Sunday, 8 October 2017 / London, UK

10 Things Online Dating Has Taught Me

1. DATING COSTS A BOMB.

Whoever said dating isn't expensive lied. It was all one big fat lie, because I've been dating on and off for the past 2 years now and I can stand in front of you right now and tell you first hand, that dating isn't expensive...it's fucking expensive. I (like many of us I presume) am a feminist and don't believe that a woman should sit back on a date and watch the guy dig deep into the pockets of his Topman jeans and pay for everything, because the fact of the matter is, that irregardless of how much older your Tinder date may be, or no matter how swanky his job sounds, we're all pretty much the same broke millennials living pay check to pay check, attempting to stay afloat in a ridiculously overpriced city. We all spend our pay checks on ridiculously overpriced rent and ridiculously overpriced coffee and what little money do we have left over each month after our outgoings, is waved goodbye to by our ever-growing student loan and credit card debts. 

So no, I don't believe my date should pay for me. I'm a big believer in you get a round in and I'll get a round in. It's fair and it's equal and that's just how I like it. So that being said, it means that dating doesn't come cheap. An average round in a bar in central London can set you back £20 if you're doing cocktails and when you're nervously drinking like a fish, then it's not difficult to see how dating can get expensive real quick. 

Lesson Learnt: don't go on a date with every Tom, Dick and Harry, because the chances are, every Tom, Dick and Harry will not be worth the overpriced Slug & Lettuce bill for your watered down mojito that you didn't even want but had to get because you can't mix and match cocktails on the 241 deal, the Uber ride home because you thought you were Rockafellar 3 cocktails deep, or the hangover from hell at work the next day, consequently leading you to treat yo'self (and your fragile head) to a breakfast from Pret en route into the office. They won't all be worth the money honey, trust me. So only go on a date with those that genuinely interest and intrigue you and you feel are worthy of the £50 night ahead of you. 

2. NOT EVERYBODY WAS RAISED WITH THE SAME MORALS AS YOU.

Now I'm no Mother Theresa of the world and although I'm not impartial to a bitchy comment now and again (usually when it involves those horrific heeled trainers), I do like to think that generally I'm an all-round 'nice' person and most of all, I'm honest. I despise lying and I fear confrontation like the plague. But, if there's one thing I've learnt from online dating, it's that honesty is more common than a 3-headed dog, and this is one thing I've struggled with the most. I've always been honest. I'm the one you turn to if you want brutally honest, no bullshit advice and this transfers to the dating world too. I don't lie, I don't play games, I don't phase people out and I certainly don't ghost people. If I don't feel that spark with someone, I'll be honest and I'll tell them. But it appears that I am the only person left in this brutal dating culture to do so...

Not every person you go on a date with will click with you and that's fine. You can't be expected to fancy and feel that spark with every single person you go on a date with and vice versa, but the least you can do in this society where being 'disposable' is part and parcel of engaging with online dating, is just to be honest. There'll be people you get on amazingly well with but aren't attracted to and there'll be people you want to rip the clothes off of, but can't bear to be sat opposite their monotone personality-less self for a moment longer. Nobody's asking you to sit them down face-to-face and tell them how their Tinder pictures were definitely taken 3 years ago from very good angles, or how having dinner with them was quite possibly the most awkward 1.5 hours of your life. Just end the date nicely, don't lead them on and send a polite text when you're home saying you didn't feel that spark and hey voila, you've just passed your first lesson in how not to be an asshole.

Lesson Learnt: Sadly, not everybody in this world has the same heart as you. The moment you realise that, dating will become a lot more of a pleasant experience. When online dating, you have to be prepared for dickheads. You have to be prepared to be ghosted after what you thought were 5 fantastic dates. You have to be prepared for people keeping their options open and stringing you along, and you have to be prepared for knockbacks. Sadly, not everybody has an honest approach to dating and will find it easier to just phase you out or block/unmatch you after the date, rather than sending you an honest text to say that they didn't feel that spark or initial attraction. Be prepared for that, and you my girl will be just fine. 

