Compassion for Dating in the Technological Age

Compassion for Dating in the Technological Age

Photo Credit: gpointstudio/Thinkstock

Recently I had a young man working with me who showed me the Tinder app as a means of finding dates. Here, you could rifle through a series of pictures like speed dating online, and swipe right if you liked the pic and left if you didn’t. It was the ultimate in judging a book by its cover. However, he assured me he met some great people through this method. It allowed him to be able to connect with others and date in any city he visited without the traditional time consuming methods of hoping to connect by chance.

On one hand, I admire the tenacity of this “take the bull by the horns” method of dating. On the other hand, I wonder what is lost—communication, sparks of the soul, eye to eye contact, chemistry, admiration. Maybe nothing is lost. Maybe it is just a way to meet and then all the traditional dating components click in like conversations, sharing values and interests, and seeing if there is anything more in common. Maybe for some, that is not the point. It seems that technology has taken the sexual revolution to a whole new level. Is “hooking up” for casual sex the only point?

Maybe I’m just feeling old fashioned, but I would hate being “swiped left” without so much as eye contact, a smile, a conversation. I would also hate to watch my date silently yell, “Next!” in sign language on his phone. In truth though, don’t we “swipe left or right” in our minds in face to face interactions all the time? Somehow it just all seems to be a whole new level of superficial via an app. To me, people send out energy that gives us intuitive cues as to whether they are safe, kind, loving, mean, scary, sexy, or on the prowl. Can we tell from a picture? What if the picture isn’t really them?

And then there is the distraction of the huge amount of opportunity. For kids who grew up in a “throw it away instead of fix it” era, is there any hope for lasting relationships? If a relationship starts to go astray, all you have to do is pick up your phone and start thumbing for a new one. I hope the positive side effect of this is that young people get over the “there is no one out there for me but you” attitude. However, the negative side of this immense amount of opportunity for variety and date-shopping is addiction, proven to be hard to stop once in a relationship.

My husband and I went out to dinner on Friday night and were sitting across from two young couples on what appeared to be a double date. Since they were pretty drunk and loud it was hard not to notice them, and a couple of things I observed surprised me.

One was that they all had there cell phones out and were documenting all their crazy antics. It appeared that they were recording most of the moments of the date and posting it on Snap Chat or another site for the rest of the world to see. I am not judging these couples as I have no idea the nature of their relationship, how long they have been together, or whether this is just their culture or style. However, I couldn’t help but wonder how the publicity of the date changed their behavior.

When I was dating, it was a private event. No one knew I was on a date unless I told them. The interaction between me and the person I was dating was personal, only about us. It is hard enough to be real and authentic when you want to impress someone or when you are assessing whether there is relationship potential or not. As I watched the camera capturing every interaction of this couple, I wondered how they could ever let down their persona to be themselves when the whole thing looked like a performance for some unknown audience.

The public potential of a date gone bad is overwhelming. When my girlfriend and I double-dated to prom in high school, we arrived back at school on Monday to a rumor going around that we had had sex with our dates. I remember being angry about the lie, but the effect of the rumor was relatively small and manageable compared to nowadays, where lies (or truths) can spread the world round. That is a lot of weight to bear on someone’s heart.

The invitation is to take the time to identify what you value, and what you actually want. Notice if your dating and relating methods are serving that purpose or interfering. Then, expand your mindfulness practice to include your use of technology. Perhaps we should develop an Inner App called Tender. To remind us to be more compassionate custodians of each others' hearts.

Enjoying this content?

Get this article and many more delivered straight to your inbox weekly.