Regis Gaughan, III

The Digital Dater

I’m a “catch” by most anyone’s standards: polite, handsome, confident and well-off. I’m also single. Now don’t get it wrong, I’ve be out there dating… a lot. Statistically there should have been a handful of relationships that moved into a “serious” status but here I am; single. And I’m not alone either: OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Match, eHarmony… there’s literally millions of successful and attractive people trying to find that special someone. So, why are we all still single?

I’ll tell you why: You and I, we suffer from Digital Dating Attention Deficit Disorder.

A few years ago, after getting out of a long relationship, I decided to try a couple of online dating services. The simplicity and speed of finding someone to get to know over drinks seemed like a pipe dream. Of course there were a bunch of poor connections and bad awful dates, but every now and then the two of us would really hit it off. However, no matter how well we clicked, those relationships would simply fizzle out. There wasn’t even a concrete end — simply two busy schedules keeping us apart until one day we would just stop trying. And you know what? It didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter because after that one, there was another one, then another one, and another one. At any time, I would be talking to a handful of potential dates and even juggling multiple dates at once. But that was okay because they were too. There’s literally an endless stream of smiling photographs available to browse with a flick of the finger, each holding the possibility that they are in some way better than the one you’ve just met. So why should you try to get to know someone more seriously when there are dozens of others vying for your attention? Because it never, ever ends.

I once went on four separate dates in a single work-week. It didn’t matter that none were all the great or that I wasn’t particularly excited to see them again because I had a couple more lined up for the next week. I was addicted and it was time to quit, cold-turkey. And while I didn’t have hallucinations of dates crawling on my ceiling, it wasn’t the easiest task to completely cut off the endless fantasy of possibility. But I did and I ended up having more passionate and longer relationships. Sure, they eventually ended but they ended for real reasons relationships should end not just because we couldn’t pay attention to each other wondering if anyone in our inbox is marginally more adequate. And the online dating services I left behind? Like a bad-mannered dealer they would bombard me with solicitations to take just one more hit with daily emails filled with new matches or letting me know that someone winked at me, arbitrarily rated me highly or simply viewed my dead profile.

After a year hiatus and knowing more clearly what I was looking for I decided to sign up once again and found something I could not believe: The same users from before I quit were still there logging in almost every day — some from when I first joined years before. These beautiful, smart and passionate people all dying to meet someone and having so many eager matches to choose from were simply unable to find that special someone year after year. Impossible.. right?

It was only then that I realized: You’re not single because of your own doing, you’re single because they’ve kept you so. You’re simply a number in a chart that someone can show how many people are viewing their ads or paying a monthly fee. You are the product, unknowingly brainwashed to keep looking because the longer you stay single, the more money there is to be made. In the end, these services are not made to help you find someone out there, these services are made to keep you wondering if there is someone better out there.

Now don’t be foolish — there are a ton of reasons why you may be stuck in singledom. But if you’re reading this in one tab and have another tab open with the same old dating account you’ve had for months or even years, then hopefully when you find yourself sitting across from someone you’re really clicking with you can snap out of it, close down your inbox and give it an honest shot. Maybe you can break free from the cycle. Good luck.