Is internet dating turning us into gross monsters?

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

[photo by Dunja Opalko]

Oh poor, dwindling, non existent and depressing love life - how you keep me young and alive.
Your tantrums that turn from do-or-do-not dinner dates to where-the-F-are-my-dinner-invites enthral and entice me.
Or they did, when either of those were complaints to worry about, now it's much more complex.

There are many things that infuriate me at the moment and they culminate to a long list of lustlessness that the thought of welcoming anything into my life, man or indeed fluffy tailed dog, leaves me feeling on the most part- nonplussed.
Leading that loin leashing pack of date defying destruction is the app Raya.
Up until two months ago Raya was the name of a beautiful friend of mine that I'd always imagined to run around the forest singing to butterflies and writing poetry under an apple tree.
Now, sadly, Raya is known to me as the name of an exclusive dating app that has an algorithm which analyses your instagram following, creative career and good looks.
For the conscious majority of my post adolescent life (it's only been a year, take it easy) I like to think I've lived with strong morals and a sense of self that is as complimentary and kind to myself and womankind as possible. This version of me dissipated when it heard about Raya, conveniently.

I have always professed I prefer personality to looks and that I'd never judge a book by its cover (I still stand by that, even more so after writing this) but this app really caught me off guard and like the cat I was curious and hoped the creme I caught could be Harry Styles wanting to fall in love with me or something vaguely tantalising to cheer up the fact I've not had a date since November.

I applied for Raya with very little knowledge of what could ensue other than a friend of mine ending up going on a date with that girl who was in Kick Ass and an article circulating that Zac Efron was 'probably' on it. Any sort of probability for me was enough.
'Excellent,' I thought 'The opportunity to date someone who didn't go to High Wycombe Grammar School and is now a BT engineer.' Cruel and crass yes, true and honest, also yes.
I paid my £5.99, stuck myself on the waiting list and waited... three days.
Three days and £5.99 is a lot less time and money I've spent sitting on the Soho House membership list and arguably, I'd be doing exactly the same thing there but with an expensive glass of wine, so I didn't really care. Moral obligations now only a PO code on the end of a Paypal invoice.

Upon acceptance I hoped to find exactly that. A hoard of Joe Jonas' messaging wanting to fly me to California for a weekend of dinner, kissing and talking about how great and masterful our social influence is on the world...or whatever a first date with him is supposed to be like. (I did genuinely swipe past Joe Jonas, it was less exciting than I'd hoped.)
But instead I was left feeling like the ugliest little chipolata sausage that nobody wanted to prize out of the package and BBQ. I felt scrutinised and unfunny, chubby and unintelligent.
I felt, unsurprisingly in a sea of Z list celebrities, very normal.
A normal girl that should be swiping past Dan from High Wycombe Grammar that wants to talk about his long hard day wiring broadband boxes.
To be fair on Dan, he probably holds much better chat than any of the 'cool creatives' with nigh on 1.5million instagram minions that I'd matched with or even better than the unheard of DJ's and the ex baby daddy's of boy-bands makeup artists. It really was dull. If you want 'Netflix and chill' I'd rather you asked upfront so I could decline politely instead of having to decipher a wrongly quoted Oscar Wilde line that likens my uploaded selfies to that of a 19th century heroin.
In fact, why had having 30 thousand instagram followers suddenly given me a pedestal to stand on that suggested I was miles better than Dan? That me and all these other guys, stood on our self-crafted pedestals embellished by some tech-smart men in silicon valley, would have better conversation or more in common shouting at each other on our platforms than Dan and I might have had sat in a pub in the Chilterns? We are all just sacks of thoughts and desires, after all.

The level of egotism I'd grown was gross and almost unfathomable for a girl who's always been incredibly self-conscious and never felt worthy of even accepting a drink.
Now I was this weird ring leader whipping boys into my digital den expecting them to think I was just as funny and as cool as their actress counterparts and take me on holiday and when they didn't I was probably mentally slagging Tinder Dan off for not trying hard enough.

My skepticism took a break when I matched with a guy whom was in a band I'd adored for a good while. I'd always imagined we'd get on well but front row never seemed to be the right time to propose a drink or rattle on about my favourite books. This was it.
I endured twenty four hours of sarcastic grief, a lost sense of charm that swam alongside the nonchalance of a fourteen year old boy who'd just discovered his penis.
Whilst my exploits on Tinder and Happn had been mostly uneventful, they were always seemingly sweet and good intentioned, no one had ever told me they liked to 'put a pipe on their exhaust and sit in their car' for fun to see what sort of sadistic reaction it'd gain.
I started to miss being asked if my dad was a thief, if it hurt when I fell, or even something as brash an unimaginative as 'you're fit'.
Jesus wept, what a depressing sort of nostalgia.
Nearly as depressing as re-sorting my photos on the app wondering if the ones I'd uploaded weren't saying enough about my personality or attracting the right kind of guys.
It's a wonder I'm not seeing a counsellor about this or that anyone of our generation has an iota of self esteem that's not completely and utterly insane.

It's not that all guys on Raya are arseholes, I wouldn't know, I've only spoken to a few.
But churning anyone with an ego big enough to sign themselves up for 'premium dating' (admittedly myself included) into a pot of other egos, batting each other off on social following, good looks and what sort of ex reality star freelance work they do isn't going to bring out the best in anyone.
It's enticing, it's the most rough traded and nonconstructive compliment you could give anyone to download. 'Here! You're famous on the internet! Keep away from the fans and the riffraff! By the way an algorithm has decided that you are passably good looking and your social statistics are sexy! Now procreate!'
It's like going to the popular kids party at school, it sounds great but it's desperately depressing and inflated on the inside. I'd know, I held a few of them, with the deepest and utmost regret to my sanity.
Sure, it's not brilliant being recognised on a dating app (it's only happened to me twice, both times just as mortifying, alas not life ending) but 'Plenty Of Fish' for plenty of Youtubers is a solid step on a ladder of elitism that holds no benefit to anyone. Truly.

The conclusion I come to is more of a farewell and a lengthened sigh, instead of throwing my keys to Hollywood over my shoulder and running Adidas Original clad back to Tinder, filled with revive for good ol' Dan and the other Tom's and Jack's who he went to school with, I've decided to digitally deliberate no more.
No more terrified first liners, no more angling lists of pictures of myself looking 'sexy and coy but the kind of girl you'd want your mum to meet', no more bullshit that literally only leaves you feeling like aforementioned chipolata and still dateless.

See you at the bar, I'll be flicking my hair the old fashioned way.


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