Article by Justin Roy
Illustration by Mathilde Corbeil
Translation by Gab Alberolol
virtual city of 8 million inhabitants.
A reasonable approach, is it not?
When Firestarters Kill Desire
It’s no secret that dating has its ups and downs as well as temporary wins and heartbreaking losses. Between the no-show ghosts, the unsolicited dick pics that permanently scar the retina, the fake profiles that send chills down your spine and the promising text messages that end in a disappointing conversation around an overpriced drink, there’s a plethora of stories and anecdotes to gather and share.
Looking for a match can oftentimes feel like hoping to align three cherries in a slot machine. In both cases, we often end up losing big. Cha ching!
In this bottomless pit, volume has now replaced uniqueness. Standardized by thumb swiping, overly marketed profiles, excessively precise geolocation and soured by disrespectful illusions, intimate and meaningful encounters seem to lose ground as they multiply within the digital space.
“Hey wait a minute!” Alright, it’s true. Lots of people pride themselves in having found the one somewhere in the cracks of a Tinder or Grindr; it is but a shining firefly in the deep darkness of dating apps.
On the flip side, we sometimes hear an acquaintance proudly say that they met their significant other IN REAL LIFE. This “real life”, which emcompasses randomness, authenticity, spontaneity and audacity… What have we ever done for it to become a relic of the past?
Why has real life slipped between our fingers?
The Big Store that Sells Love
As Richard Mèmeteau writes in his essay Sex Friends: comment (bien) rater sa vie amoureuse à l’ère numérique (2019), “by becoming dating’s mediator, the app’s interface also drags it down considerably, to the point of paralysis”. The essayist doubles down by highlighting how the interface forces us to examine, organize, choose and define selection criteria. The situation is simple: we have everything we need to increase encounters yet we can’t figure out how, so we complain.
So what do we do with something we can’t use? Well, we throw it away, right? A feeling of emptiness after use and energy that dissipates without purpose… It seems that dating apps take more than they give us.
But hold on now. Do we really have better odds of finding love with apps? Does the multitude of choices translate to increased probability? Not necessarily.
Renata Salecl, a Slovenian philosopher and sociologist, studies our unhealthy obsession with the “tyranny of choice”. She states that dating apps generalize “narcissistic don juanism”: we look for someone to seduce, only to be able to get rid of them once we find an equal or superior substitute. Once this new candidate is seduced, we keep our distance as we are incapable of considering that this person might have desires and fantasies of his or her own. It’s me, myself and I!
To paraphrase Salecl, we consume relationships like any other object that, once used, obsolete, too energy consuming or made uninteresting for our tastes, are quickly replaced by others. Mèmeteau, mentioned earlier, goes even further by calling it “emotional capitalism”.
Now, things might not be as unilateral and manichean, it’s true! Several people on dating apps show a lot of respect and are honestly trying to find an authentic and lasting connection. Some would call them angels! These rare cherubs do indeed exist… but they are tired. So. Very. Tired.
Why not try things differently then? Something that feels closer to who we are and what we’re looking for? Why not challenge our relation with others and thus, with ourselves by looking for this “real life”?
You might want to buckle up for this wild proposition: what if, to go against the current trends, we decided to go backwards just a little? Hold your horses, we’re not talking carriages, wax sealed letters and forced weddings sprouting in tea rooms. Not that far!
What if, instead of being submerged by the digital craze, we tried making ourselves available here and now, slowly but surely, for the other?
What if we take inspiration in slow living, the lifestyle that focuses on a slower approach to the daily routine, by emphasizing a gentle rhythm when checking off tasks, in clear opposition to consumerism and capitalism.
What if we made slow dating a new standard in human encounters?
As opposed to speed dating, this is more about availability and depth, far from the frantic machine that spouts multiple superficial encounters and emphasizes mechanical performance.
Slow dating is like a fruit that we savor in full consciousness: each pulp, each fiber, each essence brought to our senses, like a call to a simpler pleasure based on authentic presence.
Let’s get rid, once and for all, of all the dating apps from our glowing rectangles and let’s collectively look for meaningful encounters with others. Real encounters. Encounters that force us to be courageous, to open up, to truly make ourselves vulnerable, to reflect and listen, to hesitate, to look away and come back to find a better perspective, to exchange and to learn.
Together, let’s learn to take it slowly, to be present and to truly and deeply connect to one another.
QUOTED IN THIS ARTICLE
Greg BERLANTI et Sera GAMBLE, You (2018)
Richard MÈMETEAU, Sex Friends: comment (bien) rater sa vie amoureuse à l’ère numérique (2019)
Renata SALECL, The Tyranny of Choice (2011)
Justin Roy (he/him)
His love for language sometimes makes him blissfully smile in front of the word “cucurbits”, which perfectly describes the colorful and witty curves of the squash it’s designating. This strange match between denotations and objects made him dedicate part of his life to the study of literature and the writing of poetry. Language, a bit like a body, appears to him full of mysterious reverses and erogenous zones aging with us. He is a copywriter for a small Montreal agency and is not afraid to sabotage a bio by ending it with a scabrous Anglicism. Hell no!