Ten years ago, I was known as MARvelousKidd0 on AIM. My away message would change frequently; at times, they were song titles, lyrics or clichéd Marilyn Monroe quotes. Add that to the hours spent learning the basics of HTML in order to create a decent profile on MiGente & MySpace. I found myself religiously posting a GPOY on Tumblr every Wednesday. Little did I know that my early years in social media and my efforts of “staying cool” was a transition to a tumultuous online dating journey.
I recall the first time I met up with a guy I met online, and just how nervous I was.
“Is he going to like me?” “Is he going to be standoffish?” “Will our vibe be the same in person as it was online & talking over the phone?” It felt like the coldest day in the season. I underestimated the weather and suddenly felt my limbs shaking. We met at a North Jersey Latin fast food spot and as he walks towards me, he wasn’t the guy I had met over the phone, or at least built him up to be. I was caught off guard by how quiet he was, his reticence to engage in conversation was a complete 180 from the enthusiasm and charisma he’d shown me over the phone.
My attempts at conversing weren’t being reciprocated, and positive energy I was emitting did nothing to quell the awkward silences. Our date turned into 3 hours of being together, breathing the same air and taking up space. I stayed in hopes of the ambiance changing, but in hindsight, I saw that as a clear indication of me not valuing my own time. Was it something I said or didn’t say? The butterflies I’d had, the connection I thought I’d felt, disappeared in that moment, never to return once we parted ways.
This was the beginning of an ongoing pattern in my love life. I’m at the point of exhaustion; stop, start, and repeat. No more apps, no more answering DMs.
My days of online dating are over.
Online dating takes away the human component – the shyness, the body language, the blushing, the visuals – and emotions that occur when you lock eyes with a guy or girl across your way. It’s become a safe haven of some sorts, this idea of not having to deal with the jitters that come with physically approaching someone and introducing yourself; though for some people, the “shoot your shot” method has worked in their favor.
This isn’t me hating on that one couple that met on Tinder or Twitter and got married. My breakup with online dating is wholly personal and self-serving; it no longer serves my personal growth. It was coddling my introverted personality, and I became comfortable in not approaching men in person because of my shyness. That digital barrier has got me far, but not far enough.
It was so easy to turn to these apps when I’d just gotten out of a relationship. I wanted to move on and find a quick solution. Knowing I had so many “options,” was a heady feeling, and exchanging messages with men online became my comfort zone. Regrettably, I felt as if this was the only way I was ever going to find love.
The pressure to look my best and have the perfect profile intensified over the years. Hours spent over thinking of what my bio should consist of, editing my profile and even taking photos to look like what I believed guys wanted. The width of my hips, height, the styling of my hair, sometimes even my weight, played a deciding factor on getting chose in these digital streets. Everyone shows off the best version of themselves online, and I fell into that. It became effortless building a brand through filters; not just in photos, but in what personal information I choose to share with my audience. In cases where former lovers would say “you’ve changed” or “you’re not the person I once knew,” one question comes to mind: did you fall in love with me or the brand I built?
The disappointment that comes with online dating gets exhausting after a while.
Constantly getting rejected fucks with your self-esteem and it can dim your hopes of ever finding that special someone. On the flip side, it has motivated me to stay off my phone to look and connect with those around me. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with that, not having to check your phone to see whether or not you matched with someone in your city. I feel the need to be present more than ever and embrace my surroundings. Nothing in the world compares to creating a bond with someone in real life.