3. PEOPLE ARE WEIRD. (I MEAN REALLY WEIRD).

There's nothing like a dating site to bring the dregs of society all together in one place. The great thing about online dating, is that you'll come across people you'd never usually have the opportunity to encounter and the worse thing about online dating, is that you'll come across people you'd never usually have the opportunity to encounter. There are a lot of personalities out there and when you're in a city as diverse as London, then you soon realise that not every person you go on a date with will be like you, or will be like people who you usually encounter. I like to refer to Bumble as the rib-eye  of the dating world and Tinder, the corned beef of the dating world. For some reason, Bumble seems to be a sea of Directors, Founders, Doctors, Surgeons and just generally successful and 'normal' people. Tinder however, is a sea of fetishes, very strange photos and very strange requests. Over the years of my Tinder account, I've officially seen it all. Nothing surprises me anymore and I've even had to create an album on my phone of screenshots I've taken of odd profiles, messages and requests I've received over the years on Tinder.

Lesson Learnt: Be prepared for a lot of left swiping, swift unmatching and even swifter blocking, when entering the weird world of Tinder. Sadly there's no 'no weirdos please' filter when setting your preferences on dating apps, so be prepared to be your own 'no weirdos please' filter. 

4. TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. ALWAYS. 

We have a gut instinct for a reason. It's usually to repel us from fuckboys and to serve as that little devil on the shoulder, otherwise known by the name of 'reality check' when we get carried away with a situation. If the fuckboy flag is waving and there's no sign of wind, then it's waving for a reason. If you have a dodgy feeling or a negative gut instinct about somebody, then the chances are you have it for a reason. If something doesn't feel right from the get-go, then something probably isn't right from the get-go. 

There have been numerous times where I've had a gut feeling that I'm about to be ghosted, phased out, or about to get a big fat cream pie in my face and I've flagged my concerns to friends, only to be told to chill the f out and stop being paranoid...only to then be ghosted, phased out or cream pied just a few days later. If something's seemingly going well with somebody I'm dating and every single person around me is telling me to stop panicking and to 'go with the flow', once I get that feeling of doubt from my ol' friend Mrs instinct, then that's it for me. Nothing nobody can say to attempt to reassure me works, because that's the thing about instincts, only you can feel them, so trust your gut always and if something doesn't feel right, then listen to it.

I'm not telling you to cut all contact and disappear down the black hole, but be wary. Dating is all about taking risks and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, but within reason. If you don't trust somebody from the get-go and things aren't adding up (maybe he's constantly rescheduling you or constantly checking his phone when he's with you), then trust your gut.

Lesson Learnt: take advice from those around you with a pinch of salt, because only you know your body and only you know what your gut instinct is trying to tell you. If something doesn't feel right within you, then it's not right. period. 

5. NOT EVERYBODY IS AS THEY SEEM ONLINE

And by this, I'm talking about keyboard warriors. You know the type...Mr 'I've got the crack to rival Gary Beadle (the dude from Geordie Shore if you're not an uncultured trashy TV watcher like myself), I'll make you laugh until you wet yourself and will treat you like a princess kinda guy. They mistakenly lead you to believe they've got the banter, the wit and the personality of Ant & Dec, when in actual fact, they've got the banter, the wit and the personality of a gnat. Before you have the privilege to meet said gnat, they bombard you with good morning texts and snapchats of their every move, leading you (quite rightfully) to believe that they're going to be bringing along this famous chat and banter to your first date. Unfortunately, it turns out that that chat and banter apparently only works through an iPhone and doesn't quite transfer into real life. Shame. So instead, you're left sat opposite a moody, shy and awkward guy who wouldn't know what banter was even if it flykicked him across the face. So you spend the entire date (well as long as you can stomach) painfully attempting to carry the conversation and crack jokes to break the awkward silences, whilst wondering how the hell they were so chatty over the phone but in person...NADA.

Luckily I've only ever had to endure one or two of these dates, my favourite being the one where after weeks of chasing me and texting me non-stop, he insisted we went out on a dinner date (much to my objection as I find dinner dates too intense for a first date) and then practically ignored me for the entire dinner (the food was shit as well by the way), then asked for the bill before I'd even finished chewing my last mouthful and then dropped me home and despite me attempting to drag blood from a stone to get more than a one word answer from him the entire date, he declared how he'd had a "really fun date and we should do it again". (We didn't).

