Its 7am on Wednesday morning. My phone alarm is beeping away on the floor and as I roll over and silence it, I notice a new ‘hinge’ like;
Ooo…lets have a look... Swiping the notification, I enter my password and it goes direct to Andrews profile.
For a few seconds I can’t quite make out what it is.
Then…oh…Wtf is tha-?
It’s a snapshot of his groin – in the bath!
My eyes are met with a horrible beige coloured bath with an equally terrible thing staring right out of my phone screen -at 7am on a Wednesday morning this is all bit much.
It’s just the crotch, nothing else, no face, no other pictures. This is what he’s decided to lead with to woo the ladies. The beige hairy thing.
Without hesitation I press the ‘x’ and head for the shower. Im sorry but its a ‘no’ from me Andrew.
For any men reading this, let me take the opportunity to make one thing incredibly clear; sending badly lit images of your limp phallus is not, and will never be, a turn on. Its also the digital equivalent of being flashed by the creepy guy who hangs around public parks at night - just don't.
Back in January, and after the death of a family member, I thought it might be a good idea to remember I wasn't go to be here forever. After 4 years of more or less avoiding dating apps (and being lucky enough to still meet people anyway), I thought it was time to give it a go.
New Years Day I downloaded 'Hinge' and made it a bit of a resolution to just have a look and see how we got on.
I've been on Tinder exactly 2 times in my life; once fresh out of a break up and in desperate need of male validation (we've all been there..), and secondly when I first moved to Italy. This time I was in a bar, my phone hi-jacked by two friends who proceeded to spend the evening matching me with the whole of Lake Garda. The next day I had to cancel about 5 different dates, delete the app and wonder if I should dye my hair (it was a small town.)
Anyway, before I go any further, I just want to say a couple of things; 1) I know there are a lot of people, and maybe some of you, who have been lucky enough to meet someone wonderful through a dating app. The aim of this post is not to dis-credit that in any way whatsoever and, 2) I do believe (despite what you are about to read), that online and app dating is a potential way to meet someone great, its just becoming the equivalent to actually finding that needle in the haystack.
So, if you met on an app - well done, good for you, I'm glad it worked out etc etc but for anyone who is just tired of the chorus of 'just go on an app!' from all their loved up friends (as if this is somehow this is the only answerto finding someone to share a sofa with...), let me break down why its not a 'one size fits all' thing and why it would great if we didn't completely abandon the idea of meeting each other in the wild again.
When Tinder first emerged into the world a few years ago, I saw a few friends and acquaintances fall into happy relationships through meeting on the app.
Despite this, I just couldn't shake that the whole thing kind of freakedme out. It just all felt a bit weird. How can you just pick up a mobile phone, swipe through a few people, find one you like the look of, go on a date and suddenly you're all happy and in love?! It felt no different than ordering a pizza.
I remembered finding the whole concept really depressing. Where was the mystery? Where was the surprise? Was every love story now going to start with; 'well it all began one fateful late night swiping session on Tinder....'Jane Austen would be turning in her grave.
Fortunately, 5 years on, I don't think I'm alone in not wanting to meet him on an app. While app dating definitely solves the problem of how to meet someone for those in an isolating job, place or situation, relying on it as a primary method of dating when there is so much an app can't tell us about somebody, is a bit of a step in the wrong direction.
Have you ever been thrown together with a bunch of people to work on a project/form a team and after a while you find yourself drawn to someone you may have not looked twice at when you first met? You're not sure what it is or where it came from, and maybe theyre not even your usual type - but you just can't keep your eyes off them. 'Wait what? - we fancy you?! really?...well ok then..'
Ever found yourself wildly attracted to a person because being around them was just so nice? Or because of how they talked? Or some other quirk you couldn't get enough of? (I know I have) So when we know this, why do we think we can reduce knowing what we'll be attracted to down to a selection of photos on a technological device - when attraction and chemistry are so much more that what you see on the surface.
And what about...smell?
Something my mother has always reiterated (whether we wanted to hear it or not ...) is 'He has to smell right!!' and I'd be inclined to agree. Smell is one of the biggest subconscious players in who we are attracted to and if the smell ain't right, it doesn't really matter about anything else. Do any of us want to spend the rest of our lives snugging up to someone we don't like the natural smell of? Probs not.
Yet with an app you might spend days texting someone, getting excited about them….only to meet up and find you have as much chemistry as a pair of damp socks.
Thing is, stuff like voice, smell - they may seem superficial but they're pretty vital. If you'd just met in the wild first, you would have subconsciously noticed them straight away, probably had a nice chat - and that would have been that. No awkward texting, no waste of expensive make up, and no unnecessary feeling of disappointment.
When I look at my exes, or times when I found myself wildly attracted to someone, firstly, it was usually a surprise, and secondly, it rarely had much to do with things we so often use to promote ourselves online. I have swiped through endless profile pictures of sky-diving, snowboarding, six-pack selfies and graduation pictures, along with boastful biographies of travel stories of escaping arrest in Vietnam or getting mugged in Columbia. Or how you've already read 50 books and done 7 triathlons this year and its only March.
Honestly, none of this turns me on and it just sounds like I'd get really tired trying to keep up with you.
