I am sitting at a coffee shop in downtown Nashville. I have let this girl know that I am there and am looking out for her. The plan was to meet up, have some coffee, and then go to watch a movie. Nothing too fancy for a first date, but I also did not know her incredibly well and wanted to feel things out.

At this point I want to mention that What We Do in the Shadows is a hilarious mockumentary that goes places movies do not normally go while still being approachable. It is a great date movie, and I know this because my date did not even show up and I still had a good time.

This whole disappointing evening was the result of me trying online dating. I wanted to try online dating because my dating life has been essentially nonexistent for as long as I can remember. I have only had one significant “adult” relationship, and that was nowhere close to normal (and not really adult either), so I began this excursion into virtual matchmaking with little sense of what a normal dating life looks like.

From what I can tell, this is not a unique position either. The rules for dating are often unspoken, unclear, and dependent upon the individual interpretations of people.

In other words, we are all making it up as we go along.

And technology has invaded that process. Whereas people used to engage in elaborate dances and talk to old ladies with too much time on their hands, now people meet each other by swiping their fingers one way or the other. It is a strange era indeed.

Having said that, here are some things I have learned while engaging in this process.* Hopefully, if we all talk it through, maybe we can figure out those unspoken rules and what this whole process is supposed to look like (but probably not).

Creating a Profile is Hard

Quick, describe yourself in one word.

Now try describing yourself in three.

Now try ten.

I bet you realized that the more words you had, the harder it was, and that is true for making a profile as well. Filling out that “about me” paragraph continues to be one of the most difficult writing tasks I have ever faced, and every time I revise it, I feel like I’m making it a bit worse.

Does describing myself as an intellectual sound appealing or pretentious? Should I mention that I am a student or is that irrelevant? Are my political and religious beliefs important enough to include on my profile summary?

I wish I knew the answers to these questions, but I had no consistent measure of success or failure on any of these changes. When I did get a positive response or a negative response, I was never sure exactly why. I was and continue to be never sure at all what is appealing or not appealing about my profile, and by extension, myself.

Which I guess is just like real life.

Good Opening Lines are Impossible

I majored in writing in college. I am currently studying to teach writing. In addition to this website, I also run my own blog where I create works designed to be read by people of incredibly different religious backgrounds, political views, and perspectives on life. I am not afraid to say that writing well is a skill I have.

I have never written a good opening line in any dating message. Ever. I am honestly surprised every time I get a reaction (which, to be fair, is not often).

That is partially because nothing in online dating operates with any sense. Normal conversations involve a gentle greeting followed by small talk and getting to know each other, but that is not the case here. If you just send a message that says, “Hey,” you will most likely get ignored. Many profiles even point this out, which is a bit weird because that is a normal way to start a conversation in real life, but the reasons why are understandable.

Instead what I ended up doing was scouring profiles trying to figure a person out and then opening up with something related to them that shows I actually paid attention, which, again, is weird. That sort of process usually doesn’t happen until people know each other for a while or have at least met.

The whole process just feels backwards. I feel like Merlin trying to enter the dating scene.**

Rejection Fatigue Does Exist

I was really optimistic upon entering into online dating. My dating pool has historically been incredibly small, so being able to meet and talk to people who might be interested in me was appealing. And hey, OK Cupid says this person and I are a 93% match! That sounds pretty good!

But it soon becomes obvious that those percentage numbers were incredibly misleading. When I spent all that time invested in trying to figure out a good opening line for someone who seemed like a great match for me only to get nothing in response back, I felt discouraged, just like I would in real life, which I feel weird admitting. I feel like I should be embarrassed by that. After all, I do not know these people at all and am basing my entire perspective of them off of four or five pictures, an “About Me” essay, and some questions they answered about astrological signs and fishing.

I realized after a while that I was putting effort into the relationship apps, not the relationships themselves. These apps were taking a lot of my mental energy and yielding few returns. Eventually, I just grew tired of the whole process.

I Still Have No Idea What Dating is Supposed to Look Like

In fact, I think I have even less of an idea.

As humans, we learn through repetition. When we eat food that tastes good or touch something that hurts us, we adjust what we do. We learn the rules of the world and get a greater understanding of how it works.

And maybe that is how dating used to work. People went on dates, learned what was normal through experience, and adjusted their habits in their next attempts and experiences.

I do not feel like I can do that with online dating. None of it works the same way as in real life or even from one situation to the next. I did have a relationship from OK Cupid—an actual relationship with dinner dates, long conversations, sweet nothings, etc—and it lasted a week. Was that normal? I don’t know.

As I try to sum up my experiences with online dating, I find that I am at a lost to what life experiences or lessons I am supposed to take away from this.

At this point, I think I am just going to see if there are any old ladies around me with too much time on their hands.

But on the other hand, Hinge looks interesting.


*For the record, I tried Tinder, OK Cupid, and Coffee Meets Bagel.

**If you get that reference, you get 12 cool points. You may spend those at your nearest cool points dealers.