First, it was making anonymous accounts on Grindr when I was closeted, perusing my area to see if there was at least one other gay person within a 10km radius of my beachside town. Then, after coming out, I graduated to Tinder, going on dates in the city with travellers, or boys to whom I would dramatically retell my coming out story like it was a Greek tragedy.
Recently, though, dating online has lost any stigma that might have followed it in the era of Okcupid or ChristianConnection. When I jumped into this world as a gay 17 year-old, meeting up with strangers from the internet suddenly felt cosmopolitan; something to brag about with friends rather than a scene pulled out of To Catch A Predator. Now, no one seems to have an issue with meeting someone you had no information on – beyond their photos and age – or a stigma to admitting you enjoyed it.
Are You Getting Any? I’m 22, and I’ve Never Used a Dating App
In the past decade, online dating has become a window couples web chat into a world of sex and connections, all facilitated by the apps on our phones. Aimlessly waiting by a bar to be asked “you come here often?” is the stuff of fantasy. Instead, dating apps have fit us with an armour of confidence and accessibility.
I Went To A Speed Dating Night And Beat My Phone Addiction By Getting Rejected Face-To-Face
Whether it was connecting with a boy at the pub for a midweek date or a one-night stand telling you to be quiet because their housemate was watching Fleabag in the other room, apps embraced us with open arms. They blasted into our lives in the same way that Instagram and Facebook did: mammoth companies profiting on our desire for love and sex.
As the teenage version of myself became the anxious, early-20s shell it is now, my brain has only become smoother with each left and right swipe. I have been on more dates than ever and have done what so many others have in the age of digital dating: expanded my reach. Tinder, Grindr, and now Hinge, my suitors know how tall I am, my political leanings, and whether or not I love taking MDMA.
But, how long can you swipe left or right, or send roses or devil emojis to faceless torsos, before you want to gouge your eyes out with your iPhone? I have been defeated, especially during COVID, by aimless conversations with silly little squares on my screen.
Internet-dating fatigue isn’t new. But being trapped in a state-sanctioned lockdown brought out its worst qualities. Restricted from socialising and leaving my house was bad – but getting ghosted online once a week by someone called Jarrod was much worse. Dating apps became less of a way to pass time and more of a deep void filled with unfinished conversations and failed attempts to go on “walking” dates.
Two weeks after New South Wales exited a four-month lockdown, I found a real, physical, queer speed-dating night. The lockdown was Australia’s first taste of watching the world continue to revolve while stuck inside, and I was eager to escape. And while I had ambitions of being a gay Carrie Bradshaw, the reality felt much more like I was a newborn foal learning how to walk.
When I arrived, the host had split the bar in two: one section for people looking to meet men, and one section for people looking to meet women. Suddenly, my internet dating preferences materialised into real life, and I walked into the (mostly) male section filled at the back of the bar. Herded like sheep, we were lost, awkward and confused – all in the aim to find love. For just a moment, I missed the comfort of doing this same thing, on my phone, in bed.