When I started online dating six years ago, I was so overwhelmingly unprepared. I mean really though, how hard could it be? Swipe right. Message a bit. Go on a date. If I liked them, go on a few more. However online dating has never felt that simple for me.

I went in expecting the best from people. But too pretty darn often, people have been just the worst. Searching for a real meaningful connection has felt an impossible task when met with this constant affirmation that online dating is fundamentally shallow. Am I sounding a little negative? I’ve got a lot of reasons for that. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong one day but until then, here’s a few thoughts from someone who didn’t have a clue what she went into when she started online dating.

The online dating profile

Online dating allows people to create a profile of the person they want to be, or are aspiring to be, even if they are not quite there yet. They can say they love to travel, even if they’ve only been to Spain once. They can state their love of adrenaline activities, even if they’ve never quite gotten around to booking that bungee jump. Okay so maybe everyone embellishes slightly, but sometimes, people portray a different person entirely.

I once dated a guy who told me he was Irish and did a pretty decent attempt at an accent. He also gave me a false name and implied he was an actor. I think you know the story ending here. Yep, you guessed it, they were of course all lies. Another turned out to still have a wife, now that was a not so fun experience. And then there was the one who turned out to be a good decade older than his profile or pictures suggested. These are just some of the delightful scenario’s I’ve encountered.

53% of people lie on their online dating profile, 53%!. All faking a range of attributes including name, marital status, location and appearance. Until you start dating a person in real life, I’ve learned that nothing is real. It takes way more than an online profile to get to know someone and who they are in real life versus their online profile. Because that online dating profile can be deceiving as hell.

“I don’t know when it became unacceptable to be ordinary.”

— Jackie Weaver, Volunteer

What Maggie said

In her “Nine Months Luciana” series, author Maggie Wells writes, “Don’t you think it’s weird how dating profiles emphasize listings of your favourite TV shows, movies, and books? It’s as if you are supposed to define yourself by how you distract yourself. It’s like impersonating a person — this is what I do instead of engaging with other people.” I think Maggie has a point.

Is anyone really going to learn anything valuable about me if I tell them that I occasionally binge watch Made in Chelsea? Have an obsession with horror novels, and watch Muppets Christmas Carol nearly every single holiday season? It might instantly cause a few assumptions, but it does nothing to relay my actual persona or character in any deep or meaningful way. Yet these pieces of information are highlighted on a dating profile as key ways to connect with a person initially, and it does nothing to lessen my issues with the online dating profile first glance snapshot because it’s totally devoid of character.

Smile, pose, camera, action!

Unfortunately, regardless of how many of us market our aspiring hobbies to build an incredibly swipe worthy profile, it’s almost irrelevant anyway. As profile pictures remain one of the most important elements of an online dating profile to many. It’s a shop window awaiting perusal, and impressions are encouraged to be formed quickly. You can end up stressing over every image, trying to find the best angles and perfect poses, because the physical is so prioritised over everything else. Which leads nicely onto the catfish affect …

The catfish affect

With such high importance on image alone, occasionally online dating feels like an everybody catfishing everybody scenario. I’m not condoning the dick moves from my own three examples referenced earlier, but it’s just, I do kind of get how it goes to that extreme in a way (not the one with the wife, he was an utter arsehole).

I don’t think in most scenarios anyone is intentionally trying to hoodwink anyone else. It’s just that to get a few swipes, a chance to showcase that cracking personality, the possibility of a date – you know, the thing people are on these apps for. It’s just not as easy as it sounds. Because sometimes it feels like every guy wants a Michelle Keegan (or similar). And every girl wants Brad Pitt (or his equivalent). So how can anyone compete when the stakes are so high and profile pictures are so important to a swipe?.

More photo’s please…

I can tell you what isn’t the answer – sending more photos. According to DatingAdvice.com, Guys number 1 fear is finding out the woman they are dating are ‘chubby.’ Guys don’t even hide this concern. Requests for further photos are common. And quite often come as a semi-naked or a full naked photo request in an attempt to get a little extra with that investigation into the jeans size.

I’m not chastising men alone here, I’m sure this happens both ways. And wanting to ascertain some kind of physical sexual attraction, that’s natural of course. However online dating seems to purely concentrate on the physical, the images, the somewhat non-meaningful data that leaves the really good stuff; personality, emotional and mental connection, backbenched as the least important of all.

I feel like I’m making my point and case here on online dating being fundamentally shallow, but wait! I have more …

Tick – Another notch to the bedpost

So it’s a virtual dating marketplace full of people less focussed on us as people and more interested in our physical attributes. This all inevitably leads to one thing; Upping notches on the bedpost. In a BBC Report, ‘The Darkest Side of Online Dating‘, Shani Silver said, “The toughest elements for me involved being treated much like I was being used for free sex work. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts.”

Oh I feel you, Shani. It’s bloody exhausting trying to figure out peoples intentions with no real context as to what they actually want. Many will state they are looking for a relationship when in fact, they want casual fun only. And what can be even more mentally draining is ascertaining whether you are okay with those intentions. I enjoy sex. So much sot, that on the odd occasion I like to have it. But online dating has at times felt like a cycle of scratching an itch via deceit and un-honest intentions.

And all of it, this whole online dating situation, keeps serving as a reminder that a permanent back scratcher seems like an impossible task. It’s also repetitively tedious when notches on the bedpost feel like the main thing on offer.

The art of mosting

There’s hope of course (weren’t expecting that were you…)

Because once you’ve navigated all of this and made it to actually meeting in person and on a real life date no less! Sometimes, a person might hint at further dates, or that they’re ready to come off of dating sites. That they’ve built a connection unlike any other. A whole host of casual references that come on fast and hint to a future relationship. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?. Somehow in all that shallow, you found a keeper. I’m afraid to say that usually, it is just too good to be true.

Yes, I might be over-suspicious and massively pessimistic for an authentic optimist – I’ve got six years of online dating experiences to thank for that. But trust me, mosting is like ghosting, only worse. And this tactic that people use out there in the dating world is far too frequent for my liking. They give a false sense that the relationship means something, that it’s going somewhere, all in aid of a bedpost notch.

So my advice to myself now in any and all dating scenarios? Stop and calm the fuck down. It’s a very rare find that will actually mean those words so early on. It takes time to really get to know a person IRL. Online dating provides a big old number of hurdles to get over. And in my experience, it can create a false sense of connection and commitment. Actions really do speak louder than words here.

A whole world of dating possibilities, but still fundamentally shallow

Online dating offers an extensive array of platforms to peruse and meet new people. It’s a whole world of dating possibilities. However it is also appearance prioritised, extremely difficult to truly connect with a person and deceit is rife!

Success is definitely possible, despite my deeply biased experience and opinion of it. But online dating is also fundamentally shallow. As I said, it’s just my opinion, and I’ll be happy to be proven wrong one day. But until then, this is just a few thoughts from a friend who didn’t have a fucking clue what she went into when she started online dating.

Is online dating fundamentally shallow? If it is, is there a way to fix the flaws? Hit me with your thoughts! Interested in more on this topic? Click here for Online Dating, Do we need to change the game?

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

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