These things don't tell me anything about what kind of person you really are. We all like to travel (hell, what kind of psychopath doesn't like going on holiday?!), we all want to be successful on some level and EVERYONE likes David Attenborough, so these things give me no information about why I should go out with Josh and not Simon - and definitely not Steve.
Most of you are probably really nice men, with fewer intentions other than dinner and full sex. Im joking, but I know you're not all bad. We all want to put our best foot forward and how off our finest moments and most chiselled angles - but much of that stuff becomes quickly irrelevant if theres' no physical chemistry.
The problem is that just like social media, most of us are showing the world who we think people will like, rather than who we actually are.
The true essence of a person can only ever be experienced in real life - which is why an app can't give you anymore indication to soul mate than a picture in a magazine of an attractive model.
So isn’t all that pre-whatsapping just a big waste of time?
Most people have no solid idea who they are...or what they're really looking for. I mean this in a nice way - because even the most self-aware among us often can't see themselves very clearly.
Apps are always asking you 'who are you?' 'write your bio here.' and the wish to be perceived as the best version of ourselves when we're on the hunt for a mate is one of the most human things in the world. I'm not knocking this, we all do it, but again, its another reason why online dating is so incredibly flawed.
A very close friend of mine used an app for a couple of months and kept me thoroughly entertained with her shenanigans throughout. On several occasions the men turned out to be nothing like they seemed to think they were. It wasn't necessarily 'catfishing', just a tremendous lack of self awareness.
One man firmly re-iterated that he had no time for a relationship yet texted her constantly before having a tantrum when she wanted to leave at 10pm one evening - (it was too 'early' and meant she was 'rejecting' him.) Another cried about his ex the second time they met up after proclaiming how over her he was, and a third, who apparently resembled the bald guy from little Britain, tried to kiss her...as she was cycling away from him. There was also this fabulous text below from a man who had previously ghosted her...
Of course we laughed about it (or we probably would have cried), but do we really want to put up with this crap?
As someone who is old enough to remember the hoo-hah that was raised when the internet first became a thing, specifically this stern warning;
" never, ever arrange to meet up with anyone you meet on the internet! They will be weirdos! And they will kill you!’
Oh how the tables have turned...
Sometimes I have also seen a worrying pattern. It goes like this; person comes out of one relationship. Within days, hours, minutes even, said person has ignited Tinder/Bumble/Hinge/Grindr. Within a few weeks they are suddenly in a new relationship, often with someone who bares a striking resemblance to the previous one. Sometimes the cycle can repeat itself and having seen this happen a few times, its one of the main reasons I have remained wary of dating app world.
Rather than process the breakdown of a relationship, which is likely to be painful, uncomfortable and essentially a grieving process, dating apps create the illusion you can literally just go to the shop and buy a new one. Like buying a new jumper because you left the old one on a bus.
But working through what went wrong in a previous relationship, grieving it and learning from it is an essential part of personal growth, and sometimes if you don't do this, it can comes back to bite you on the bum - usually when you're bored of the new distraction....and the cycle starts again.
The problem arises when the ease of being able to order human affection like a take away starts to remove the space required for healing after a break-up. Dating apps are a re-bound dream, but that doesnt mean its healthy.
Anyway, negativity aside, I know there are many of you who did meet on an app, the stars aligned, you fell in love and now you're about to buy your first sofa together. Well done. Good for you. But after 3 months, I haven't been sold. Of the people I did engage in some extensive texting with, one guy seemed alright until I woke up one morning to a 2am text saying 'Hey you up - fancy doing some acid?'
My personal experience is fairly minimal, but I have spent near enough the last 4 years watching and hearing many of my friends meet, fall for, get ghosted by and sometimes even have to physically run awayfrom, people they've met online.
I have heard horror story after horror story of being kissed unexpectedly, chased, or as a friend told me recently, someone tried to follow her into her taxi when she rejected his request to go home together. Consenting to a date with someone doesn't also mean you consented to sex, kissing or any other form on physical intimacy - but with dating apps apparently sometimes it does.
And I know you're not all bad, but dating apps are not for me. Of course, it is an avenue of meeting someone, for sure. There are some really great guys out there but I just don't have the energy to find you via the internet. Thinking up witty WhatsApp chat at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon, when I'm fairly sure this person is speaking to 4 other girls with blonde hair who like skiing and have a dark sense of humour also - im good thanks.
Dating apps have become perceived as a solution;'oh I don't have to go out and socialise, or join a club, or work on improving my life - I can just go on an app and find someone!' or 'oh I don't have to be brave and ask that girl out I keep seeing on my commute every morning..i'll just go on an app instead!' This is the bit I think we have wrong. To be happy, and to meet the right people and find the right relationships, you have to do all of these things. You have to be brave and you have to be vulnerable - because at the end of the day, that's ultimately where real connection lies.
It may seem like a quick fix to your loneliness, or a shortcut to intimacy, but I think it could be creating a whole new set of chaos and misconception around relationships. Real, healthy intimacy is not something you can swipe right and just find and when if comes to matters of the heart, there are so many more intangible elements in who we choose that can never be pinpointed by the algorithm on an app.
So hopefully this is just a phase, and with a bit of luck, soon we can all go back to eyeing each other up on public transport and making awkward small talk in coffee shops....