One feature of online dating that makes it a recurring pub-discussion topic among my friends is the propensity for the people involved to do strange things. A whole new spectrum of dating behaviour has evolved on “the apps”. Habits that, while now common, are still odd things to do.
Someone might seem very interested but then “ghost” or “orbit” (which means they stop replying to messages but still engage with your social media content, liking your posts and photos); or tell obvious but seemingly unnecessary lies; another person might read “the riot act” on a first date, sternly laying down their terms for how the relationship should progress; and there are endless stories about dates reacting bizarrely, even menacingly, if rejected.
One I heard recently was about a man my friend met on an app. When she told him she didn’t want to see him again he went through a phase of sending her pictures from her own social media accounts, platforms they had never interacted on, as if to say: “I’ve got my eye on you.” But most of it is not really threatening, just plain strange. I haven’t dated in a little while but (and there is no way to say this without sounding like I’m 90) I had my Tinder phase, and I remember the strangeness well. One man I matched with spent months sending me puns and jokes based on the TV show How Clean is Your House?.
I did my own share of things which probably ended up being discussed in pubs. Once I was on a second date I didn’t really want to be on, with a man I didn’t like, and when he said something mildly obnoxious I latched on to it, picked a fight and then ran out of the restaurant and off down the street. When he messaged me later for an explanation I told him I’d done it because I was a feminist – as if that alone sufficed. But I knew, deep down, the real reason: I did it because I could get away with it. We didn’t know anyone in common. Who would he tell?
I’ve come to see a lot of the bizarre behaviour through this prism. The apps have created a dating landscape that is largely divorced from our normal social ecosystem of friends and acquaintances – people whose opinions we care about, who might judge us for ghosting someone or consistently treating dates badly. There are rarely wider social consequences for anything we do when we date strangers we meet online, and so we are free to get up to all sorts.
A new book, The New Laws of Love: Online Dating and the Privatization of Intimacy, by Marie Bergström, a sociologist and researcher who works at the National Institute of Demographic Studies in France, explores this …….