I tried online dating for the first time a few weeks ago.
I did a tiny trial after feeling like I was finally in a pretty decent place in my life to meet someone: I’ve been working on my faith, I can wear makeup after giving it up for a year, I am starting to build a career, & am developing a more active social life. I was hoping to find a kind, handsome guy who’s interested in living out his faith like I am, in addition to being completely interested in me and in getting to know me. That was reasonable, right!?
Now how do I turn this sarcasm off?
Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it was definitely disappointing. Here’s what happened.
It seemed like a sign when a very handsome university student of similar faith “liked” me the day after I decided I was ready to meet someone. Even though I tried to force myself to temper my expectations, I couldn’t help but picture all the cute dates we would go on.
Tapping the button to “connect” with this guy, whom I will call Luis*, was nerve-wracking and probably took me 5 minutes of pep-talking myself to actually do. Would Luis like me once we started talking? What if he just liked my profile by mistake? How would I manage to have a good conversation with a guy I didn’t know?
When I finally talked myself into connecting with Luis, I was very relieved to find that there was an icebreaker already posted in the chat to help get things started. After I started off our conversation, he introduced himself, asked me a question about myself, I responded, and then waited restlessly for a response in return. I tried to keep busy and went to work, fighting myself to not give into the MASSIVE ITCH to obsess over it. I heard from Luis like 7 hours later. At this point, I started quietly wondering whether a truly interested guy would wait that long to message me.
The next day, Luis messaged me to say that he couldn’t respond quickly due to work, but that he was enjoying things. Technically that meant I didn’t have to be anxious, but of course I was.
I started thinking things like, “he’s not messaging you because he’s talking to other girls who are prettier than you,” and “yes, you might be irrational right now, but logically, you should expect that anyone you’re talking to on this dating app is also talking to other people and potentially using other dating apps.” I starting feeling like I was in a competition with a bunch of people I couldn’t see, and was likely to “lose” because I was only focusing on one guy who likely looked at me as one of many.
So, I started getting hung up on making sure I had “options” and switched my attention back to another guy I had seen on the dating app the day before. I will call this guy Damian*. I had seen him before I saw Luis, and while Damian didn’t excite me as much as Luis did, I was curious about him.
After I messaged Damian (I regret doing that now, for reasons I’ll explain further down), he responded within minutes. I took at as a sign that he was interested (or bored at work), but it quietly annoyed me because the person I really wanted to hear from Luis.
This went on for about 3 days–me hearing from Luis once a day (and wishing it was more) and trying to talk to Damian without my heart really being in it–until I got a message from Luis giving me the old “it’s not you (you’re amazing), it’s me (bad timing).”
The app notification only showed the first part of the message (the part about how I was amazing), so you can imagine my surprise when it turned out that he didn’t want to pursue things any further. I didn’t even get a date out of it, which was disappointing, and to be honest, embarrassing. Was I that bad at talking?
I don’t really know what happened, but I think the bottom line is that he wasn’t interested. Shoot, maybe I was the one annoying him with messages as he waited to hear back from the person he really wanted to talk to. Regardless, he was pretty decent about it & gave me a proper end to things instead of just ghosting me. It was probably the best unpleasant outcome I could hope for, even though it didn’t feel that way at the time.
My feelings about the situation were a source of confusion because even though I think it’s completely reasonable to just not be interested in someone & end it early, it still upset me, against all logic. Secret: I think my feelings were hurt.
Nevertheless, the experience taught me some things. First, it was nice to be let down gently and kindly, in a way that left my self-esteem intact. I wrote earlier that I regretted talking to Damian–this was because I feel like I was treating him like a Plan B. I have a problem being treated like someone’s backup, so I’m disappointed in myself for treating someone else that way. I don’t want to do that again.
I also quickly realized that the way Luis ended our conversation left me feeling much better than I would have if he had simply stopped talking to me. The kind ending I received prompted me to be kind in turn and end my conversation with Damian. I thanked him for telling me about himself and explained that it would be best to end the conversation.
I also learned from the experience that it’s hard to talk to someone once a day if you’re interested in them. Those long delays in conversations are frustrating and make me feel kind of anxious. Are they going to respond? Do they like me? From what I’ve read (because I’m a huge nerd), messaging once a day is pretty standard, but it’s still so different from what I’m used to: face-to-face conversations, where feedback is instant and I can learn more about a person in 3 minutes than in 3 days of infrequent messaging. Related to this, I realized that I’m not sure how to gauge someone’s interest online. Is it that they message frequently and respond quickly? Is it that they develop a consistent pattern of talking to me (even if only once a day)? Is it less to do with the timing or frequency of messages and more to do with the content? Or is it some combination of these things?
Additionally, I largely tried to stay true to myself throughout this little experiment, from my profile picture down to the things I talked about with the guys I met. Even though things didn’t go how I hoped, it felt good to know that there wasn’t much that I felt I should or could have done differently. It also felt good that I could generate interest without trying to come off as much prettier or more interesting than I actually am. That being said, one thing I’d like to do differently next time is be better at talking about myself. I usually take on the role of listener in conversations, so as naïve as it sounds, it kind of caught me off guard when I realized that I would be expected to tell people who I am and what I’m about.
Lastly, things not going as I’d hoped and getting rejected was also a good lesson because it taught me not to take “talking,” other people, and myself so seriously. It also taught me that while not getting the outcome I hoped for isn’t great, it’s not that bad either. Life goes on, and to be honest, it hurts my ego more than it hurts my feelings. The next time I try online dating, I think this experience will make it easier for me to relax and keep my expectations low when talking to someone new, which will take some of the pressure off.
I’m new to online dating, and to dating in general, so I’m feeling pretty confused. How do I strike a balance between a guy’s looks, his substance, and his character? How do I pick a guy who’s a good match for me? Where do I date: online or off? And is it me, or is it hard to find a guy I’m mutually attracted to and who would be a good match for me and vice versa?
I’m still learning my preferences, but I’m pretty convinced that I prefer to focus on one person at a time and slowly get to know them. I also don’t like my impression that a lot of guys treat online dating like a numbers game. To be honest, I felt like treating it like that too–meet as many people as I can to maximize my chances of connection. I don’t like that because it doesn’t match my introverted personality very well and there is an overwhelming amount of guys to choose from. So far, I’m getting the sense that online dating might not be that great of a fit for me. Maybe it could work for me as a supplement to meeting people the old-fashioned way–offline–but not more than that.
That being said, I decided to take a break from online dating before trying it again. I realized how much even just talking to a person can distract me, and I have some important things I should clear before trying again. I could probably use a little time to bounce back from the rejection too: it’s not a big deal, but it was my first experience with online dating and I think it’ll take me a little longer to get over as a result.
There are so many discouraging stories about online dating, especially as a twenty-something, but as I told one of my friends, I’m guardedly optimistic. Hopefully next time will go better!
*names have been changed