Tuesday 6 December 2016

If you are honest and straightforward dating apps can leave you very exposed

This generation of millennials are riven by deep insecurity, anxiety and the crushing burden of leading this 'open access' life, which prompts Claire Mc Cormack to ask, where is all the romance gone?

Claire Mc Cormack

Published 10/01/2016 | 16:00

Tradition: TV presenter Lucy Worsley says the mystery of romance is gone nowadays as it’s too easy to meet people Photo: Richard Saker
Tradition: TV presenter Lucy Worsley says the mystery of romance is gone nowadays as it’s too easy to meet people Photo: Richard Saker

I have a problem with Tinder - not with the people who use it. After all it can be a bit of craic, window shopping for the lovelorn. And for those crippled with shyness and anxiety, the initial boundary wall of technology between you and the object of your desire can feel like a security blanket.

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But I can't help but feel that security blanket is a great deception.

Because if you are genuinely looking for a relationship, as opposed to a drink and a one-night stand, Tinder can leave you dreadfully exposed and vulnerable.

Yes, there have been Tinder weddings and I know some great relationships that began on dating websites. But what about the rest of the time?

You see, what people regard as one of the great advantages of dating websites, relative anonymity, is exactly the opposite.

And if you are honest and straightforward in your dealings online, you can be setting yourself up for hurt and disappointment.

People know too much about you, too soon. Or they think they know.

They get the headlines, without the story. And they jump to conclusions.

She's from a rural village in Kerry. Translation: GAA supporting boggar.

He is from the southside of Dublin. Translation: Rugby playing Heineken supping bore with a high opinion of himself.

Both, of course, simply lies of stereotype.

And then of course there is the lie of the super-enhanced version of yourself that everyone is tempted to post online.

Reading other articles on these pages, one might get the impression that the under 30s are all having great fun. Easy, uninhibited, unfettered by old-fashioned values and constraints.

But I think that is another great lie. I think that there is loneliness out there among tens of thousands of young men and women.

I believe many of this generation are riven by deep insecurity, anxiety and the crushing burden of being coerced into leading this "open access" life that just isn't them.

If I could say one thing to all the young people out there it would be: take back your mystery. You don't have to give it away online for the whole world to see.

Over the last decade Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media sites have encouraged us to create virtual, often enhanced, versions of ourselves.

And the pressure to conform is huge.

The same goes for Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Match.com and many other dating sites and dating apps.

Young people are constantly bombarded with notions that "going online" is the most efficient and convenient way to find a fleeting or long-term partner.

But what has happened to real romance?

Friendships that blossom into something more, the frisson of a first meeting?

Is it old fashioned to spot someone across a crowded room and to hold their gaze for a fraction of a second too long?

Is it old fashioned for a guy to ask a girl out on a date face to face?

How can you gauge physical attraction, the first building block of a relationship, from a Facebook profile or a Tinder snap?

And why are young men and women always so eager to know your surname? So they can Google the hell out of you and find out exactly what you are NOT like.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, published in 1933, romance is defined as "a prevailing sense of wonder or mystery surrounding the mutual attraction in a love affair".

But with every 'swipe', 'like', 'match' and 'ping', technology is reshaping this perception.

In a way, going online is forcing us to lose that 'sense of mystery'.

Lucy Worsley, a British historian and TV presenter, claimed that romance is dying because it has become "too easy" to meet new people via dating apps and the internet.

In a BBC interview she said couples today no longer faced the obstacles that traditionally made for strong romantic encounters.

"How could Jane Austen have written her novels about the slow, exquisite torture of love in an age of Grindr and Tinder, when bored singletons search for one-night stands with a few clicks of their mobiles?," she said.

"Austen's heroines worked hard to find 'The One' by overcoming obstacles of social class, parental disapproval and the law. But these days it's far too easy for romance to flourish," she said.

Actor Colin Farrell also recently admitted his confusion over the online dating obsession.

"The idea of choosing someone based on them being the exact same as you ... is a rather narcissistic approach to things. And yet that's what a lot of the internet dating is, 'These are my interests. Do you share the same interests? Well, let's go and share our interests together,' he said.

"But if you meet someone who has different interests, they can open your eyes to something different and something you've not experienced before,'' he told the Guardian.

Last year, it was revealed that the Tinder app has been downloaded more than 50 million times since it launched in 2012, with around 26 million matches made every day.

Around 38pc are aged between 16 and 24 while 45pc are aged 25 to 34.

Just 4pc are over 45.

Willie Daly, the veteran Irish love doctor who introduces hundreds of potential couples at the annual Lisdoonvarna matching-making festival in Co Clare, has said searching for love online can never replace physical attraction and compatibility.

"You are dealing with a machine, it's very cold and it can be manipulative enough if used in the wrong hands. It doesn't have feelings or emotion," he said.

"You have to tread very carefully, make sure it's being used properly without taking advantage of a person's vulnerability," he said.

However, he also recognises that going online can be a very attractive option for people that find it difficult to mix in social situations.

"You have to be realistic, not everybody is outgoing in life.

"There are lots of nice, decent, respectable people who feel they don't fit into the disco or pub scene so they would see that as a big benefit," he said.

He says digital dating is just as complicated as traditional methods.

"It hasn't gotten any easier for single people to meet that nice decent person. There's more choice but that hasn't improved the possibility of success," he said.

Mr Daly says he's "constantly surprised" by the number of gorgeous young people aged 19-24, asking him to help them find love, a partner to marry or simply a friendship.

"I would say to myself 'God Almighty how are you having any problems?'" he said.

In the years ahead, Mr Daly believes more young people will find love in similar dancehalls to where their parents first met.

"Country music is huge again, it had almost come to a complete standstill 10 years ago. It's therapeutic music but it's equally a great opportunity for looking and searching," he said.

"When a man is out having a dance and he has his arms around a lovely woman that can bring romance. It can encourage him and he may ask to meet her another night and it may go further than that," he said.

"In our pursuit of happiness there is no shoe but there is a stocking to fit.

"There is someone for everyone and there's never such a time in a person's life that it's too late to fall in love," he said.

Sunday Independent

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