Dinner with three friends and one of them, a passionate dating site user, announces she is taking a break for January. Personally I think one should take a break forever but I was curious and asked her why.
“Because they’re all desperate in January,” she said.
“Aren’t most people who frequent dating sites desperate all the time?” I asked, a little unfairly.
She leaned forward. “January is really bad. There is this urgency, this need for validation. And so they just want to fuck.”
I thought about it and it made sense. In terms of relationships, January is an emotional assault course. It has a deserved reputation as the month of marriage breakup and divorce, with divorce lawyers seeing an upwards spike around the second week of the month. It is also the month of self-evaluation, where Christmas and New Year proved to be nothing more than the same old, same old and now you’re left wondering what, if anything, is the point? Self-loathing be it for one’s body, brain or whole wasted life (let’s not mess around here) is rampant and with that comes the plethora of inner and outer voices telling us to fix it.
My friend wasn’t being strictly accurate when she damned all her online dating suitors as ‘click n fucks.’ There are also the guys who are married and just want to see what it might be like. Most of them have no intention of crossing the line but want to peep over it. Then there are a huge number who are serial lookers. They’ve spent so long camped on the site, they’ve forgotten why they came, their original specification now pretty much meaningless as they cruise the recent arrivals for new photos they can add to their fantasy list. These guys do not have offline lives, they just go round and round in circles. And then there are the guys who are taken, but are there because, well because they can be.
Of course this happens year round but in January all these things are exacerbated by a culture of motivation and improvement, one that promises good things to those who make the effort, those who truly believe and those who deserve. And that’s the big, fat lie in all this. For if people truly got what they deserved, hoped and asked the universe for, then bad things wouldn’t happen to good people. But they do.
The problem with online dating (and by no means the only one) it is all about potential, not actuality. It is the very manifestation of the ‘next new thing’, the ultimate what if and what could be of self-projection, playing to a packed gallery of self-entitled, self-improvers. Proponents argue that it makes the whole world one big dating site. In January it is more like a cesspool of the discontented, the urgent, the newly dumped, the opportunistic and a hell of a lot of people punching above their weight. If you must invest your time in a dating site, leave it until well after Valentine’s Day, say April, when the weight of expectation and disappointment mixed with mass self-loathing is a little less evident.