Dating..... I'm currently having some time off this kind of activity, so I thought, as it was Valentine's Day I would pen an article about dating, with the hope that maybe I could get some clarity, or some answers, or if I can't have either of those, maybe I can just get somethings off my chest.
To begin with, I checked out Urban Dictionary for a definition (I thought this was probably the most appropriate place) and it stated:
'Dating is where two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they also can stand to be around each other most of the time, if this is successful they develop a relationship, although sometimes a relationship develops anyways if the people can't find anybody else to date them, or are very lonely or one person is only attracted to the other and pretends to be in love with the second unfortunate person who has the misunderstanding that they have found love. This occurs quite often and eventually leads to something called cheating'.
As you can imagine reading this brought some humour around the topic, I mean objectively that whole sentence sounds like joke, right? However, believe me dating in 2019 is by no means a joke, in fact sometime I struggle to find fun in it at all. Disclaimer: I am a fun person!
Before I start, I would like to point out that I'm not alone in my thoughts - I have spoken to both men and women about their struggle with dating, therefore whilst my thoughts today are my own, they are informed by others.
I should also state that my own dating history is rather up and down, whilst I have had a number of serious boyfriends I have spent a vast amount of my time as a single independent person with my last serious relationship being over 4 years ago. I have no problem being single, in fact mostly I quite like it, and over time you can get quite used to the autonomy and flexibility it brings. In addition, having observed many other peoples relationships I often feel lucky to be 'pretty okay' on my own, because quite frankly at times it appears a lot less hassle. However, you can't ignore the human desire to be connected intimately with another, and for someone who believes that connection is extremely important, I won't and cannot deny that it would be nice (maybe).
Personally, I have been 'dating' on and off for the past 4 years. I'm not even sure you can call it dating either (when looked alongside the above definition anyways) as I'm not sure 1 or 2 dates with the same person can technically be classed as 'spending time' with one another. However, I find nowadays even going on a date can often feel like a chore and considering I'm not opposed to spending time with the opposite sex I find these thoughts troubling, difficult to comprehend and deeply saddening. Let's be clear here though, its not that I don't want to go, nor that I don't like dating, BUT the process that you now have to go through is often quite time consuming, boring and non-stimulating, which is not what you want when you first meet someone. These thoughts and feelings have being playing on my mind for quite some time now, which is why I have finally put pen to paper.
It is not only my own self-interests here either, it societies. If we take a look at Japan's under-40s for example who have be reported to have lost interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. For their government, 'celibacy syndrome' is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060 Aoyama believes the country is experiencing 'a flight from human intimacy' – if you want to read more about that you can do so here.
In 10 or 20 years' time, will we even like each other? Or will we all have AI powered girlfriends and boyfriends called Evie and John, and will we all have developed 'celibacy syndrome' like those in Japan? Now, I'm no relationship expert but in my opinion we have a serious dating problem and I'm going to try and explain why. So here goes:
Issue 1: Online dating is a minefield, over the past 5 or so years I've been on Bumble, Happn, POF, Luxy, Hinge, Inner Circle, The league, and the infamous Tinder. But there are now hundreds of different apps which try to lure you into thinking that you can find the one to sweep you off your feet. Whilst apps like these have sky rocketed in popularity, they have also brought us ghosting, Instagrandstanding (yes I have no idea either), breadcruming and zombieing (yes I had to google these).
Dating sites have tricked us to believe that we have more dating options than ever before, however, despite having an unlimited number of profiles at our finger tips, in actual reality less is more and we fall into a trap called 'analysis paralysis'. Schwartz summed it up perfectly in his book 'The Paradox of Choice', 'we receive less value in each option we have as the number of options grows.' Which cleverly brings me to.....
Issue 2: Choice.
Mostly, we spend time swiping (when mostly bored and in need of stimulation) and briefly chatting before one person says either a) something weird (calling me 'babe' for example or 'dropping the mic' as I like to call it after approximately 5 sentences or b) you become bored of the conversation and 'ghosting' occurs whilst both are off again swiping amongst the millions. This constant swiping is also conditioning our brain for instant gratification and instant reward (a successful swipe), the dopamine fix in the pursuit (the want) but the reward (the match) becoming meaningless. Nine times out of ten, both individuals are talking to multi-people, consuming both energy, time and attention. This amount of virtual attention, often leaves us feeling like we no longer need to find the actual 'physical' time to go on a date. Ironically, we don't go out on dates anywhere near the same amount as we did decades ago.
Issue 3: Expectation.
If you do of course end up going on a date with someone, you've already come to the conclusion that this person is worth the 'effort'. Expectations are high, and you turn up and he/she is nothing like their WhatsApp 'chat'. You know that confident, cheeky, flirty guy over text, well he is now suddenly just an average guy/gal, and the idea of 'him/her' that you had imagined in your head of the 'perfect' person (whatever the outcome you had in mind) has vanished after just one drink. We are also living in a highly perfectionistic world, whereby expectations are not only focused inwardly, but we project it on to others. We expect people to tick all of our boxes on a first date, needing that instant gratification or we are off looking elsewhere, therefore never giving each other time to get to know one another.
