Melissa Herrera on her experiences with virtual dating
When I swiped into a “virtual relationship”, it wasn’t by choice. I had every intention of actually meeting the men I’d matched with, as I assumed that was the purpose of online dating. I assumed this was for people looking for an easier outlet to meet other singles. I assumed this was a pool of potential baes who wanted exactly what I wanted – a convenient method of dating multiple singles while ultimately zeroing in on that one final match. Well you know what they say about people who assume…”you make an ass out of you and me”. And in this story, I ended up as the stupid donkey and he ended up the actual a**h*le.
Now I can’t speak for everyone, but my experience with online dating has been exactly that…online dating. Sure, there’ve been a few one-time meet ups here and there, but the mass majority of men I was in contact with had zero interest in breaking past the virtual realm. When I signed up for online dating, it was a last resort choice made after the initial shock of finding myself back in the dating pool after a six year streak of serial monogamy. I thought it would be the most efficient way to re-cast that rusty line back into the sea of men to help combat my cluelessness towards this newfound single life. But what I found was the complete opposite. I found myself a group of men whose interest in me extended no further than daily electronic messages and watching my life virtually through social media, all while dodging every opportunity to meet face-to-face. What the hell is this online dating world and why was I so VASTLY wrong about its purpose?
“I found myself a group of men whose interest in me extended no farther than daily electronic messages and watching my life virtually through social media”
Needless to say, I was quickly turned off by this new age style of “dating” and ultimately had no patience for it. Coming off multiple long term relationships with men who actually valued my time, I found the online dating world a complete sham. I wanted to be taken seriously, but no one else within the dating platform was taking the process, or myself, seriously. As I was about to throw in the towel and accept my future as a single cat lady, binge eating Chinese take-out, while engulfed in reality television… someone finally stood out to me. His name was Dan and his claim to fame was his comment “Nice duvet cover” on a photo of me sitting on my bed. Every other guy made flirty comments about my appearance, but he sarcastically avoided commenting on my looks as if to intentionally give me the opposite of what I wanted. He was different, witty and funny? I LOVED IT!
“Dan and I were together for four months. And by ‘together’ I mean we text messaged, talked on the phone, Facetimed, and connected via Snapchat and Instagram”
Dan and I were together for four months. And by “together” I mean we text messaged, talked on the phone, Facetimed, and connected via Snapchat and Instagram for four months straight – every day. I’d wake up to “good morning” texts from Dan and I’d go to bed with “sleep tight” texts from Dan. We watched House of Cards together…while Facetiming. We’d send each other Snapchat photos all night while we were out at the bar with our friends as if to make it seem like we were together. We’d stay up late sharing stories of the past and goals for our future; we bonded over how much we actually had in common. It felt like a real relationship, minus the physical face-to-face interaction. It was amazing and it was miserable, all at the same time.
As the months passed, I began to feel more and more bothered by the lack of “reality” in our relationship. I’d make multiple attempts to plan a date or activity, giving him enough time to open his schedule and commit, to ultimately get cancelled on at the last minute – every single time. My patience wore thin, my heart was beginning to break, and Dan was proving to be exactly what I feared – a sham. I told Dan he was getting one last chance to meet me in person, and if he didn’t follow through, I’d be gone. Can you guess what happened next? He ghosted me. He removed me from social media, he blocked my number, and he vanished into thin air as if he never even existed. After four months of daily communication and intimate bonding, Dan was capable of vanishing and made sure to do it before I beat him to the punch. I was going to leave him because he refused meet me; he chose to leave me because I wanted to meet him. Seriously, the irony… #facepalm.
“It felt like a real relationship, minus the physical face-to-face interaction”
It took me a long time to get over Dan, partly because I had no closure. I couldn’t make sense as to why he did what he did. I couldn’t make sense as to why he refused to meet me and had no interest in taking our relationship to the next “real” level. And lastly, I couldn’t make sense as to why he felt ghosting me was a justifiable answer to the situation at hand. After four months, I didn’t deserve an explanation? I didn’t deserve a mature response as to what was going or why he couldn’t commit in the real world? I was forever stuck with “what ifs” and lingering questions that haunted my brain.
