Is It Possible to Find Love Without Dating Apps?

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Dating in 2018 can be a challenge. I'm sorry, let me rephrase: It suuuuuuuuccckkkkksssss.

Apps like Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, Grindr, and others are the dater's tools of choice , and yet hating them is the one thing we can all agree on these days. They're often more hazard than help, and the forced psychoanalysis of every picture and witty answer can shake even the most durable of confidences loose. Why am I not getting more matches? Why didn't they respond? But is it your fault, or the app's? Is it really possible to find true love with just your thumbs? I set out on a journey to find out, and it starts with defining love itself.

The heart of the matter is the heart itself. Like any muscle, it must be worked on to grow. And love for most people seems to emulate that—a laborious growing process. A symbiotic relationship where two people don't just grow together, but toward each other. But how do you decide on the person, the deciding factor of your success? I asked some of my friends that question and got varying answers: Someone that makes me laugh. Someone that's empathetic. Someone that gets me snacks. But how do you filter for that? Will Tinder ever have a checkbox for "level of snack-readiness?"

So if we agree that common interests and values are the types of things we're all looking for in relationships, how can we be expected to find them in an app that sorts for first-glance aesthetics and the ability to write one clever sentence about yourself? It's Romance Roulette. Your filters aren't set for love; they're set for lust, and their equation for it is faulty at best. Your best chance at not getting eliminated before you even start is to conform, in which case you arrive safely in the dating pool without any of the things that make you, you. Dating apps reward homogeneity, sifting everyone into two-dimensional profiles that look the same, sound the same, and in some cases, even algorithmically identify which picture is best to represent you for the largest possible audience.

Of course, people don't love each other for what makes them the same; they love them for what makes them unique. I wanted someone insatiable, someone whose eyes set ablaze when they talked about something important to them. I wanted someone who was a good friend, a motivator, someone who enjoyed being a blessing to those around them. I wanted someone to invest their love in me for exactly the things that make me different. For those looking for a simple standard, a dating app can provide you with a sea of able-bodied mates. I wanted more than a flat photo and a single sentence could provide. So I chose to swipe dating apps right off my homescreen.

Bye Bye, Bumble

Moving away from dating apps sounds liberating—and it is. You'll realize characteristics that only matter inside your phone screen—What picture is best of me? What's one sentence that describes me? Why am I not getting the matches I want?—have been worrying you way too much outside of it. If you try to game love, you can expect love to game you. Hookups and temporary flings can be easy to find on apps, but when deep connections keep evading you, it's not the app you question. It's yourself. It can chew on your confidence to the point where it's no longer raising your chances by widening the pool, it's hurting them by leaving you at half strength during the times that really matter.

But how does one even meet people without an app anymore? Approaching strangers in bars is harder than it's ever been; we leave our dating to our phones, and real life is spent inside the confines of our tightly knit friend circles. Anyone trying to date outside of their phone has the potential to come off, well, creepy.

The New Old Fashion

So to find old-school love I went old-school. I went speed dating for some face-to-face conversations, and it changed everything. I could gauge my interest within 30 seconds of talking to each person, and didn't have to make plans and text awkwardly all week just to get to there. They didn't have to tell me through a text they were passionate, I could see it. I didn't have to endure the difficult work of predicting if they would make me double over laughing; it either happened or it didn't. But—maybe even more importantly—it was a better shot for me.

There were no filters—and therefore no excuses—they were actually getting me. My personality, my humor, my empathy, even my snack-readiness, with no thumb-crafting involved. We know humans crave connection—real, deep, meaningful connection. Yet it's difficult to find that depth over text; it happens with body language. It happens with the dance and tempo of real conversation. The chemistry isn't very complicated if the ingredients never touch.

I went on to take a boxing class, and joined a new gym. I joined a social kickball team. I went to concerts of my favorite artists. I swapped my swipe for a tap into all the social events the internet could offer. Now instead of conforming, I formed it to me. I filtered for the things I liked doing, and indirectly filtered for the types of people I would meet. Add to that the kicker: When I showed up to the online dates I wasn't interested in, I had wasted a night. But if I didn't meet someone while my favorite musician bathed me in a searing guitar solo? It's a win-win. It's not that it's impossible to find love on dating apps—it certainly isn't. But it is a brute force trial and error approach. Instead of taking a route chosen for me, I considered my strengths and chose something fitted to them. For some, dating apps will widen the pool and lead to success. For others, like me, you might be better off on the road not taken. I may not have found true love just yet, but I'm enjoying the journey a helluva lot more.


How We Love: Read More

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