who could absolutely accept someone saying, “This has been fun, but you aren’t for me.” Or maybe it’s that blocking means having to take zero accountability for disengaging from the conversation. Unfortunately, I’ll never know.
Pretending to be ‘busy’
Whether you are busy or not, responding too quickly seems to send the message that you’re too keen. Guys seem to respond when you respond less. Less is more as they say. Even if you’re genuinely hectic in life, but you happen to have a moment when they’ve messaged to respond, apparently you shouldn’t. Confused? I mean that’s what online dating has always been for me, total and utter confusion. Because I’m looking for worthwhile and meaningful. Not time wasting or silly games where I really don’t understand the rules and am constantly baffled by the players.
Keeping an open mindset
In my early thirties, I did genuinely just want to have fun with zero expectations. As my 30s have progressed, I want to find that connection with someone special. But with online dating being fundamentally shallow. Virtual relationships being a ‘norm’. Quantity overload meaning quality gets thrown out the window. It can be pretty difficult to date without feeling that online dating is controlling you, rather than the other way around. Somehow, you’re still having to cast aside the essential reason you’re dating – to meet someone and fall in love, obvs – and go at it with a ‘I’m looking to just meet new people’ instead of ‘I’m looking for The One’. I’ve felt like I’ve had to lower my expectations, because online dating has been a sub-par experience for me over the past six years.
The dating virtual marketplace in your 30s
So how do you navigate online dating in your 30s? Clearly, I don’t have a fucking clue. And I’m not sure anyone really ever figures it out completely (If you have, SEND HELP!). People just get lucky I guess, and somehow stumble across a needle of quality in a massive haystack of unmeaningful quantity.
However I do know that online dating in my 30s has brought about a lot of nostalgia for a time when dating felt much simpler. A time when dating didn’t stay predominantly virtual and therefore lacking in human connection. When I could invest in a person and enjoy getting to know them, without feeling as if they were just looking for the next best thing without giving some attention to me possibly being that. An era where quality, felt like the thing everyone was looking for.
How do you navigate online dating in your 30s? Bossing it? I’d love to know! Share your comments (seriously, #helpafriend).