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Written by Emma Holly.
Art by Madeline Ziemer.

“Sit on my face.” “I’m sensing you’re a freak in the sheets.” “Can’t tell if you’re innocent or absolute trouble.” “Let’s make a baby?” “I want you all up on me.”

I’ve heard a lot.

I’ve heard enough to make me want to commit to a life of celibacy and devote my time to needlecraft. Dating apps are ruthless and take no prisoners. It appears that if you aren’t into casual hook-ups, your chances of finding a date are slim. “*Insert name you don’t remember here* has sent you a message”, and you’re either going to be met with the world’s least inventive greeting or being verbally undressed.

Call me a hopeless romantic or an idiot, because I’m not sure of the difference between the two these days, but I would love it if someone just sent me a text that fits the following three criteria:

1)    is cute
2)    is polite
3)    doesn’t talk about particular body parts

I spend a lot of time deleting and redownloading dating apps, wondering if somewhere along the way they were adopted by hook-up culture and I didn’t get the memo. Don’t get me wrong; I think the freedom and empowerment of safe, casual sex is one of the best things since sliced bread. Sex without strings? Incredible. All of the good feelings without the harmful ones. Great.

Unfortunately for me, my anxiety-ridden mind attaches strings to every conversation, and sex is a concept that still half terrifies me.  Using dating apps makes me constantly question what is going to be expected of me. It’s exhausting. I just want to talk to someone without subconsciously tracking how long it will take before I feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I get a sinking feeling that I just want too much.

However, with each new download of the apps, I manage to delude myself that this time will be different.

This time, if I properly consider the unwritten rules of them, I will succeed. I remind myself that Tinder has almost entirely become a platform for finding a hook-up, and that Bumble leans more towards relationships. Hinge seems to straddle the line between the two. I’ve had my love affairs with all of them. It’s been passionate and entirely toxic. Tinder has given me the most validation on those quiet nights when I feel like I’m grotesque. I have wild arguments with Bumble, and it always slams the door in my face. I’ll send so many messages out there that get lost in the void. Hinge, once more, seems to be the lovechild of the two.

There are many more dating apps that I haven’t dabbled with; Plenty of Fish, Match, OkCupid. It can get a bit overwhelming. I worry that the Great Love of My Life is waiting on one of these sites and I’m wasting my time staring in the wrong direction, dodging disturbing remarks like the plague.

It truly is the digital version of getting catcalled.

I recognise when I have those moments where I swipe right on every person in the hopes they will give me compliments, it is not only a shitty thing to do, but practically welcomes unsolicited remarks about my being. It truly is the digital version of getting catcalled. Sure enough, I feel objectified and ready to swear off humanity forever, but then there is that horrible, shameful part of myself that likes the fact someone finds me attractive. I hate to admit to it, that I have that tiny voice that just craves validation in any form. But what about my dignity? What about any shred of pride I have?

What consistently brings me back to them? I should be able to meet people ‘organically.’ What does that even mean? That I grew them ethically in my garden and picked them when they were just ripe? I go to university, where I’m surrounded by people my own age. I’m bisexual, so have been told that I have double the chances of meeting someone.

Either I’m the unluckiest person on the planet, or there has been a definite shift in attitude towards dating in real life. Just like the dating apps, more people are searching for hook-ups, or are simply not interested.

The world is changing; twenty-somethings have new priorities. Tradition went out the window a while back – and thank God it did. We’ve seen a new age of opportunity, of acceptance, be ushered in. Women can be sexually liberated and sleep with whomever they want, whenever they want.

But dating is becoming the Mt. Everest of my life: insurmountable at best and a pointless undertaking at the worst. Sometimes, it’s hard to fight to defend the apps when I’m constantly having to justify to myself why I’m still on them. It’s not like they make me happy, and it’s not like I have had any success.

There is no happy ending to this story, no uplifting, positive spin. I’m deleting this stupid app today, and then I’ll download it again tomorrow. See you on there.

About the Author

Emma is a university student studying Liberal Arts who writes in her spare time. When she isn’t knitting or reading, she is getting fired up over social justice matters; her writing is the result of this.

Follow on IG: @emmaaholly | Follow on Twitter: @emmmaholly