Online dating: Have you been left in the computer?

When the lid closes you no longer exist.

Plenty of people are on dating sites but comparatively few appear interested in actual face-to-face relationships. One of the suppositions behind the use of dating sites is the potential of increasing your dating pool and actually dating. This assumes people arrive with the intention of meeting someone at least for a date or two. Wrong. Online dating is not about dating. The reasons are many but can generally be summed up as this:

When you combine lonely, lost, curious, horny, needy, opportunistic, manipulative, and even relatively normal people, with technology, it’s like handing over the keys to the zoo to thousands of 3 year olds, all high on sugar.

It may not have required a psychologist to work out what was happening, though one did just that. John Suler’s work brought the online disinhibition effect into focus and in doing so provided an answer to that time-honoured question of “Where the fuck have they disappeared to?”

Disinhibition explains why people speak and act in ways they would never do offline. Whether consciously or not, online is seen as a totally different place, one that you leave behind when you close the computer. This explains the very modern practice of ghosting or fading, where someone who has been conversing with you online for days or weeks will suddenly disappear, then message you again after a year, expecting you to be in exactly the same place and pick up the conversation. I’m not kidding, that’s how it works.

Online dating doesn’t exist in a void. It’s part of an entire alternative world where people go to lose themselves and some end up moving in. You see it in gamers. You also see it in users of online porn. It’s addictive behaviour and there’s no reason why you should expect people to behave any differently on a dating site. It explains why many people see online and mobile dating sites as ends in themselves, i.e.; they don’t have any desire to go any further since their gratification has been achieved.

And this is where people on online dating sites are not dissimilar to those who game or seek out online porn: they’re getting that hit from each notification and they’re dopamine levels are rising. Meanwhile you’re left sitting there wondering what in the conversation turned them off. Nothing turned them off. They’re like butterfly collectors except instead of putting you in a net, they’ve left you in a computer.

“Does this mean I don’t exist in real life WOE?”

I’m afraid it does. To the other person you live in the computer and the longer you engage with them in that fashion, the more likely you are to be stuck there. In the computer. Forever.

So you need some rules. And I’m just about to formulate them.



2 comments for “Online dating: Have you been left in the computer?

  1. Coach
    February 1, 2017 at 02:33

    “And I’m just about to formulate them.”

    That’s it, leave your audience wanting more.

    You’re spot on, and in the past I’ve been on the receiving end and guilty of ghosting.

    Will we ever get to hear of WOE’s dating experiences again. Your online dating tales were a hoot to read.

    • woe
      February 1, 2017 at 10:22

      The ghosting thing becomes normalised to the point where now I imagine many people might say it’s ok to cancel a date when someone is sitting in a restaurant waiting. Or maybe even not show up. There is a great book I’ll write about where this cyberpsychologist reckons there is the real self and the cyber self.

      As for dating adventures, well there are many I haven’t told from my past so I shall try and oblige.

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