Before I was old enough to date, I watched people fall in love in real time. I watched them meet, by happenstance or through a friend, and learn the intimate details of one another through countless hours of unrehearsed conversation and the candid unraveling of learning each other's quirks.
When I was old enough to flirt with the idea with dating, I watched people fall in love online. I overheard people talk about writing their dating profile and selecting the most perfect and heavily-filtered photos of themselves. I watched people fall in love with the idea of someone before they ever, actually, got the chance to meet in person. And then when they did, if they finally did, it was as if they had to start from scratch because whatever kind of headstart they thought they gained from reading their carefully-constructed profile was only a fraction of who they really were in person.
And now, when I'm fully at the age where all my friends are done with dating and getting married, I'm watching people fall in love by swiping right or pressing yes on their phone from dating apps that feel more like an addicting game than a shot at actually finding true love.
I hear whispers of a new dating app or website almost every day. Whether it's from a friend who's sick of hearing about me complaining of being single or through an article that I stumbled upon. The one trend I've started to notice every time I download one of these apps or log in to a new website, is that they ask me less and less about who I am and more and more about what I look like. They are becoming more picture-oriented and less wordy. The days of writing about yourself in a 150 words or less has been reduced to choosing the most attractive photos of yourself and if you're up to it, providing a 150 character tagline that most likely will not attract many eyes.
After stumbling across Dreamcliq, a site that has you put together a dating profile that resembles your Pinterest account, Glimpse which uses your Instagram pictures to project who you are, and Twine Canvas, which lets you create an online bulletin board of photos, it's clear dating is taking a different turn.
Dating, now, is looking more like our social media accounts. Is that a bad thing? We spend so much of our free time (or our on the clock time) browsing through our social media pages and posting some of the most personal photos and facts about what we are up to or what we desperately strive to become. Quite often I feel as though I'm learning more about people on Twitter or Instagram than I would if we were sitting across one another. So should we be surprised, or more importantly, upset that all these new dating sites and apps are popping up that resemble our most beloved social media sites? Should we pause for a moment and wonder what this means for the quality of our love lives and the way we decide who we are interested in meeting in real life?
The answer is yes. The answer is absolutely yes before it's too late. Before the most popular, the only, way we meet someone is by judging them on a single picture. Before our personality and our stories and our wild dreams and the tiniest things that make us different from the person sitting beside of us are not shoved in the corner and meaningless when it comes to whom we choose to spend the rest of our lives with.
We can't let that happen. No matter how visually appealing and exciting these dating websites and apps become.
Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Leave them in the comment section below.
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Jen Glantz is the author of All My Friends Are Engaged, a book of dating disaster stories. She's the heart behind the website The Things I Learned From. She'd love you to say hello: @tthingsilearned or firstname.lastname@example.org.