The struggles of dating in the 21st century

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Buckle your seat belts, kiddos, because it’s time for another good old-fashioned Millennial rant.

I’ll start of by clarifying that I don’t exactly have experience with dating in any other century but the 21st, unless of course you count that time I slow-danced with a boy in pre-school and we totally had a connection (whoever you are, if you’re reading this, message me?). Heck, I don’t even have that much experience with dating IN the 21st century. Introverts, amiright??? HAHA.. ha…

If Downton Abbey has taught me anything it is that dating has never been easy, so I’m not going to claim that navigating relationships in 2016 is any more difficult than it ever has been before. I will, however, hop up onto my tiny little pedestal and say that it’s pretty damn hard. Dating in the golden age of social media is complex, confusing, and just plain weird. There are so many unwritten internet rules and protocols to follow that seem totally irrational when you say them out loud, and I find myself doing things that are so dumb. But the main difference between feeling dumb now verses any other century is my regrettable choices are documented across multiple different technological platforms, constantly mocking me with read receipts and empty notification centres.

Let me explain.

I have a mathematical algorithm for how long to wait to text a guy back based on how long he waited to reply to me. I send Snapchat selfies of me looking cute to the guy I’m interested in, but I make sure to include my cat or something topical in the photo so it doesn’t like like I’m TRYING to look cute for him. I don’t like his Insta photo right after he posts it, even if I happen to be on Instagram at the time, so it doesn’t look like I’m stalking him (I am). And when he likes my photos I use the amount of time he waited to like it to analyze whether it’s because he thinks I’m pretty or because the caption is punny. I religiously check if he’s seen my Snapchat story. I worry that my cause of death will be a poorly-selected emoji. I have a PhD in lurking and can find out enough personal information to write a biography. I send screenshots of conversations to my groupchats with girlfriends to get their expert opinions on whether or not he’s flirting. And I have a paralyzing fear of making face-to-face, in person, real human being plans because I don’t want to be ghosted.

See what I mean? Dating in the 21st century has turned me into a completely irrational human being. And I even edited down that list of examples. I’ll admit, I’m a little ashamed of it. But I’m sure many people in the same boat as me would agree that trying to start a relationship in the social media sanctuary in which we live is like playing one big game of Chicken, where you win if you’re the most aloof and never, I repeat NEVER, double-text.

On the flip side, I do totally acknowledge the huge benefits of things like texting and Facebook when it comes to connecting with and getting to know a person. I have no idea how my parents communicated when they started dating. Morse code? Carrier pigeon? Calling one another on the telephone?? I don’t think a single person I know could recite my phone number from memory, and that includes my own mother. Technology is great, and my best friend is my Instagram account, so I’m definitely not knocking the 21st century altogether. But while its highs are high, its lows are low, and the dating world is hit hard by those lows.

I would say that the struggle is rooted a fear of seeming too eager or clingy, along with a desire to be wanted. I imagine these concerns have been a staple in dating across the decades, but I think that they are escalated in the 21st century because everything in our society is so instantaneous. Whenever I finally push down my social anxiety long enough to ask a guy to hang out, a million things run through my mind the second I hit “send.” Has he seen the message? We were just texting, he must have seen it. Maybe he’s busy. Does he have read receipts on? WHY DOESN’T HE HAVE READ RECEIPTS ON?? He JUST posted something on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat so he MUST be on his phone. Oh god, the three little dots of doom. Wait, why did he stop typing? WHAT WERE YOU TYPING?? Oh thank god he replied. Wait is that a yes? That’s a yes I think. Or was it a maybe? On a scale of 1-10 how eager is he? Oh god no he hates me I may as well just unfollow him now and move to Argentina.

I’m kidding. Mostly. Not really. Point is, trying to understand the rules of social media dating feels stressful and unnecessary. It’s so frustrating that I have to decode a text to figure out if a guy likes me. But if we all recognize that our behaviour is irrational, why do we keep at it? How about we just, oh I donno, communicate? I’m not saying I’m a saint when it comes to dating; far from it. I give as much confusing nonsense as I get, and I will openly admit that I’ve ghosted guys before. I do feel bad about that, but these days it’s just so easy. I feel so silly playing these games and getting worked up over a text message, but, like most things, I’ve gotta work with what I’ve got. Commitment scares me as much as the next human being, so I want to make sure I get it right and don’t lose opportunities, because putting yourself out there and getting rejected is hard to come back from especially when it’s over such an impersonal platform. But what I think I need to realize is the guys I am interested in are probably just as scared and confused as I am. Or at least I think that’s the case based on the caption of his Snapchat story from two weeks ago, which I lowkey watched three times. Snapchat doesn’t tell someone when you watch their story multiple times, right? Right??

I wish I had a hard and fast solution to our problem, my dear Millennials, but seeing as I’m still very single I think it’s pretty clear that I don’t. So instead I turn to the poetic words of my close personal friend Drake: “You know you gotta stick by me; soon as you see the text reply me.”

Throw caution to the wind and answer that text right away, and maybe, just maybe, you will get that one dance.

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