Lesson Learnt: take everything online with a pinch of salt. Somebody may be dull as hell by text, but hilarious in real life, so don't rule them out before meeting them and vice versa. Just because somebody's full of chat by text, it doesn't guarantee they're going to be like that in person. Try and arrange a face-to-face date ASAP before you waste weeks and weeks texting somebody and getting to know them online, only to discover you have absolutely zilch in common and actually aren't compatible in the slightest. 

6. NEVER TRUST A KEENO

Newsflash: It's not genuine. It's easy to get sucked up into the superficial ego boosting compliments of online dating and keyboard charmers, when the closest thing you've had to a compliment for the past month is your Nan telling you you don't look as fat as when she last saw you.
We've all been there...the charmer who only matched you 13 minutes ago, yet has already paid you more compliments than your ex ever did in the whole 13 months you were together. But I hate to break it to you honey...9 times out of ten, those keyboard compliments aren't genuine. After all, they're complimenting a strategically selected 5 pictures of the best version of yourself that were taken 4 months ago, before that post-all-inclusive-holiday weight gain. I've had guys who have been vomit-inducingly cringy over text and showering me with compliments, only to then discover the next morning that I've been ghosted overnight and unmatched and unfollowed on every form of social media. (No joke, this literally happened yesterday).

So, I'm not advising you to be a total scrooge and not believe a word somebody tells you on dating apps, but please please please, take everything with a pinch of salt. If somebody is overbearingly keen to meet you and overbearingly complimentary of you before they've even met you, then the chances are 1. it's not genuine, 2. they're desperate for a shag, or 3. they're working their way through every sleazy line via their old friends 'copy' and 'paste' and you're one of 200 to receive the same "wow you're stunning, what are you doing on here?" message.

Lesson Learnt: (again) take everything with a pinch of salt. If a guy appears to be too good to be true, then he probably is too good to be true. Try not to get too involved with or attached to anybody before meeting them in person first and seeing if that charm transfers into face to face conversation. Sweet talk is easy to do from behind a screen, so try not to let it cloud your vision and  encourage you to put them on a pedestal before you've actually physically met them. 

7. LOTS OF CHOICE MEANS IT'S HARD TO CHOOSE

When like me, you don't necessarily have a type on paper (sorry, I couldn't resist), the dating game can get rather complicated. When you like anything from blondes to gingers to dark haired bearded men, the whittling your options down part of online dating can be rather difficult, especially when the likes of swipe-happy Tinder and Bumble are involved. For me, a spark with someone comes entirely down to the personality side of things, rather than the visual side of things, so having to judge somebody entirely on the visual side of things without knowing an ounce of their personality yet can be extremely difficult. When I first joined Tinder, I'm pretty sure I swiped right to 99.9% of the men, as I would spend less than 2 seconds judging their face and if they looked like a bit of me, then bam they got a right swipe. As I got older though, I soon realised that swiping right was a little bit more than just swiping someone because they have anything above a 7/10 face. I take a good minute or two now looking at each person's photos and seeing if they have a bio before making the left or right swipe decision.

If they've bothered to write a bio, then they're probably taking the app mildly seriously (1 point). If they've written something witty in their bio and their personality shines through, then you know you've got a funny one on your hands (2 points). If their bio says something hinting of a sexual nature e.g. 'cheeky boy from Essex who's not looking for anything serious' then 'to the left to the left' girl (-1 point)...you get the gist. Take a bit of time to look through their photos and read their bio. If the thought of a 5k run on a family holiday makes you want to vomit, then perhaps don't swipe right to Mr adventurer whose photos are all either of him hanging off a cliff, hiking up a mountain, or on a bicycle dressed head-to-toe in lycra. 

Lesson Learnt: You can tell a lot about a person from their photos, so don't overlook this vital preview into their personality. If every photo is of them in an obnoxious club in Mayfair sat at a table with a sparkler in their mouth surrounded by Grey Goose bottles, then hmm, I'd imagine they're probably not ready for settling down with just the one girl just yet...try and look beyond a face and let that old instinct of yours guide your swiping...

