Has the popularity of online dating made meeting women in public weird?

 

There’s a large branch of Boots on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Regent Street. It sits under the gargantuan advertising screens in Piccadilly Circus, just by the entrance to the tube. Go and stand outside the store between midday and 10pm on any given day. You’ll notice something.

 

Amongst the constant flow of tourists, look closer. Stood alone, wearing their best outfits, staring into the crowds expectantly are scores of young men and women waiting for a date to arrive. Maybe it’s the glow of the LED screens. Maybe it’s the rhythmic unison of homeless people asking for spare change. Or maybe it’s simply the store’s proximity to the tube station. For reasons unclear, the paved area outside Boots in Piccadilly Circus is the UKs most popular spot for two people to meet before a date.

And it was in this very spot one evening that I myself waited for a young lady I’d met two weeks earlier in a bar. As I waited nervously, I noticed a guy like me alternating between checking his mobile phone and looking around for his date. I spotted a young lady, dressed to impress, behaving in the same way. They were standing just 10 metres apart. Little did they know, they were waiting for each other. They’d obviously never met before; they would’ve spotted each other in the crowd pretty easily otherwise. They’ve met online, I thought to myself. Most likely on Tinder. The pair edged closer and closer together, still checking their phones and glancing up to scan the crowd. And then their eyes met, darted down to their phones. Up, down, up and down again, until it was clear. The young man’s face dropped. He sighed with a subtle annoyance before forcing a smile. She didn’t look too thrilled either. They exchanged awkward pleasantries then walked off together toward Soho. A whole evening to look forward to, with a person they realised they weren’t attracted to within 1 second. I watched them as they hesitantly went into the night. I thanked myself for never trying online dating.

And for your information, my date hadn’t stood me up - I just like to arrive early.

I’ve never been a fan of online dating. Never tried it. Never needed to. There was a time when it was solely the reserve of divorced single parents and people who looked attractive ten years ago. But things have changed. First it became normal, then it became popular. Today, I’d struggle to find a single adult who has never swiped left or right on Tinder. No longer is it a last ditch attempt to find love, but hijacked by singletons looking for casual sex, and broke female students in need of a free meal.

It’s a trend that’s turning pick up artist’s man buns grey. PUA’s are being pushed to the side-line. Online dating kills the need for their advice. Single men don’t need to learn how to approach women anymore. They cheat the system, if you will. It’s far simpler to upload a couple of pictures of yourself, swipe a few times, and send a handful of texts, than it is to put your balls on the chopping block and ask for a girl’s number in person. As easy as online dating is, is it the right thing to do? There are bigger issues in the world, I know, but I’m one of the few who actually give a damn. It’s not just the way single men meet women that lies in jeopardy; the way we build relationships, over the past decade, has shifted seismically. If two people do happen to meet face to face, they’ll sure enough add each other on Facebook moments after. They have the means to qualify each other and form prejudices in such a way they couldn’t before. That unflattering picture your friend tagged you in when you were drunk 2 years ago could be a deal breaker. What if your Instagram feed isn’t littered with photos of exotic travels, extravagant parties, and groups of friends? What does that say about you?

People in relationships aren’t immune to its drawbacks either. Anxious men and women, butt-hurt after an argument with their partner will reinstall tinder for a cursory swipe as if they’re looking at new job adverts after a crappy day at work.

You see, online dating presents new threats and temptations across the board. Yet there is a second beast that threatens male chivalry.

The #metoo movement has built momentum, as if in answer to the prayers of the virtual dating juggernauts. Now before I delve any further, let me set the record straight. I fully support and admire the brave women that have spoken up against completely unacceptable male dominated sexual harassment. By laying down my opinion, I do not intend to undermine their cause.

The definition of consent has been made murkier. Murky to the extent that single men are becoming too afraid to express any genuine sexual or romantic feelings toward women. A culture where men must deny their primal programming is upon us.

Every decent man should know and respect the boundary between flirting and harassing, or consensual and non-consensual, though unfortunately not all do. Yet even the decent men, and there are many of them, are now being discouraged from the most harmless expression. Hence the shift to a place more black and white, where ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are clearly typed in a WhatsApp chat. Single men aren’t willing to risk the persecution they believe goes hand in hand with flirting and trying to create romantic tension. They’re too afraid even to strike up a conversation with a woman in a bar.

