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The first time I got rejected by a guy I met online, it really sucked. I’m used to the idea that when I meet someone I feel a mutual attraction with, it’s special. Offline, I’m not meeting people I want to mutually get to know better very often. So imagine my surprise when a guy who said he enjoyed talking to me suddenly told me that we shouldn’t talk anymore.
What I didn’t understand about online dating then is that it’s fickle. People are bombarded with options on a daily basis. When you’re speaking to someone who is one of many, that person isn’t terribly special (at least not at first).
That’s a double edged sword of online dating–being to made to feel undervalued–but on the other hand, I’ve found that it’s key to avoiding placing a guy on a pedestal and dealing with rejection.
When I started online dating again, my mentality was different. I wasn’t about to get hung up on one guy, and I wasn’t going to expect anything.
This was easy to do once I realized that I too have options, and am not just some number caught up in a guy’s game.
I started with a different app this time, one that didn’t limit & curate the number of people I saw each day. That meant that I got many more messages, and once I realized that the messages weren’t going to just dry up, ridding me of the sense that my feeling of having options was time-limited, I noticed I started to approach dating differently. (Disclaimer: I know that women of different races & degrees of conventional attractiveness are messaged at different rates, and that this is also dependent on location. So while it’s true that some women have more options than others, my general sense is that online dating still leaves many women with a lot more options than we perceive to have offline. This is what I think we should use to our advantage.)
Being an option and having options meant several things to me.
First, it took the edge off rejection in the early stages of talking and first dates because it made it easy for things not to be personal. Dating is weird in that I’m finding that it requires you to check your ego at the door, but that if I have a chance to protect my ego, I’ll gladly take it. So, if someone lost interest after a few messages I was able to chalk it up to online dating being fickle and not there being something inherently wrong with me. I usually ask myself if there’s something I can do better next time, but sometimes, people are just not that interested, and that’s ok.
I draw lines between different “stages” in online dating, and the further along I am with someone, rejection has a greater potential to suck. Talking to someone for a week or more is one of those lines, as is exchanging phone numbers. The suck potential was high when a guy I was having good conversations with for a week ghosted, as it was when a guy I’d exchanged phone numbers with disappeared after telling me that it would be special to connect with me. I felt bad for a bit, but it’s hard to stay feeling that way when there are other guys you’re talking to and more that you can talk to today, tomorrow, and 5 Tuesdays from now.
Basically, having options means that you realize one guy ending things with you doesn’t mean that was your last chance at finding something that’ll last, or at least some decent company.
That brings me to the second benefit: not investing too much in anyone early on. I’m sure this is one of those habits that changes over time, or in specific situations, but right now, being aware that someone’s one of many for me, and I am the same for them makes it easy for me to not invest a lot of time, emotion, or energy into them. This doesn’t mean treating people disrespectfully or cruelly–I’m a big believer in giving someone the courtesy of letting them know I’m no longer interested if I’ve been talking to them for a while or have gone out with them–rather, it means that I temper my expectations and try not to let someone texting/not texting me back preoccupy my day or emotions (this is admittedly hard to do). I can do the other things I have to do and avoid an emotional rollercoaster that way.
Not getting too invested also helps to make dating more fun. I was just reading an article on The Cut about making dating a hobby, which resonated with me. I like the idea of treating dating as a fun activity that can be enjoyable in the present for what it is, and not just in the future in the form of a relationship. This doesn’t mean that I ignore the fact that I want to find something with more long term potential (and select the guys I talk to accordingly), but it does mean that when I go on a date, I am aware of the fact that things may or may not work out. I’m generally not a fan of putting all my eggs in one basket, so when I go on a date I have multiple goals for it.
I can’t make a person like me, and I can’t make myself like someone, but I can decide to recognize that I can learn something new and interesting from everyone I meet. I can also decide to have a good time, regardless of how things go.
I like using dating as a way to do things I’ve been wanting to do–like salsa dancing or trying out that jazz spot I’ve been eyeing for years–and trying new things, like milk bubble tea (call me basic for not having tried it until 2017, I’ll understand). If I was heavily invested in things working out with the person up front, I’d have a hard time doing that. Admittedly, it’s hard to not get invested when it’s someone I see as having a lot of potential, but it’s helpful to remind myself that I don’t know this person.
Not really knowing the person I’m dating, coupled with having/being options is a really good way to take a guy off a pedestal. It’s hard to idealize someone when you have a point of reference (i.e. the other guys who are trying to talk to you) and when you realize they’re probably not focusing exclusively on you, either. This makes it easier to see red flags and be less tempted to brush them aside. It also makes it a little easier to see someone’s good qualities. If you interact with a bunch of guys, it’s really poignant when you come across one who makes you laugh a lot, who makes you feel comfortable, or who you happen to find really attractive.
Finally, being in such a huge dating pool (or at least one that seems bigger than the offline pool) makes that saying “there’s other fish in the sea” very, very true. No one tells you that you are also a fish, being caught and released over and over, but nevertheless, it’s true that you’ll come across a lot of different fish. The sea is a big place after all! The advantage that I’ve found in this is that it’s an amazingly fast way of learning what’s important to me in dating and not spending time, energy, and money on dating people who can’t give me that. It’s also a good way to help prevent situations in which I’m having to hurt people’s feelings or getting my feelings hurt because I have to tell them or am getting told that we shouldn’t go out again. It won’t eliminate those situations, but I’ve definitely dated a few guys that I would never have had to let down if I had just screened them out in the first place.
So to conclude, the fickleness of online dating can be leveraged to make me not take rejection personally, keeping first dates low-stakes and enjoyable, being realistic about red flags, and helping me to get to know what I want. That being said, it’s still weird and the experience can be grating because I still view connections as something to be cherished, not cycled through. Britany Robinson at the Washington Post wrote a really good article on how that constant cycle of dating and ending things can wear us out in the form of a micro-breakup. I’m realistic in that I don’t think the fickleness is great, but it isn’t all bad, either. It can make some things, like the sting of rejection, a little easier.
Question: what do you think about how fickle online dating is?
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