Looking Past the Pictures to Find ‘Real’ Interaction on Dating Apps

“Am I in the mood for this?”

“Maybe I’ll like the next one…”

“Meh!”

“Ooooooo!”

No, that’s not me shopping. That’s me exercising my fingers on my phone screen since 2014. After the end of a long relationship, a friend introduced to an app that was a ‘rage’ in the West. Up until then, I had been restricted to meeting men either through friends or in a drunken haze at nightclubs and pubs. This was the first time I could just scroll through heaps of mugshots, in the privacy of my house, and choose from the men available. Say what?!

In the last four years, I have dodged a few bullets, casually dated a couple of men and taken screenshots of umpteen obnoxious conversations for my social media. Over these years I have seen a wonderland change into a cesspool (read Tinder) and the sprouting of multiple other dating apps. At this point, I have used almost all of them – and depending on what you want I can help you write your bio for any of them. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is my expectations (or the lack of them) from these apps.

Humans are a social species, we’re meant to thrive on interaction. Yet, when it comes to searching for our partners, we choose to seclude ourselves as we engage in the quest to find the ‘one’ or, more often, just someone. I have always wondered what drives men to ask me upfront if I spit or swallow, no niceties exchanged.

Although I’m guilty of the same, I still wonder why some people ghost and then unmatch you without any explanation. In a way, the answers to all these questions come down to the distance we maintain between our ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ selves.

Are we exactly as we portray ourselves in the virtual world?

Recently I matched with a man on one of these dating apps and he managed to restore some of my faith in online dating. Let us call him K. We hit it off as soon as we started chatting and decided to exchange numbers. That is when he wanted to do a ‘full disclosure’ and let me take a call if I was still interested in meeting him. When I feared the worst, he told me about a severe accident he had been in a decade ago and how that left him with a limp. And since he had faced rejection earlier he wanted to put it out there.

How many times must this man have faced rejection to do this? How many times must we have looked at people and judged them for their appearance? How many of us have lost out on our soulmates because the person ‘did not look the part’ in their pictures? It just goes to show that dating apps open up a world of choices in one way, but restrict us in other, more important, ways.

I am glad K was honest with me. I am glad he decided to be vulnerable with me, a virtual stranger. His determination, willpower and sense of self-worth are inspiring. And through him, I realised that there are still some people who value a human connection.

In other news, K and I are going on our third date soon.

Mehak Sabat is a 32-year-old who is seduced by a pair of scissors, a tattoo machine, movies and conversation. Living the dream while working in a movie studio.She is @CocktailAmma on Twitter and Instagram.