The Internet Ruins Everything

13 (-ish) reasons why technology has been the downfall of modern dating

Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, on Netflix, follows the ups and downs of modern sex.
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, on Netflix, follows the ups and downs of modern sex.

This much I've learned: online dating + anonymity + time = garbage people. I have found myself speechless at men's attempts at communication, to say nothing of courtship. Asking if I'm 4/20 friendly isn't exactly going to win me over.

There aren't a lot of things I envy previous generations for, but goddamn decency in the art of introduction is one of them.

Reason 1 that technology has ruined modern dating: The safety barrier of pixels and glass lets people feel comfortable saying stuff they'd most likely never say in person, which leads to Reason 2: Meeting people now sucks.

Reason 3: Copy + paste and the death of the personal touch.

While women are overloaded with messages in online dating apps, men often have to scatter their efforts in hopes of a response, which leads to understandably taking shortcuts. But when you go on a date with someone and he asks you which story he told you about his name, because he has one he tells girls on Tinder and another he shares on OkCupid, it's off-putting to know that even after you responded, part of your conversation was canned.

Reason 4: You don't really know if you'll click until you meet in person anyway.

I once went on a date with someone after spending a few weeks messaging back and forth. He verbally wrote it off for both of us before our pizza was even served — "obviously, neither of us is really into this" — but hey, he also gave me a copy of his debut rap album as a parting gift, so who am I to complain?

Reason 5: Casual sex is now the norm, not the exception. That's great if you're just horny, not so great if you're trying to find a relationship or, you know, ever let your emotions out of the dark dungeon you've stuffed them into, so they can't do that thing where they make you feel attached, and then sob into ice cream when your soul feels as empty as the bed next to you.

Reason 6: Even when casual sex is what you're looking for, it's easier than ever to use technology to be an asshole.

Earlier this year, Netflix released the six-episode docuseries Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, which follows the ups and downs of modern sex, primarily through the lens of people in the sex industry. Go in expecting something provocative, sure, but also be prepared for the gut punch of reality that inevitably lands when each subject grapples with morality, modern pressures, and how they treat themselves and other people.

In the second episode, get a painful look at how Tinder, Bumble and other dating apps have made 40-year-old James' dating life a constant cycle of flings that he finds easier to cut off by posting Snapchat videos with a new lady by his side, as opposed to sending a simple text to someone explaining that he's no longer interested in them. (Reason 7: No one seems to know how to communicate in person anymore.)

Most of the people involved seem somewhat resigned to the fact that this is how modern "dating" seems to go, with "ghosting" (or Reason 8: Suddenly dropping all lines of communication without explanation) as the new normal. In the end, one woman James was seeing for a few months forces him to confront the fact that his actions hurt real people.

Reason 9: We live in instant gratification nation.

When someone reads a text but doesn't respond right away, we worry. We also don't want to appear too needy and respond too quickly, or always be the first one to start a conversation. Literal weeks used to go by when people would correspond by letter. Now we work up impossibly complicated reasons why someone might no longer be interested in us when a few minutes pass. What if they're just busy? Why do we need everything right this second? Why aren't you answering me?

Reason 10: Blurring fantasy and reality.

In episode 5 of Hot Girls Wanted, the filmmakers follow a cam girl who puts on a bubbly attitude for hours a day while she works from the comfort of her own home, stripping and performing sexual acts online for strangers. Though married to a man she loves, she also maintains an emotional relationship with a socially awkward man in Australia, who helped pay for her breast implants and has paid thousands of dollars over the years to see her privately. After their fourth "camiversary," she decides to visit him in person, and the trip becomes an emotional roller coaster that ends with her realizing how much he'd put his life on hold for her, and how electronic screens can make real life a fantasy, as long as the mirage is maintained.

Reason 11: Choices.

OK, so the internet isn't all bad. While it can sometimes seem like there aren't enough options, you still likely have more choices than you think.

As I learned from Aziz Ansari's book Modern Romance, about a third of couples in the 1930s married someone who lived within five blocks of them, according to sociologists. Heck, that was still true a few decades later, if my mom's side of the family is any indication: My grandpa and grandma grew up across the street from each other. His little brother married her little sister.

The internet is a great vehicle for meeting people who we never would have been able to meet before now, even if (as Ansari points out) that can sometimes enable us to keep looking for a perfect match, rather than someone who is great, but doesn't meet our somewhat arbitrary criteria. (Reason 12: Nothing's good enough.)

Sorry: I know you're expecting a 13th reason right about now, but I guess I just don't know how to commit. ♦

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...