My Bumble Burn Out

How online dating can create a culture of toxicity and disposability

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At 30 years old, I decided I would join a dating app in an effort to take new action steps towards finding love and entering the dating scene. You see, I am a late bloomer in life and up until entering my third decade of life, I’d never made any serious attempt at finding love. I was always paralyzed by fear at what the experience would bring.

Choosing a dating app among the many different ones available became easier when I found out about Bumble- an app which gave women the upper hand in choosing the men and initiating conversations. This was right up my alley. No barrage of creepy men sending me all kinds of messages in my inbox. This was controlled. Mainly by me. It was the blessing I had been waiting to discover all along. The interface, I thought, that would finally end my years of loneliness and being a relationship virgin.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. After joining Bumble in May of last year, I soon came to realize that the app was a gathering place for people whose intentions were not pure like mine. A place where ‘playing games’ was commonplace. I came to find that many men made connections only to lose them by not saying a word. Even when being sent notifications of ‘conversations’ pending expiration.

I sent desperate messages to many, stating, “Please say something before this conversation expires.” …or “Love your smile”… “What do you do for a living?”.. “Nice to connect with you !”….etc etc. I swiped endlessly many nights in the hopes that I would find that one good egg. I would match with many, then lose them. Swiping became my down-time activity and when I eventually matched with men that were able to carry a conversation, we swapped numbers and attempted to arrange a meet-up.

There were men that strung me along- always saying they wanted to meet up and always falling short of setting anything up. I gradually let go of those. Then there were others with whom I did go out, thought we had hit it off, and became surprised to find out never saw a romantic connection with me. The message always started with, “You’re really sweet”…or “You’re a great person,”…BUT…you don’t seem to have what I’m looking for. These sentiments came after endless talking, smiles, laughter, door holding, and walks to my car. If there were a marker for behavior indicating disinterest, they certainly did not display it.

Men across different ages, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, professions, and socio-economic statuses were all falling short in making meaningful connections. They were lacking the emotional intelligence to communicate effectively and develop something deeper beyond the superficial connection. I came to the realization over time that there was a difference in approach in the utilization of the platform. Men saw me as the ‘means to their end’; I saw them as ‘the end’. Where as I remained open to peeling back layers and discovering people and connections, they remained closed and convinced that a singular date was enough to decide if there was a connection there or not.

Rejection after rejection, the message I got was “you’re not good enough”. From the financial advisor to the health physicist, the dentist, and neurologist, the disappointment I began to feel was weighing heavy on my heart. To have never had a relationship and be rejected from one person to the next over and over again was a pain I hadn’t been ready for. Every time I’d connect with someone new, I’d want to hold on to some hope that there’d be a meaningful connection on the other side of it.

My last and most painful connection was with an individual who worked on wall street. A hedge fund manager. From the beginning of our match, he began to send really thoughtful messages. There was a genuine interest in me as a person and a charming and playful banter. He complimented my smile, calling it his ‘favorite smile on the planet’; he’d talk about never wanting it to fade. He likened his finding me to someone who had been ‘walking for miles thirsty in a dessert and just came across water’.

His messages were frequent and thoughtful. Terms of endearment became regular. There was always a ‘good night princess’, ‘Good Morning Beautiful’, or terms like ‘cinderella’. He sprinkled compliments in all our exchanges. He seemed very open and adoring. It came as a complete shocker to me, then, when he was unwilling to meet me in a place I felt comfortable commuting to. He did not want to come where I was and insisted I come to him. He became insecure and accusatory when messages were not sent on a daily basis, and he began to form judgmental assumptions of my character when my expectations differed from his. All before ever having met me in person.

I was devastated once more. Bumble, as I’ve come to understand, is an extension of every place in real life. The only difference is that the online component propagates a culture that is far worse than in real life- one that is even more toxic and lonely. One where everyone is disposable, there is always a better option, and where it becomes okay to treat someone disrespectfully because you’ll never have to see them again. To be sure, this is NOT ok. If we are to benefit in any way from apps like Bumble, we have to begin by elevating the culture. If we are not contributing to making the space a safe and respectful one, we do not belong on it. As with all things, awareness is key.

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