Why Do Dating Apps Exist If We Only Find Love When We're Not Looking?
It was mid-August, and the summer heat was obstinate as ever. It had taken its toll, and I'd completely given up on my appearance before leaving the house in the morning.
My standard outfit was all-black-everything, mismatched sneakers, hair in a bun and bouts of frizz unintentionally hanging in my face and stuck on with sweat.
Bartending had taken its toll, too; I was endlessly exhausted from mixing drinks and slinging bottles.
Early mornings had become my new bedtime. Still, the job kept me busy and out of my head, and I didn’t have much time for much else.
One Saturday night, I happened to be working the late shift. The late shift typically began at 8 pm and ended as late as 5 am, which at least meant I didn't get the happy hour crowd.
I was stuck with the hammered folks who were halfway down the black hole of self-despair (I’d like to call them the “too drunk to be true" crowd).
Not long past midnight, a shaggy-haired guy sat down at the bar. I poured him a whiskey neat, and we ended up talking for hours. As the night began to slip away from us, he handed me his card.
I was no stranger to getting hit on; I did, after all, work in a bar. But he wasn’t like my typical male customer -- the kind of person whose belligerence pushed everyone away. He was unpretentious, and his vibe pulled me right in.
We dated for eight months.
It was a breath of fresh air after singledom. What a wonderful thing it was to start a new chapter without having to lift a finger to turn the page.
He wasn’t the love of my life, but I’ll always remember that night. I looked terrible, but he was still curious. And it all led to something serious.
I loved him, but I also loved that I found him when I most expected to be resigned to a life of cats and liquor bottles. There was something inherently romantic about the way he swooped in out of thin air.
I’ve always subscribed to the widely-held belief that we find love when we don’t look for it. Or, we find sustaining love when we don't seek it.
I mean, isn’t that what people tell us all the time -- that not searching for something makes us most likely to find it?
These words make sense. Sure, certain things in life do well with concerted effort. Disciplined exercise brings physical strength.
Climbing up the career ladder makes us mentally tough. And then there's love -- and the challenge of keeping it alive. Relationships need maintenance.
But as for finding love, we often get the best results when we don't put in any effort at all. Maybe it's this part that we shouldn't control.
But we try. People seemed to collectively decide that we should be more proactive in our dating lives.
And so they created Grindr, Tinder, Hinge... the list goes on. But the moment my phone became flooded with dating apps is the moment my brain became flooded with existential questions.
Should I really search for love in the same way as I pick out an outfit? Doesn’t the mere existence of dating apps challenge the idea that not-seeking leads to finding? And, if we increase our quantity of options, does the quality of our relationships suffer?
I turned to numbers. According to a recent Michigan State University study, people who meet romantic prospects online will not stay together as long as couples who meet in person will.
But why the apps in the first place? Dawoon Kang, co-founder of the dating app Coffee Meets Bagel, believes that the abundance of dating apps is simply due to a higher volume of adult singles.
And these adult singles aren't kidding around: The average Tinder user spends 77 minutes a day on the app.
Interestingly enough, the gay community uses technology for romance more than any other community. Eighty percent of gay men meet their long-term partners online. In 2001, this number stood at 14 percent.
I'm not trying to be a one-woman army against people who use dating apps. I'm just questioning our instinct to hide behind them.
Numbers show that most people are meeting their partners the old-fashioned way. One study found that 39 percent of 2,300 people between 18 and 34 years old met romantic partners through friends.
Twenty-two percent met through unspecified social situations, 18 percent met through work, 10 percent met online and 6 percent connected on social media.
Are dating apps heaven on earth... or the devil's creation? Do we find the best love when we expect the worst? I could drive myself crazy with theory after theory.
Maybe we're seeking love because we're pressured by age or friends. Maybe we're simply trying to fend off loneliness.
Maybe those 77 minutes spent on Tinder every day could be better spent playing minigolf and falling in love with the cute caddy.
Or maybe we’re all just hopeless romantics with bad luck.