8. DATING IS TIME-CONSUMING.

One thing people don't talk about when they talk about online dating, is how time-consuming it is. It's not just a case of having a quick swiping sesh in that 10 minute gap before your tube goes underground and you lose signal in the mornings. If you want to get something out of online dating, then you have to invest something in it, and that something is time. If somebody sends you a message on Tuesday and you (like me) don't find the time to reply until Thursday, the chances are that person cba with the conversation anymore and will have moved on to talking to somebody else.

Conversations don't flow if you're not consistent and people soon lose interest when they have another 126 matches to talk to. If you're a busy lady in the week (like me) and literally barely have the time to even shave your legs, let alone dedicate a solid hour a night to swiping, matching and chatting, then time-restricted dating apps like Bumble probably aren't the best thing for you. Bumble's 24 hour time frame to initiate a chat with a match before they disappear gets me everytime. You have a lonely Sunday night in at home, so decide to do a solid 20 mins of swiping before Towie begins and next thing you know, Towie's finished, you've fallen asleep, woken up, gone to work, gone to the gym, got home, cooked and eaten dinner, showered and settle in bed for the night, log on to Bumble only to find that oh shit, 24 hours have gone and all those hotties you wasted 20 minutes matching last night have disappeared. Fab. 

Lesson Learnt: If you're not serious about finding somebody and are not willing to invest a little time in online dating, then don't waste your time, energy or money, because honestly you will get very little from it. The dating world moves fast (like really fast) and people don't wait around for you to catch up. You have to be prepared to give up some of your evenings during the week for dates and it can get tiring and expensive real quick. 

9. "IT'S NOT YOU, IT'S ME"

It may have taken me a while to realise this one, but boy oh boy is it an important one to remember when playing the dating game. If things don't work out with somebody you've met online, 9 times out of ten it actually has nothing to do with you. Perhaps they weren't fully over their ex yet and jumped into dating too soon and freaked out and disappeared into the black hole. Or perhaps they realised they were actually in love with their best friend all along and didn't need Tinder to bag a girlfriend. Perhaps they didn't intend to, but met somebody in person in the gym or somewhere else who they just automatically clicked with.

You don't know what goes on in between you speaking to somebody and you meeting up with them, and you don't really know what goes on from date to date, so as natural as it is to just automatically assume that you did something to put them off, or that there's something wrong with you when things don't work out, the chances are it's more likely to be something non-related to you that's going on in their life. Timing and compatability are two totally different things, and the two don't always see eye to eye. A lot of people see online dating as an escape or some kind of experiment that they're not really emotionally invested in, so it's important to remember that. Everybody online has a completely different agenda - whether that be gaining a fuck buddy, attempting to get over their ex or find somebody to settle down - and there's no guidelines or rulebook for each persona. 

Lesson Learnt: Tackle online dating with a casual approach and keep your head held high when things go tits up. Try not to get too emotionally invested and (although I'm majorly guilty of this one) try not take it to heart and let it knock your confidence when things don't work out with somebody. You don't know what's going on behind closed doors, so dust yourself off, walk away and move on. 

10. DATING IS FUN.

So last but not least (and because we better chuck a positive one in there), online dating is a good thing guys. It allows you to meet people you'd never ever usually encounter. People from all different walks of life, cultures and backgrounds. It allows you to explore sides of your personality you didn't know existed and it allows you to be spontaneous and free. It teaches you a lot about other people and it teaches you a lot about yourself. It makes you more tolerable, more patient, more sensitive and most importantly, it shows you what you do and don't want in a partner. Treat dating like the practice paper of an exam. You're exploring and trying different avenues, before you decide on what it is exactly your answer is going to be. 

Lesson Learnt: Try and overlook the negatives of online dating, take the whole concept with a pinch of salt and go out there and enjoy yourself. Have an awful date, because we all need one of those to make us appreciate the good ones. Go on a date with somebody you'd never usually give the time of day, go out of your comfort zone, and just have fun.
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