Are we there yet?!
We’ve all uttered – well, whined – those annoying words before. Albeit, we were probably 8 years old and on long car rides with our tired and hardworking parents, who must have done everything in their power not to respond by grabbing our collars and throwing us out the car window. Like many of you, I grew up in an era that predated the vehicular distractions of TVs and DVD players that broadcast to the back seat, or iPods that allowed you to pick your own tween-friendly playlist for the trip (as an only child, I was always outnumbered by my parents and inevitably got stuck listening to the oldies station, no matter how tearfully I begged them to pop in the Color Me Badd cassette). Even the distractions that existed were impeded by their own technological shortcomings – my Game Boy’s battery would die after 25 minutes of Tetris, and my Sweet Valley High books would only hold my attention until I got nauseous and threatened to vomit. What can I say? Patience was never my strongest virtue.
But really, I’m no different from the rest of my generation. We Millennials are known to be impatient and entitled. We may take forever to grow up and figure out what we want, but once we decide what that is…we’d like it right now, thanks! We can pretend to be patient, of course, exploring our options and holding tight while we wait for the right opportunities to come along, but let’s be honest. We think we deserve the best, and we aren’t all that interested in waiting around for it. Things to do, places to see, people to meet…
Given our impatience, it’s no surprise that we’re chafing at the traditional dating game. Whether we want hot sex, true love or just a bit of excitement, we want it ASAP. Yet romance has always been structured as a game of patience. Go on a bunch of dates with that guy, just to see if you’re even interested in him. Don’t call less than three days after meeting her (you’re so money and you don’t even know it!). Wait at least one month to sleep with him. Sift through hundreds – thousands, if you’re a New Yorker – of people over many years time, just to find that one partner who’s right for you.
I don’t know about you, but all this waiting around and testing the waters can seem like an interminable process to me. In my more frustrated moments, I revert back to my 8-year-old self, whining to my diary (or to Becky)…are we there yet?!
Maybe not quite. But thanks to a few new technological innovations and a recent trend towards immediate and in-your-face chemistry, romance is finally starting to catch up with our generation and move a little faster. Hallelujah. Techno-Romance to the rescue!
Online Dating (Can Be Slow As Hell)
When technology and romance first formally connected via the online dating world, the path to love got even longer and slower, if you can believe it. Starting on Monday, we here at WTF?! are going to finally delve into the realm of online dating (yes, we heard you guys! I told you that we’d get to it eventually!). We’ll be featuring guest bloggers who have spent hours, days, years sorting through profiles on Nerve, J-Date, Match.com, BlackPeopleMeet.com…all in search of love. And one thing we’ve noticed about the varied experiences of all these online daters is that it can take forever. First you “wink” or send a “flirt message”: then you exchange emails: next, phone numbers get involved: finally, you meet up.
But then the whole process starts again, with other potentials and with that same person! More winks, more emails, more texts, more introductory dates. It can take weeks for you to finally meet up with a new online friend, and months before you’ve figured out if you’re into each other. UGH. Isn’t technology supposed to make life easier and faster and more efficient??
Voila! Let’s welcome the next step forward in online dating, courtesy of your iPhone, Droid, BlackBerry…you know, your “mobile device.” See an online profile, meet up, and GO. Or, see the person, direct them to your online profile, and GO. It’s all about seizing the moment, all about lightning-speed immediacy. With a focus on face-to-face interactions and the instant exploration of chemistry. But how does it work? We’ll discuss.
The Rise Of “Location-Based Dating Apps” (aka How Hooking Up Just Got Easier)
The most popular new option is to download one of the several apps that determines your exact location at any given moment, via your smartphone’s satellite system, and puts you in touch with other single-and-ready-to-mingle users who are in your area. No, not “your area” as in “Washington, D.C. and surrounding towns.” Your area as in “320 feet away.”
The process is simple and familiar – you set up a profile, just like the ones on more traditional dating sites. But no more browsing profiles from your laptop at home, or spending 30 minutes attempting to construct the perfect introductory email. Instead, you head out on the town – or simply go about your day-to-day life – and log on to the app with your smartphone. It will direct you to the profiles of other users who are close by, and if anyone interests you, then you can send them a quick message and see if they want to meet up. Like, right now. Around the corner. Awesome.
These apps are popping up with an increasing frequency, all with unique cultures and vibes that are comparable to the different reputations of the more traditional online sites (e.g. OKCupid = free = hookups, J-Date = lawyers and doctors = marriage material, etc). The most buzzed-about version of this type of app is Grindr, which bills itself as “The go-to place for gay, bi, and curious guys to meet.” With hundreds of thousands of users worldwide, Grindr is known as a convenient way for men to cruise for hot homosexual hookups, although its creators seem pretty eager to steer the whole Grindr experience in a more, um, romantic and long-lasting direction.