Since Dan, I’ve become less of a donkey. Through that heartbreak I was able to learn the ropes of the online dating world and create my own rules and regulations to help avoid falling into another virtual relationship. Rule number one – two week maximum of virtual communication. If no date has been made, I give a last chance warning and then I unmatch. Rule number two – I no longer accept any social media additions prior to an initial meet up. Why? Because they don’t belong there. Someone that’s interested in me should get to know me from an unbiased viewpoint. Which let’s face it, rarely happens if you allow them to scroll through every moment of your life for the past decade. I’ve found that creating these limitations has quickly filtered out the a**h*les. They don’t have the patience for my rules, so they vanish as quickly as they appeared. My time isn’t wasted, my emotions aren’t fooled, and I’m now one less a**h*le away from the potential good guy floating around in a pool full of flakes. You’ve got to play to game in order to play the player, and there are A LOT of players in the virtual world.
“There are A LOT of players in the virtual world”
But you have to wonder, why are so many men online matching up with women they never want to meet? Why are people finding themselves in virtual relationships whether they planned it or not? Overall, why has the single community shifted into a virtual platform in order to find their match? What is wrong with real life and why is everyone avoiding it?
I don’t think online dating was created with the intent to produce virtual relationships. I think it was created to assist with the initial “hook” stage of landing a match while producing that match in a more convenient and less pressured environment. You know, the part we once did in person when we came across someone we might be interested in and actually had to make a move not knowing what the response would be? Well now you can skip that step with the technological advancement of swiping through profiles pictures and bios of all your single options and mutually connecting without ever having to risk rejection. My guess is that online dating was meant to help connect people in a more convenient manner with the assumption that they’d move forward in real life on their own. Ughh…again with failed hopes through assumptions!
Unfortunately, my progression into adulthood took place in the midst of the technological/social media boom. While I’ve met a few of my boyfriends in normal social environments, it appears that my generation as a whole is solely sticking to online dating or drunken hookups during hours of lowered inhibitions. The millennial generation is not experiencing the dating scene our parents and grandparents once experienced where singles courted each other in passing and casually dated a variety of people at once without so much pressure.
“Why has the single community shifted into a virtual platform in order to find their match?”
In my adult life, I’ve never been approached by an interested man in the grocery store, at work, at the gym, in the neighbourhood, at the mall, or at a park. The best I’ve gotten is a drunk man in a bar slurring over his words asking to buy me a 1.5 ounce of poison he’s praying will result in a one-night stand. Or, I’ve had to pursue every single guy I’ve ever dated whether that be short or long term. In my experience as a millennial women in today’s society, my options are to hunt down a man myself in person or resort to the online world where men can hide behind their electronic devices and “ghost” before ever actually experiencing rejection or becoming involved. How did this happen?
With the influx of available technology, our society as a whole is simply distracted. There are televisions in every social establishment and cellphones and music in the palm of our hands. It’s no surprise that the dating scene transitioned over to the electronic world as well. It’s almost impossible for humans to interact naturally in any social arena because we’re burying ourselves in electronic devices…and our society is supporting it! I don’t want to stare into my phone at still photos of men who send me flirty texts throughout the day. I don’t want some random internet guys following my Instagram and Snapchat feed commenting on how cool I am yet never wanting to meet me or experience life with me in person. I don’t want to fall for another virtual sham, have my heart broken, and be ghosted by someone I actually took time to invest in. I want the real deal. I want a man to look me in the eyes, create memories with me, and vocalise to my face when the relationship must come to an end. I want real life experiences while living in a society that highly promotes living behind a lens. And that my friends, is a very scary thing.
“I want real life experiences while living in a society that highly promotes living behind a lens”
And for the record, my story with Dan didn’t quite end where I left off. Oh no, he wasn’t finished with me back when he broke my heart and left me alone, confused and exiled as he vanished without a trace. Like most a**h*les, Dan allowed enough time to pass before he came back for round two in hopes there might be a small fragment of donkey still left in my soul. Two years after his disappearing act, Dan re-added me on social media and sent me a photo through Snapchat. When I opened the photo I discovered a picture of his Netflix television screen with the caption “Netflix and Chill?”
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME.
Conveniently I happened to be watching The Bachelor and retaliated in the most creepy and volatile way surely to scare off any a**h*le. I paused the show and snapped a quick photo of the bachelor holding a rose with the caption “Final rose and propose, Dan?” He responded back, “Yikes”, and I’ve never heard from him again.
The only lasting bit of donkey I savoured over the past two years is the two back legs I used to kick his ass to the curb. Boy bye!