I’m no male rights activist. I do believe that some men need persecution, some men are belligerent, and most men are so bad at talking to women that Bumble had to be created. (A dating app that only allows women to choose a man they wish to speak to and start the conversation). It just saddens me to see the end of a beautiful thing. Gone are the days of chance encounters, whirlwind romances and love at first sight. Dying is the art of approaching a woman you’ve spotted in public. Yet another basic human function has been automated. No longer will married couples tell stories of random meetings and nerves of steel that led them to meet their other half. Friends of the recently coupled will no longer ask “how did you meet?” but “which app did you meet on?”.

The Japanese have long been at the forefront technology. A glance into the future if you will. Their nation is witnessing a very singular phenomenon. Japan’s birth rate is at an all-time low. The population fell by a staggering 403,000 in 2017. Yes, in terms of saving the planet, that’s great news. But not for emotional support and stability. A survey of Japanese men and women aged 18-34 revealed that 70 percent of men, and 60 percent of women were not in relationships. Around 40 percent of both those single men and women (mainly in their late twenties) are virgins. Japan’s young people are not having enough sex, and appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren’t even dating. The problem is complex but it’s clear that women are putting their careers before their romantic lives. And men can’t be bothered with the hassles of meeting women and dating. They’re more content to meet their own needs through online porn (including cartoon porn, worryingly). Japanese men are choosing virtual women over the real deal through ease and convenience. Many adults under 40 in Japan are plainly less interested in relationships, and content to remain single. The future generations, the few of them, are set to perpetuate their parent’s lifestyle. Skills in flirting and seducing will no longer be passed down.

How does the future look for our western world? As millennial men look for the quickest and easiest way to seek a partner, whilst believing their true sexual intent isn’t welcome in society, they will all be forced online. Where the answer to an anxious single man’s introversion should have been dating education and practice, he instead turns to dating apps. It will spell out the end of an era – A day when pick up artists have to look for real jobs with pensions and health insurance. Bars will go out of business as Neil Strauss incarnations no longer float from happy hour to happy hour. Dust will gather on the magic handkerchiefs that once impressed drunk women, and cheesy pickup lines will echo in the deserted night clubs.

Online dating has already removed the need to meet women in public. But it hasn’t stopped it altogether. In fact, I think it never will. Just as some stubborn men choose a cut-throat razor over an electric, it will live on.

Here’s another of my street observations. Have a walk around Oxford Circus on a weekend. If you pay attention, you’re bound to see the anomaly. Every now and then a well-dressed young man will run up to an attractive woman and compliment her. She’ll look startled, giggle, or even ignore him and walk away. The young man’s aim is to get mobile numbers and go on dates. 'Daygame', as it’s commonly known. The ultimate cold approach. Funnily enough it’s rife around Oxford Circus and the surrounding area. If you search ‘daygame’ on YouTube, one of the first few videos will have no doubt been filmed there. It used to frustrate me. When I was single, I’d spot them and see them as competition. But now it makes me smile. Yes, the technique sounds a bit like an old scam that only old people fall for, but the more men that rely on the internet to communicate their attraction to a lady, the more women there are for the daygamers to have a chance with. The less men there’ll be with the charisma and confidence to express themselves genuinely. These ballsy men are carrying the torch for anti-online dating. And I admire their efforts, to not sell out.

Face to face honest courageousness will always win. For those single men reading this, don’t be afraid. To the men that aren’t comfortable with creating profile pictures or awkward bios - you may worry that your efforts to meet women will become ineffective. You may fear that you’ll be found out or punished for telling a girl how you feel. You won’t. Girls want to feel like they’re in a RomCom. You will get rejected from time to time, but it doesn’t mean what you’re doing is wrong.

Meeting a woman in public, completely randomly and spontaneously is such a wonderful thing. Nothing will beat the thrill of it. It can easily make your day. It may even make your year. Maybe, just maybe, it could lead to a lasting bond for life.

 

 

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