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Swipe Culture

If you are unfamiliar with “Swipe Culture” it’s the term used to describe the incessant swiping that occurs on dating apps. In fact, there are many relationship experts who have begun to question how profitable online dating truly is for singles in the modern age because of several issues discussed below. However, in looking at this in the terms of a single I find this “swiping'' also occurs in other areas of our lives which can get us all into major trouble, single or not. So what are the issues?

Problem 1: We almost have too many options which has created confusion and frustration for many. From a dating perspective, I’ve experienced the sense of not knowing which service to go with or how best to approach the process. Also, while you would think having lots of potential mates would give you better options, it does in fact make it overwhelming to sort through, to the point that I know many people who get a few weeks in and give up out of sheer exhaustion.

Luckily (or unluckily), singles are not the only ones to struggle with this issue. Think about other areas of life where our current, at-your-fingertips culture is almost too much. Do you want to lose weight? Here are 4000 possible options and each one seems to have the perfect answer. Looking to make some quick cash? Head to social media and you will find 150 of your closest friends who will gladly get you involved in their company but which do you pick? Even The Cheesecake Factory boasts over 250 menu items which makes me anxious just thinking about it. Having 10,000 options doesn’t mean you’ll find what you’re looking for in the end. Somehow we have decided that quantity is more important than quality which is just plain wrong! Not everything in life is a black and white numbers game. It just isn’t.

Problem 2: There is a false sense of “leveling up” (my term) which occurs when people feel they might find someone better tomorrow because they have ten thousand and one options. It’s a classic case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because why should I commit to this person if someone even better may be out there. However, what you find is that people aren’t committing to anyone at all because all they’re doing is mindlessly swiping to the next possible option. I’m not saying we should settle out of frustration and I certainly don’t suggest lowering your standards to deal with loneliness but I do think we have to take a hard look at how we interact with our options, in dating and in life.

I have a friend who is flaky at best and frustratingly unreliable often. This seems to stem mainly from his FOMO. He is always looking for the next best thing and he seems to be so fearful that he may miss out on something even better that he finds it hard to commit to anything with real sincerity. I love him and he has some amazing qualities but I’ve learned even in simple situations not to expect too terribly much. Having a party? Don’t ask him to bring anything important because he may not show up if a better opportunity arrives. Group outing to a baseball game? You won’t know if he is truly coming until he’s sitting next to you. He surely won’t promise to come on the off chance that another friend calls with a more exciting prospect and if he gets that call during the game he may very well leave you early. What I find to be the most challenging thing is that he doesn’t know he’s doing this and would be horrified if he thought his lifestyle made him out to be flaky because he thinks he’s being exciting and spontaneous but it’s one of those things that you can see better when you’re slightly removed from the situation.

I’m an over committer and over-thinker so I tend to run the opposite side of this gamut but I think we can all relate to the fear of committing to something in case we miss out and you know we just might but if we spend our whole lives looking for the next best thing we might wake up one day and realize we missed the actual best thing.

Problem 3: The other side of this FOMO coin is something I’m more prone to which is fear. All this mindless swiping feels like action or intentionality without having to step out on that ledge and outside of the comfort zone you love so much. I know I’ve used faux action as an excuse to why I’m not undertaking the scary parts of dating or whatever in life. Think about it… How often do we look at homes before we finally take the plunge and make a huge purchase? Do you look at jobs all the time because you want out but you never send the application in because you don’t want to be rejected?

It’s easy to feel like you’re doing something when reality might show that action is inconsequential and self-sabotaging. I brought this up last year when I reviewed Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping” when I discussed that many of the suggestions scared me. I have no doubt that his methods work because they make sense and he has a track record of success but I also know that I’m not currently brave enough to do some of those things. I also know that reading a ton of books on dating and self reflection, while beneficial can also be used as an excuse.

The thought process of I’ll truly try this when I have more information or when I feel prepared or when I know I’ll be successful just doesn’t work in some situations. Sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there in life and dating and you need to be aware of what you are using to trick yourself into feeling that you are moving forward when you are truly hiding.

Problem 4: For many I know, online dating has become a source of instant, emotional gratification. Someone tells you you’re attractive or it gives you someone to text when you’re bored or perhaps it gives you a date EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Yes, I knew a girl that would make a date with absolutely every single guy she came in contact with because she liked the idea and thrill of it all and yet she was no better off than me with no dates. Once again, quantity doesn’t trump quality because the main issue is that instantaneous gratification doesn’t mean substantial investment.

I get wanting to have that thrill and life can get a little humdrum. In fact, not too long ago some girlfriends and I were joking about wanting to have crushes like we did in high school. You know, someone to get nervous around or with whom your heart beats fast or to daydream of when you’re bored? It is fun to have something to break up the monotony and God willing maybe that crush could become something more but it shouldn’t get in the way of reality or be a replacement for truth.

I think we’ve all been guilty of hanging on to relationships, romantic or otherwise, for longer than the sell by date because we appreciate the experience more than the person and I’m sure we’ve all been on the other side as well. We like getting our needs met right now even if it isn’t a long term solution because we’ve become a culture that doesn’t know how to be bored or wait. Which leads me to my final issue…

Problem 5: We give up too easily and swiping has made it easier to just wash our hands of dating in general because we aren’t truly invested. This is not just a dating issue. It seems that because there’s a quick answer for everything it’s easy to say I’m not satisfied immediately therefore I’ll just move on to another “better” option. Think about it…

Trying to get fit? When a diet promises to help you lose thirty pounds in a month that can be very appealing especially when the traditional method promises a loss closer to eight pounds a month. However, anybody who has tried fad dieting can tell you that slow and steady wins the race. You may very well lose thirty pounds doing some extreme dieting but will those results last when life kicks in? While I’d love to have lost seventy pounds overnight, I’d much rather have it be a permanent change and I was willing to work and wait for that. And, yes, there are moments when the pounds seem stuck or they move at a glacial pace and eating 400 tacos sounds great because that is some form of instant satisfaction but in the long run you’ll be disappointed. .

What about church membership? How often have you seen someone church hop every few months because they get disgruntled with one aspect or the thrill wears off so they move on to another option in the hopes of finding their next mountain top experience? I’ve seen this a lot with jobs as well. People brag on a job for the first few months but six months in they’re ready to bail and move on to the next available option.

We watch tv while we mindlessly scroll on our phones while flipping channels so we don’t have to endure 30 seconds of boredom and not getting our wants fed. We literally don’t know how to wait patiently or be bored. I see this all the time with my students. I remember waiting weeks for a catalog order to arrive or standing at my mother’s side while she had a conversation with another adult with no way to entertain myself outside of counting the ceiling tiles. Even waiting to watch your favorite TV show every week is a feeling a lot of people no longer deal with because we can binge watch entire series at a click of a button. We want what we want and we want it now!

The crux comes down the road from satisfaction. Did that thing really satisfy and do you still actually want it now that you have it or was it just a filler?

Overall, the podcasts, books and articles I have read on this phenomenon seem to back up the conclusion I’ve come to on my own. We have got to become more intentional in our approach to life and our use of the tools we have access to, if not they just become an obstacle to true success. If we’re not careful we can trick ourselves into believing that being busy or taking action means you are being productive which is simply not true. I’m not saying online dating (or the life equivalent) never works because I have great friends who have met their soulmates online but I think you have to be intentional in every step if you want a good return on investment and maybe you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m not part of swipe culture” but there is surely something where you are willing to sacrifice longevity for instant satisfaction and in the long run that’s not really satisfying at all. Work diligently, wait patiently and move intentionally.

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