Unfortunately, Grindr isn’t yet available for straight folks (although a heterosexual version is in the works – demand is apparently through the roof!). But have no fear! There’s a high-profile straight option in Skout, which boasts over a million members and seems to also feature a fun, casual hookup vibe, what with its “Flirt Blog” and promotional photos of hot girls, colorful nightclubs and beer funnels.
Other straight versions of this app seem to be appealing to a more serious, relationship-focused crowd. A recent press release for MeetMoi, with its tagline of “Dating made fun and easy,” claimed that “MeetMoi NOW is a dating app for people with a genuine interest in meeting in-person, not just online chatting and flirting.” The app’s system of automatically “pushing” the profiles of potential matches directly to your phone, even if you’re walking around with it in your pocket, does seem to take care of most of the work for you. However, although the app looks fun and appears to be genuinely geared towards our generation of looking-for-true-connection romantics, it’s currently available only on the Android. Let’s see what happens when it hits the iPhone (iPhones = sex, if you haven’t heard!).
Last but not least, you’ve got the Urban Signals app, which takes the matter of Missed Connections into its own hands and allows you to view profiles and send “signals” to other users around you. Same deal, but marketed towards those of us who run around our cities with our heads down and our eyes to the ground. You (we) know who you (we) are. The profiles even look sleek and urban. Makes you want to meet someone for coffee at an edgy cafe in the East Village, no?
Okay, but…this is all well and good if you have faith that a brief online profile will successfully point you towards the people with whom you’ll have chemistry. But what if you’re more of a visual learner? What if you need to actually see the person first? And then when you do spot someone attractive – oh no! you’re late to a meeting! – you don’t have the time, or the guts, to approach them? But you swear that you felt a connection?
Hello, it’s 2010. There’s a technological innovation for that, too.
Sweet And Sexy In-Person-To-Online Calling Cards
As profiled in a July New York Times piece, dating services like Cheek’d, FlipMe! and Greenlight let you create on online profile (you should be a pro at this part by now!) and then send you a pile of cute and sexy little calling cards to give to strangers on the street. Hot guy at the table next to you? Leave a card on your way out. Cute girl on the train? Hand her a card right before the doors close. It’s like rejection was never invented!
The card doesn’t simply have your phone number on it – that would be too simple. Instead, the card features a personalized code and some simple directions for the recipient to follow, if they’re intrigued or interested in getting to know you better. They go home, they head to the site, they enter your code number, and they receive your contact info. Connection made! No time wasted.
(Why not just give them a business card with your number on it? Because then there wouldn’t be any cute sayings like “Look up. You might miss something.” or “I’ve said ‘what if’ too many times … not this time.” Duh!)
The Post-Dating World Picks Up Speed
I’d like to point out that “dates” are not a significant part of these connections and interactions. After finding each other on MeetMoi, are you and your fellow MeetMoi-er going to stare across the table at each other during a fancy dinner? It seems more likely that you’ll end up having an impromptu drink in the park, or your respective groups of friends will meet up for some coffee, or you’ll head over to the other side of the club to enjoy a concert by your favorite band together. Non-Dates – gotta love ‘em!
Might this fit into our post-dating love lives better than the formalities of traditional online dating? And no, “traditional online dating” is no longer an oxymoron. Romantic trends move at the speed of light. Perhaps we’re already transitioning to the next one.
So yes, we post-daters are impatient. Life is too short to not have it be chock full of CONNECTION and EXCITEMENT and ROMANTIC POSSIBILITY, if not love itself. If I want to go grocery shopping tonight and find five new gaggle members in the process, then I should be able to do just that! And now, with these location-based apps and spontaneity-based calling cards, I can.
Thanks, Techno-Romance. We may not be there yet, but at least it feels like we’re getting a lot closer, a lot faster.
Jess is the co-creator of The Gaggle, alongside her childhood best friend Becky Wiegand, and is the author of the book - yep! - The Gaggle. She never tires of hearing your post-dating stories. She wants you to enjoy your love life, and is full of advice on how to do so.
The-Gaggle.com is a website that explores modern romance in the Millennial era – which, let’s be honest, looks nothing like we were taught to expect. We feature essays, advice and social commentary with humor, compassion and brains, and we vow never, ever to publish a piece called “The 10 Best Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed”. Do click here to submit your work to us. We love you.