How’s this for a thought experiment? Imagine there’s no such thing as online dating.
Let’s say you live in an average-sized town, in amongst an average pool of people. Perhaps you have a ‘historic town centre’ and a railway museum, and some bars, and some shops, and some restaurants, and a supermarket, and a tourist website whose proudest boast is that ‘Time Team once filmed at a nearby village’. (Not that I’m bitter about coming from Darlington or anything.)
Anyway, let’s imagine that, in a bid to blot out reality, you find yourself boozing urgently in the town’s least heinous pub. Someone comes up and starts talking to you and, unusually for this particular pub, they’re not a dribbling cretin with all the personal charm of a blowfish. In fact, they’re about as close to what you’re looking for as it’s possible to find.
It’s not just that you like the same books/food/shows/music/films. It’s not just that, through the beer goggles, you find them so attractive you can barely trust yourself to look at them lest you turn bright red and accidentally make a selection of ape-like mating gestures. It’s more than that. You’re experiencing the glorious delusion that you and your intended think in sync.
Now, if this really did happen out of the blue in some crappy pub, you’d no doubt be so overwhelmed by the rarity of the event you’d take your coat, pull, and extract yourself from the singles scene like a tooth from an overcrowded mouth.
If it happens via a dating site, however, the instinct is more to feel blasé. “Whatever,” says your inner killjoy, with a sneer, injecting your emotional reward system with freeze-dry agent, “plenty more 99% matches in the sea.”
It’s a central paradox of online dating – through presenting you with hundreds of potential ‘soulmates’, it may well make it harder to find one. You hedge your bets. You avoid the risk of truly letting yourself like someone. You forget how unusual that sense of ‘clicking’ actually is. Too much online dating and you are liable to turn into a dessicated husk of humanity with nothing but an ashtray of cynicism where your heart used to be.
It’s enough to make you deactivate your account and revert to waiting around forlornly in your local…