ann@feminineproject.com

The Dating Fraud

Written by Ann Burns

July 21, 2020

“It’s not a big deal…”

Ugh.  But… was it a good idea?  

Obviously, I needed to choose good photos,  but what did I want them to say about me?  What message was I trying to send?

I ruminated on the matter only for a moment; I’m a naturally happy person, so I chose pictures where I was smiling, laughing, or out in the sun.  “I guess that works…”  

Submit. 

More things to fill in. 

This was already becoming a bit much. 

“I dearly love to laugh.” I typed up in my bio. Meh.  Not great, but sufficient; it matched the happy photos, and  it was a truth — laughing was (and is) my favorite.  It also was a low-key literary reference: a quote from Elizabeth Bennet, who’s temperament I can completely empathize with. And lastly, I am a voracious reader.  One tiny little statement, and yet it said so much. 

How many men would read this much into my simple, sunny looking profile?  Most likely a grand, glittering zero, but that was okay.  It was essentially a game anyway, right?  I mean, a dating app?  I don’t know how anyone could take something like this seriously.  

*BLIIIIIINGGGGGGG*  

My profile was live.  

I EXHALED. AND SO IT BEGINS.

A man’s face stared at me.  He was tattooed and shirtless.  “I’m the kind of guy you take home to momma.”  

“Ugh, you couldn’t be more wrong.  Swipe left.” 

Another face appeared. 

Then another.

And another. 

“Oh gosh, no.”

“Lame.”

“You obviously got your bio from a buzzfeed quiz.”

“Snooze.”

“Ugly.”

“Player.”

“So unoriginal.”

“Tool.”

“You look like a molester.”

“Stop with the bathing suit and gym pictures.”

“Pretty sure I just read the same bio five seconds ago… aren’t any of you creative?”

I looked away, this was already going horrifically.  

Deep breath: be less judgmental. 

At long last, I had managed to swipe right on a number of men and develop a respectable queue of matches. 

Perfect. The next step was to develop a decent dialogue.  No doubt, this would be even harder.  I did this by always picking a handful of quirky questions and unusual greetings; I evaluated their responses in order to determine whether they were worth actually talking to.  

Essentially, the whole thing was an elimination process.  It was like going on ABC’s The Bachelor, but all the drama took place on your phone — no helicopters or yachts.  Just the dopamine releasing bling of a text message. 

In many cases, it turned into a script.  For whatever reason, it seemed that most individuals were intent on giving insanely similar responses or asking the same mind-numbing questions.  Their responses to my oddities were also, often, the same, “I love that!” “lol you’re funny!” “hahaha I’ve never heard that before!”  

It seemed I had landed in the realm of excessive exclamation points. Up until that day, I believed an overdose of exclamation points was reserved for people like fourth graders and Elaine from Seinfeld. To my dismay, desperate single men also are in that club.

If I got a rude response, I sent a terse adieu.  This conjured up a slew of “Oh, no! That’s not what I meant!!! SORRYYYYYY!!!!!!!! :((((((.” 

(I.e. pleaseeeeeee talk to meeee for I am bored out of my mind.) Snooze fest. 

In short, it started to feel easy.  I could forge any kind of scenario I wanted based on what I sent out.  What was the result? 

Glee! Dating apps are my oyster– I can do as I please. 

Except, that’s not true; honestly, it was boring. So boring. Everyone was so boring. 

And that is when I connected with Conor.  

Conor was tall and broad.  

We started messaging back and forth.  He loved to read; he liked quirky movies; he appreciated good writing, and knew all of the cool, offbeat places in the area. AND! He didn’t have any weird pictures posted. 

In other words, he was fun.  We started to talk a lot;  our chats pivoted around books and writing and quirky movies. And the best part was, he didn’t seem to be on a script. 

I pictured him being rather debonair.  He probably had a deep voice and a proclivity towards arrogance, after all, he could actually compose a sentence.  His text messages were never trite. 

*BLIIIIIINGGGGG*

“I’d love to meet you. Would you like to grab a drink?”  He was one of the few guys who I thought, yeah– yes, I would.  

It was a gorgeous summer day when we met up at a hip little restaurant. When I walked inside, it didn’t take me long to spot him. He was dressed in a brightly colored shirt and khaki shorts.  His face lit up in a smile: bashful, giddy, bright. 

His voice, to my surprise, was not baritone-laced arrogance, but soft and unassuming.  His entire being emitted joy and lightheartedness. Conversation came easy, and soon we were laughing away, telling silly anecdotes and of course, evaluating books. 

Needless to say, he was nothing like I had envisioned.  He was warm and sweet. He liked to smile and be goofy. He enjoyed interesting topics and wanted to discuss ideas.  He went to the Church that I taught at, and his parents were basically neighbors with my parents. 

He had a whole life full of aspirations. 

He was real. He had a heart. He had thoughts.  

 I never saw Conor again; I couldn’t.  I wasn’t really looking for a relationship; I was just… wasting time.  

I was just using people. 

I went home and deleted my app. 

Prior to the meeting, I had forgotten I was looking at real people with hearts and minds and souls.   

 I had, in a span of moments, dehumanized Conor along with so many souls.  And in turn, by virtue of putting myself out there, determining what photos were best to showcase me, allowed myself to be dehumanized. 

But there, sipping mojitos, I encountered his humanity.

He was not something for me to be entertained by, to fill up my phone with *blings*, but a man created in God’s image, with an immortal soul.  

He had dreams and fears, strengths and weaknesses, and any sort of label I had slapped onto him, was a grave injustice to his personhood; his personhood that I would have been completely ignorant of had I not met him. I couldn’t see his person-hood behind a screen. 

If our world is consumed by the fleeting,immediate gratification of a dopamine rush, then social media will in turn, pivot around the thrill of likes, meaningless messages, and cries for attention.  Trapped in the realm of the expedient, it becomes harder and harder to see the personhood of an individual. 

It becomes harder and harder to see that man is a body soul composite, beautifully and wonderfully made.  We see others as advertisements, and in turn, advertise ourselves.  In doing so, we make it almost impossible for others to see our humanity — to recognize our dignity.  We objectify, not only others, but also ourselves.  

Hence, why so many essentially naked photos are plastered all over the internet. 

People sell their dignity, their worth, for the fleeting buzz of “matches” and “likes.” In doing so, they train their brains to forget that individuals are called to so much more.  That we were made for so much more. 

I think the words of American author John Steinbeck proffer a perfect reflection on this matter: “I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.”

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