By Mark Reed |  @MarkRush61

In an ideal world, this is what would happen: you swipe right, they swipe right, conversation sparks, you meet, instant connection and scandalous flirtation ensue, moonlight dinner dates and long, lustful stares fill your evenings, you meet his friends, he meets your friends, trips to the countryside beckon, things get serious, you move in together, he loves you for your fastidious levels of cleanliness, you love him for making you less of a crazy cleaning lady – suddenly you find yourself in Ikea, picking out homeware and arguing over colour swatches. It’s a glorious technicolour future, and personally I hope we choose egg shell for the dining room. 

Unfortunately, the reality is usually much more of a burgundy shade. Firstly, people place far too much importance on online communication. It’s extremely hard to tell whether your internet banter will translate into a real life connection. Much like we spend time crafting our profiles to perfection, we also tinker with our responses to messages. We agonise over word choice and syntax, aiming for maximum levels of wittiness and charm, whilst at the same time trying to appear aloof and nonchalant.

So, you and your virtual crush are both presenting a constructed version of yourselves – one that doesn’t throw much light on your real personality. In the flesh, you might find that your witty repartee is met with laconic, lacklustre replies. This can be a huge bubble burster. You have set yourself up for a fall by placing too much importance on these messages. You have assumed and hoped for a connection before you had even met this person. 

Unfortunately, it’s quite natural to be hopeful and optimistic about these sort of situations. We want to meet someone great, of course. I have chatted to a number of guys online, and I’ve been really excited to meet them. Sadly, the spark hasn’t been there for the most part. I wanted it to happen, and so it didn’t happen. 

For example, I had a great date with a guy whom I met through Grindr. We’d been chatting for some time and finally got together for a drink. We had a great evening, lots to chat about, and there was plenty of flirtation throughout the night. I was really keen to see him again, and we continued to chat for the next few days. I suggested a dinner date, and he sidelined me to the friend zone. I was a bit confused because I thought we had a fun evening. There was undeniably a mutual attraction. This left me a tad perplexed. 

Thankfully, he went on to say that he did have a great time, and he did fancy me (phew!). But he also said that he didn’t see me as someone he could be with in the long term. Now how’s that for a textual kick to the balls?

Fair enough. It didn’t work out. But I’d like to know what the basis for his assumption was. Perhaps we are so overwhelmed with choice that we always think there’s a better option around the corner? But while the unlimited number of profiles to peruse is tantalising, it might be skewing our romance radar. A relationship, much like Rome, wasn’t built in a day. Could we be ignoring real life opportunities in order to see what other profiles are out there?

We are all so much more than a series of constructed photos, yet we’ve become items to be picked off the shelf. A real life partnership can’t be manufactured in that way. The founder of gay dating app MISTER, Carl Sandler, said, “We’ve reduced ourselves to products and, in the process, we’re losing a bit of our humanity.” This is coming from the mouth of the creator; he willingly acknowledges that the dating and hook-up world is rife with objectification. So how do we avoid becoming just another headless torso for sale?

It may sound simplistic but just ‘getting yourself out there’ is another way to meet people. Yes, I know I have revolutionary ideas that are on par with stem cell research. But what I’m getting at is that we need to make ourselves available to our knight in shining armour. 

I volunteered at Switchboard and through that I came in contact with a whole array of new people, and I made some very close friends. My social circle was widened and it all happened in a much more organic setting with no expectations or hangups. That said, I feel it’s important to mention that I did not start volunteering to meet guys – that was just an added bonus. 

My indiscretions aside, there are clearly plenty of reasons to approach dating from a different angle. And it’s also very clear that most of us are not getting what we need from these apps: no expectations, not holding out for much, not sure why I’m on here, this app sucks balls, let’s lie about where we met. These sort of statements pop up all the time. So why are we all enduring this self-perpetuating cycle of bullshit? 

We’re lonely. We feel like we’re out of options. We’re time-deprived. We want a quick fix. Our salvation must be the plethora of fantastical profiles shining at us from every angle. Yet in this haven of glittering faces and body parts, we’re more likely to devalue each other than find love.

So take yourself out of the equation and try a new tactic. Go out and volunteer, join a group, be sociable, whatever floats your boat. It’s not a quick fix, but what have you got to lose? And if you’re still wedded to those apps then take care not to lose touch with your humanity. If you start to treat everyone like they don’t matter, odds are that’s how they’re going to treat you. People might want to fuck an asshole, but they’re sure as hell not going to marry one.