If there’s one thing the majority of the internet can agree on, it’s that online dating is bad – and that’s not just because you aren’t having any luck with it.
After all, it’s now the main way for couples to meet, much to the detriment of many other forms of social wellbeing. Perhaps it’s only a coincidence, but the rise in use of dating apps has correlated with a decrease in cohabitation, marriage, sex, time spent with friends and an overall increase in loneliness. There’s good reason, then, to want to give the apps up. But that’s easier said than done. What if, instead of cutting yourself off from the world of online dating entirely, you gave yourself a half-way alternative: dating on your computer rather than your phone.
The beginning of problems associated with online dating can be traced back to the advent of early websites like Match.com in 1995, but it wasn’t until we all had smartphones in our hands that things took a turn towards isolation. Thirty years ago, online dating might have seemed like a bit of a niche pursuit – an anomaly, even. Now, it’s shifted our culture to the point that many of us seem to have forgotten how to date any other way. Perhaps taking romance back to the good old monitor is the happy medium we’ve been looking for.
I try to deal with things I consider to be important on my laptop rather than my phone. Unless it’s time-sensitive and I have no other option, I loathe responding to emails on a tiny keyboard. If something as minor as sending one correspondence warrants a full-sized screen, shouldn’t that apply to our romantic life, too?
There’s evidence to suggest we’re more careful on a computer than on a phone – people make five times as many writing errors when they’re tapping away, for example. Rather than mindlessly swiping through someone’s dating profile with your thumb like you would doomscroll on Insta while watching TV, give yourself the space to sit down at a table and devote yourself fully to the task at hand.
Don’t be put off by thinking you’d need to log onto old-school dating sites, either. Tinder, OKCupid and Bumble all offer desktop versions of their apps, though Hinge has yet to catch on. Saying that, it could be worth giving those websites of generations past a try, too, particularly if you’re looking for something serious. Match and eHarmony are designed for establishing monogamous relationships over the hook-up-centric likes of Tinder.
Who knows, joining a dating site you’d consider a little out of your comfort zone might turn out to be the reframing experience you need. You might be encouraged to devote more time to sharpening up your profile, or have conversations with people who might fall outside your usual dating pool – which sounds better than an algorithm determining matches based on a handful of photos and locations.
And if dating on the computer doesn’t work out, maybe that’ll push you to try an even better, more challenging approach: dating IRL. Of course, the goal isn’t to try and push you into something so terribly unpleasant that you’ll want to give up on the venture entirely, but rather reconsider what it is you’re getting from the dating landscape at large. How are we, as individuals, playing a part in managing that?
There are alternatives, even in half-measures like using the desktop version of Bumble rather than the app. We can’t escape all the consequences of a dating world shaped by our phones, but we do have some agency in our own lives to dictate how we manage them.