Issue 4: Lets be too serious or let's just be 'casual'.
I will revert to my own personal example here. As I am the delightful age of 39, the one that often comes up very quickly (roughly I'd say around 2 or 3 lines in) 'are you looking for something serious'. I'm going to try and be as objective as possible but c'mon. Firstly, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess that I'm probably not looking to fool around for the rest of my life (especially with such a charmer who asks such a question, I mean, I WILL question your intelligence here) and secondly, you've said like 2 words to me and your talking as if we are going to get married. I mean I don't even know if I'm going to like your teeth, like how you smell, like how you talk, walk etc. (yes we do think about these things) and you're asking me if I want to be serious. Slow down tiger. As an independent (I'd like to think strong also) I'm also not prepared to fool around with people just because it suits their needs. I'm a grown up, I respect peoples time and value intimacy. Maturity and the expectation that you can have what you want, when you like it, how you like it is a prominent feature in dating. If you're not giving the person what they 'immediately' want (the dopamine fix), they will simply call you words associated with being 'frigid' or 'uptight' and disappear off into the pools of other eagerly awaiting daters. Furthermore, our younger generation often feel that they need to participate in such 'loose' behaviour just to be liked.
I have also been told that it has become far too easy to 'get laid' (not my words). Therefore, often the focus is not to get to know someone, as you often don't need to or get the chance. The chase and the excitement is also gone, therefore you simple move on.
Issue 5: Lack of connection and intimacy.
Of all the people we speak to, we probably will only venture out for dates with the few. We create a fake intimacy which can lure you into a false sense of connection, a fake reality so that you believe you like this person more than you think. Even if you have never met them before. This is often mistaken for 'feelings' or 'intimacy'. It can often feel as though you are actually having a 'relationship' with a phone. People begin to accept the bare minimum when it comes to connection, therefore missing out on a fundamental piece of the 'good stuff'. Technically, you could say we don't really physically 'date' anymore despite the only way to get to know someone is to meet them IN PERSON.
Issue 6: People lie.
People tell fake stories and fake news about themselves, they post social media images of a life they wish to portray, based on a fear of being judged and negatively evaluated. People talk up themselves, their jobs, their friends, the amount of money and success they have. Lying creates distrust. I've lost count of the amount of times I've heard people say 'they looked nothing like their photos in real life' due to acutely edited selfies and finely perfected (yet falsified) profile descriptive. Humans are also guilty of 'projecting', where we come up with conclusions about a person based on very little information - which can be easily demonstrated by the fact that 92% of our decision to contact someone is based on their profile photo. As a society we are also struggling with our identity, often we don't even know what our values are, what we need, and what will make us happy. We are confused by what we feel and desire, and instead of pursuing what we want, we feel guilty and ashamed causing us to shy away for what we truly want.
Issue 7: Time.
We live in a very busy and distracting world, therefore our time is often quite limited. We have busy jobs and fill our lives with busy activities. As a consequence, we often only spend our time with people we actually like.
Issue 8: Lack of face to face flirting.
Years ago (obviously when I was young) this happened A LOT! You know, the kind of flirting which you can't seem to walk away from so you end up talking for what seems like forever. This can often still happen in the workplace for example, but more times than not we flirt 'virtually'. Now bearing in mind only 7% of our communication is delivered by 'words', surely we cannot be that surprised that people can turn us off quickly. This is often just down to miss-communication, so we can often discard someone simply because they said the wrong thing. This can be taken to the extreme with judgements being made about one another simply by what people say and do (i.e. text too much, too little, don't reply straight away, only reply with limited wording', never ask questions... the list goes one).
I have listed above just a few issues which I, and my close friends have experienced, but its clear to see that we are living in a time which could be labelled as 'alarming'. After all, marriage is the cornerstone of society (I agree that marriage isn't for everyone, so I will suggest you come up with your own term here), and dating is the cornerstone of marriage. I'm sure most of you could add your own opinions and thoughts as this is such a wide topic, but I hope if anything I have been able to share with you some of the realities which we all face. In addition, I feel that perhaps some great people in this world are missing out on each other simply because of some of the above. I find that sad and a shame.
I will leave this post with my favourite definition of dating:
Dating is a form of human courtship consisting of social activities done by two persons with the aim of each assessing the other’s suitability as a spouse.
Key words being: Courtship, activities (not Netflix and chill), assessing (requires you to know what you need, first) and spouse.
PS no clarity or answers given, but I got a hell of a lot off my chest.
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About the author: Stacy Thomson is the founder of The Performance Club, she is a self described Mental Wealth Generator, Educator & Speaker.