Finding Myself Through Online Dating


Last year was my most successful year career-wise. I wrote more pieces than I have before for multiple publications and felt confident in my writing for the first time. Despite this success, my dating life wasn't so great; it was practically non-existent. I didn't want to date guys from my college, as it's quite small and everyone knows about each others' dating history. I'm also not the best at meeting guys while going out, as the idea of approaching someone without the help of liquid courage is slightly horrifying for someone as shy as I am, so I decided to give online dating yet another try.

I had used Tinder and OkCupid before, but I wasn't a fan of dating sites, nor messages from strangers saying "sup baby u have nice tits." I'm very selective when it comes to choosing someone to commit to, which makes dating difficult, especially after being in two emotionally abusive relationships. My friends would often tell me about the great dates and boyfriends they found via dating apps, so I thought that maybe this time things would be different. I wanted to keep an open mind and see if I could find anyone I could see myself dating longterm.

I'm the type of person who doesn't always know what she wants in a relationship, yet knows what she's looking for in a potential date. They had to be in their early to mid-20s, intelligent, liberal enough to not be repelled by my interest in feminism, respectful, and at least share my interest in music, as my work often involves going to concerts---which is an activity I dread doing alone. With that in mind, I replied to messages of those who fit my criteria, as well as messaged some guys first who piqued my interest. At first, things seemed great. Over 1,000 guys "liked" my OkCupid profile and I had over 100 matches on Tinder. I was asked out by some who were successful, good looking men who resembled my vision of what an ideal partner would be like.

However , as they say, all that glitters is not gold. Initially, I enjoyed the process of getting drinks with someone and getting to know them, which would often lead onto forming a connection and going on a few more dates until we decided things weren't working out. What had started out as fun had changed into something for which I didn't feel the slightest enjoyment. For the first time in my life, I had up to three dates (with different guys) scheduled in a week. The thought of having yet another conversation over beers or dinner about my work, my family, my plans after graduating, and moving from Puerto Rico to Maryland became monotonous and boring.

My goal switched from finding someone compatible to finding someone who stacked up the best against the rest of my dates---whether he was the right one for me or not. I often found myself confused about my own feelings towards my dates. I didn't know if I liked them or simply tolerated them, which was a very grim way of viewing a potential relationship. My fear of being alone also made me let some of my dates get away with things I typically wouldn't tolerate, from guys who thought it was appropriate to grab my intimate parts in public and replying "Come on, you know you love it!" when I had explicitly said I did not enjoy it, to men who made inappropriate comments about my ethnicity, such as saying that I probably ate more spicy food than he did because I'm Latina (Puerto Ricans are definitely not known for liking spicy food--or ignorant comments).

Besides that, I also found myself dealing with ghosting, which is when someone decides to completely cut contact with someone without any warnings or hints that things aren't going well. They would just cut communication suddenly, which affected how I felt about myself. The act of ghosting is common within online dating. It's not a big deal if you do it to someone after a first bad date, but when it happened with men I had gone out on multiple dates with, it made me wonder why they did it, which made me question if there was something wrong with me. It made me feel even less enthusiastic about dating and made it difficult for me to be open to fully connecting with someone.

I also noticed that guys didn't take me seriously. Some of them admitted that they didn't want to have a serious relationship with someone who still lives in a dorm room, which is understandable, while others just didn't even put effort to get to know me. Instead of trying to find out more about me, they focused on the superficiality of dating. Many of them explained that dating is a numbers game. They messaged tons of women who they thought were attractive and had some interests in common hoping that one would reply. Instead of being motivated by their genuine interest in their date, they were more excited by the idea of someone agreeing to go out with them and giving them attention.

After casually dating someone who often bragged about his other dates and made sure I knew he didn't see me as anything special, but rather another conquest to add to his list, I began to reflect on my own dating habits. I wasn't any better than him. In fact, I was dating him for the same reasons he was dating me. I looked back at all of my dates from last year, and realized that it wasn't boosting my self esteem as much as I thought it would; it was doing the opposite.

I realized that I was looking for validation from guys who weren't even worth my time to begin with and had become too invested in wanting them to like me, rather than being myself. After months of deactivating and re-activating my OkCupid account, I decided to permanently delete it. I also deleted Tinder from my phone. Why would I need to date someone in order to recognize that I'm a woman who deserves to be respected? It might be wonderful for someone people who found their significant other through it, but I'm much happier without it. After cutting back on dating various people at the same time, I feel better about myself, without having to depend on messages, matches, or likes.

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