Ten years ago, that was something you never wanted to hear. Now, it’s no big deal. These days, most people have tried online dating at least once. It’s simply another way people socialize; the internet has forever changed the way we interact. The world is no longer the one our parents dated in. Welcome to Okcupid, the place where you can say anything, and someone will still go out with you.
Anonymity was the main reason I was attracted to online dating. I could meet people outside of my social circle and go on dates without the gossip. I used to dread questions like “how did it go?” or “do you think he’ll call?” If the date was truly awful, it was embarrassing to rehash–if the date went extraordinarily well, I wouldn’t want to spoil it by talking about it to death. I wanted my life to be my own, not someone else’s to live vicariously through, to judge my choices.
In the past, joining an online dating site meant you were desperate, that you ran out of options. Like Fight Club, the cardinal rule of online dating was never to talk about it. You simply pretended you met your sweetie “IRL”–at a bar or through a friend.
Okcupid is particularly complicated because it’s free. Unlike Match.com, a paid service, anyone can join OKcupid. In this way, it’s become a hotspot for hookups. Let me say this, hookups are totally fine–so are relationships , so is polyamory. Really, whatever works for you is cool with me. Yet, the longer I used Okcupid, the more clear it became that Okcupid was just another big college campus: full of people who didn’t want commitment. I was one of those people looking for serious, which apparently had gone out of style. Of course, I never got the memo.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved the fact that Okcupid was free, because it meant a broke poet like me could use the web as an opportunity to broaden my social circle. When some dates didn’t go the romantic route, I was able to forge friendships that I still consider strong. Since it doesn’t cost money, more young people are using the site, especially in New York City where you’re only a subway ride away.
OKcupid makes sense–most people in their twenties grew up with instant messaging, where interacting with a person in a screen is second nature.
As a woman, I found internet dating to be empowering. Instead of waiting for someone to approach me, as was expected sixty years ago, I was starting to make the first move. I went from an insanely shy girl to a woman who could go up to a man and ask him out, without anxiety. Of course, messaging someone on Okcupid does not take as much courage as physically going up to someone, but it is a small step that can leader to bigger steps.
I was in control. I was able to schedule dates for any day of the week, meet as many or as little people as possible, decide who I wanted to be with, not feel guilty for pursuing my sexuality, not feel pressured by friends. Most of all, I could protect my privacy. I finally had agency. Using the site made it easier for me to be bold, to go up to men at parties or bars without feeling stung by potential rejection.
However, there is also a serious problem attached to online dating–one that may be changing human interaction for the worse.
It enables people to say outrageously inappropriate comments they wouldn’t otherwise. There are no filters because men and women are desensitized by the lack of a physical reaction.
There is no way to spill a glass of water in a someone’s face through a screen, after all.
It wasn’t just me–most women I’ve spoken with have admitted to receiving offensive, overtly sexual comments on sites. While it may be expected to receive some bizarre messages, joining a dating site is not consent for verbal harassment. For example, I’ve received messages where men have asked to see my breasts without even meeting me, pestered me for threesomes (even though I clearly stated in my profile that I wasn’t interested in one), ridiculed me for having short hair. One man even offered to pay me to watch him masturbate–I immediately blocked him.
Let me just say this: it’s hard to weird me out. I don’t care if you have crazy sexual fetishes–it’s certainly not wrong, and I’m not in the business of demoralizing sexual behavior as long as it’s consensual. Along with the internet came cyber-sex–sex is always in demand and technology just supplies it faster. You want it, you got it.
However, the fast pace of cyber dating often erases social etiquette. Wanting sex is okay, but breaking down all barriers by immediately forcing someone into cyber-sex via screen shots of your genitals is not. When you meet someone at a party, you don’t shake with your penis, do you? Unless I’m mistaken, that’s called assault. The same rules should apply to the internet. Let’s stay classy, considerate, and connected.
Or, just wait for the zombie apocalypse: