January 11, 2020
From the pages of Issue 5: Black + White
By Melanie Briggs
Online dating will pulverize your soul.
It will suck your soul straight out of your eyes, reduce it to a fine powder, bring it to simmer over a low heat, and then replace it with nuclear waste. The remnants of your soul will be canned and sold as a rare spice that makes a particularly nice curry, though it’s known to cause indigestion. It will be marketed as vegan, but the FDA will find that classification questionable.
It is the price you pay to receive countless offers of erotic massage from strangers you have never met. To exchange many gigabytes of text messages that result in nary even one in-person meeting, but yield infinite replies of LOL, which can be very validating if you want to go into comedy, because apparently 99 percent of your auto-corrected, unpunctuated quips cause people to audibly laugh (imagine what you could do with a pre-written script). To subject yourself to at least 1,000 tiny cuts a day, no deeper than a paper cut, that will most definitely lead to your death.
But from what I hear, some people meet their spouses online, so there’s that.
This is not a new version of the lovers’ blues. We’ve all heard this one before, at least those of us who have dated in the Internet age. In the years—nay, millennia—prior, you had to meet people in person. As someone who lived through both, I think there may have been fewer tiny cuts. That could also be a myth I’m perpetuating as of this minute, but it seems like the cuts were fewer—broader and deeper, and closer to the jugular, but fewer.
But I’ll tell you what’s truth: Pre-Internet meeting people definitely wasn’t as enjoyable. Because as far as I can remember, not nearly as many people were LOLing. Like apparently no one had anything funny to say until 2004, and that’s when suddenly no one could contain their laughter.
But how can one not LOL when a man writes that he is “Weirdly attracted to intelligent women who are into self-development but aren’t too sassy for their own good”? Tell me, how does one not LOL? (BTW, this is a real-life example provided by a man on an app called Hinge. He is located in the Washington, D.C. Metro area, so mid-Atlantic straight women, keep an eye out.)
This is what I learned from online dating. Consider these the 10 Commandments of online dating, starting now:
1. Thou will give a hard left swipe to anyone who opens by telling you that they “Live life to the fullest” or “Work hard and play hard.” Ditto for anyone who lets you know they are “Just as comfortable in jeans as they are in black-tie formalwear.” Because you can choke on cliches if you’re not careful, and you can drown in the empty space where self-awareness should be.
2. Thou will also give a hard left swipe to Machu Picchu selfies. Unless there is a somewhat original spin on it, like it’s a picture of everyone else taking the Machu Picchu selfie.
3. Thou will remove all photo filters that may have attached themselves to your eyeballs when you weren’t looking. Don’t apply character traits or motivations to a 2D photo. Let the person develop into 4D on their own, and then believe what you see. People will show you who they are, and they are never lying.
4. Thou will remind thy fairy godmother to turn you into a pumpkin. Limit the amount of time you spend staring at an online dating app. Give yourself 30 minutes and call it a day. When you start swiping without a time limit, you create the illusion of infinite supply. That’s when profiles start to lose even more of their humanity and people become commodities.
5. Thou will not take anything personally. Rejection is never about you; it’s always about whatever is happening in their head.
6. Thou will get in good cardio shape and always wear protective gear. This is a numbers game; you’re going to have to do this a lot if you’re going to find someone you like. You wouldn’t free solo El Cap without the right gear and the right mindset. So suit up and get psyched.
7. Thou shall be judicious with the benefit of the doubt. It is not a given. That kind of trust is earned. Everyone gets a few freebies, but only a few. Refer back to number three—when a person shows you who they are, believe them.
8. Thou shall swipe left on anyone who says they want someone who is “into fitness.” Because that is always just thinly veiled fatphobia, and we don’t tolerate that.
9. Shirtless photos also get a hard left swipe. Because put a shirt on.
10. Thou will take an extended break at least once every fiscal quarter for the sake of thine sanity.
And keep tabs on your soul. It can only withstand so much, and that doesn’t mean you’re weak, whatever that means. It means you’re engaging in actual self-care.
Because online dating will pulverize your soul.