A few weeks ago, I was at a party and had to leave slightly early. When curious minds inquired as to why, I admitted to having a date.
"Oooooh, who's the lucky guy?" they teased.
"A guy I met on OkCupid."
Awkward laughter ensued. One friend threw back his head and exclaimed, "Oh boy."
The other guy just looked at his shoes and smiled, half sympathetically, half ashamedly.
Suffice it to say, no exclamations of encouragement were uttered.
The tone of my parting was made decidedly awkward by these responses, and yet, I was neither embarrassed nor offended, though it did take every ounce of self-restraint not to spit back, "What's so funny? You met your girlfriend online!" which, indeed, he had. Not to mention, I had stumbled upon the other shoe-gazer's online profile just weeks before.
And yet, they feigned embarrassment and shock, as if there were some unstated rule that despite the fact that everyone is doing it, online dating is not to be openly discussed.
But why? Perhaps because admitting to having an online dating profile implies loneliness? Or worse, desperation. Yikes, who wants to lay bare those all-too-human vulnerabilities?
But have no fear. Maybe loneliness and desperation were implied years ago, when online dating websites were the playground of sad divorcees and sketchy old men, but things have changed. Online dating is the new norm, even if we're still too bashful to admit it.
In a way, for us social media-crazed millennials, online dating has been the norm since well before the days of OkCupid. We've been doing it en masse since the mid-'90s!
Think about your first flirty, prepubescent utterances. Chances are, if you're a young 20-something, they occurred not in between Recess and Math class, but on AOL Instant Messenger. Who can forget when the cutest boy in class requested to be added to your Buddy List? And what of all those away messages littered with **~ExCLAmAtiOns oF LoVe~**?
I'm almost 24. I, along with many of my peers, had my first AOL account by middle school. So, naturally, we ushered in courtship with the Internet. Online dating is, in many ways, all we really know.
Not only is online dating the norm, it is a necessity.
According to a recent Gallup survey, the United States is one of the most mobile countries in the world and, as noted in a corresponding Washington Post editorial, "It's not surprising that a decent fraction of the moves are related to college and education -- which explains why younger people are more likely to move... Another big reason for moving is job-related."
Put simply, as more and more Americans go to college, only to then pursue jobs across the country and around the world, the notion of having "roots" is almost quaint. We leave friends and family for school, and again and again for job opportunities throughout our adult lives. The Internet emerges as our only constant -- the only way to keep all of these otherwise fleeting relationships intact.
Similarly, with each inevitable move, we are forced to constantly cultivate new relationships. That's hard to do. What makes it easier? Online dating. I mean, really -- what are your other options? Leering at dating prospects from the corner of a bar after work, hoping that someone -- anyone! -- will have the guts to strike up a conversation? Yeah, cause that's sure as hell not desperate or creepy...
For better or worse, unless we stop spending so much time socializing online (we won't) and moving around so much (we won't), online dating will continue to grow ever more popular. Better to just come to terms and accept it, rather than pretend that you weren't just checking your OkCupid inbox. I know you were!!