Unhinged: Learning to navigate the new dating landscape By Ariel E. Gaskill, M.S.

Photo by Shawnee D on Unsplash

Dating has drastically changed since the days of our parents. Millennials stay connected and make a majority of their connections online.

Though I am a part of the millennial group and I am proud of the strides that we are making in technology, entrepreneurship, and the like, when it comes to dating, I am from a different school of thought. Because so much of what we do professionally and recreationally is online, I would like the things in my personal life to be and feel genuine and authentic. The things that I value the most in life are forming connections with people. I value deep conversations and interpersonal communication. I don't want my dating life to be relegated to a screen; I want to see, learn, and get to know a person in real life and in real-time. Famed comedian, actor, talk show host, and author, Steve Harvey once said that he suggests young people be on at least 3 dating apps to widen the pool of their dating life.

Though it makes sense in context, for those like me, who are a bit leery of dating apps, he reassured his audience that the premise of dating is still and will always be "boy meets girl." There are now just more ways to get there. The testing of this theory was the inspiration for this article.

In a spirit of transparency, I have only dabbled in online dating three times in my life. I joined Tinder for a month because I lost a bet; I joined Meet BLK for less than 24 hours (literally set up a profile, but couldn't see anything because everything cost money which I wasn't able to fully commit to at the time), and now I have a presence on Hinge. I was inspired to join Hinge because a Christian author that I follow, Hannah Brencher, mentioned in her book, Come Matter Here, that she met her now-husband on that dating app.

I joined Hinge at a very interesting time. With a lot of prayers, guidance, and internal work, I am at a place in life where I confidently walk in the sureness of who I am, what I want, and the woman that I am becoming through the grace of God. I am operating intentionally and joyfully in the fullness of my purpose and I am satisfied and whole in my singleness. It is with this clarity and level of self-awareness that I put my hypothesis to the test. I believe that the best that one can hope for on a dating app is to develop a solid connection with another person. Those who want to find love do, and those who don't want to find love find companionship.

I did my research about Hinge and I really liked the premise of it. The company advertises itself as "the dating app that is meant to be deleted." As a Christian, I am a strong believer that God is faithful to open doors that are meant to be open to us and close the doors that are not. Including Him in the process of our lives and our relationships whether we are novices or experts is essential to our overall well-being and purpose. This time around, I approached this new dating landscape a bit differently.

I began with being honest with myself about where I am. I asked myself 3 important questions:

  1. Why am I trying this way of "dating"?

  2. Am I skeptical? If yes, why?

  3. What do I hope to gain from this experience?

I tried this app because I’ve had difficulty in the past with effectively making deep, lasting connections romantically, and understanding what dating looks like these days. Joining Hinge was my way of taking a brave step of faith and sharing the things that are most important to me from the get-go, creating a profile that best reflected my personality (in 6 photos) and leaving it to the discretion of potential suitors to get to know more about me.

Was I skeptical? Yes, absolutely! And though I was cautious, I was not fearful. I have learned to be more courageous and to trust God in this area of my life as well. My dependency was, as it is in all things, on Him, not the app. Perhaps a reason for my skepticism was because I like to think of myself as a hopeful romantic. So much of what I do professionally is done online, and I desire to tell the story of the cute meeting of my husband to my children one day. I believe some of those authentic moments get taken away when a person dates online. However, I did consider that maybe my perspective needed to change. Instead of viewing online dating as the antithesis of wholesome and traditional courtship, maybe I could view it as an avenue to “find love.” 

I believe it is important to take precautionary measures when joining the online dating community.

Here are some Safety Alternatives: 1. Have accountability partners - including my family in the process and having them engage with me was essential.

2. Have an escape plan and a code word for accountability partners.

3. Have a safe space in mind to meet potential suitors.

4. Have your own way to get home.

5. Pay attention to what you are discerning.

Ask yourself, “what is my gut saying?”

6. Most importantly, actively and intentionally include the Lord in all of your correspondence.

I joined Hinge on March 13, 2020, and entertained a few people who showed interest in my profile. I was very particular about the things that I was looking for:

Have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ

Be honest and authentic

Have a witty sense of humor

Be kind and caring

Be family-oriented

Attend church

I am of the opinion that dating apps can lend themselves to being a bit superficial. If you are a person who enjoys real, interpersonal communication and genuine conversation, unless you are successfully “matched” with someone, that can’t really happen. You are at the mercy of the app to talk with people in whom you are interested, and if you are not matched, then the opportunity is gone. I made two solid connections (and by solid, I mean consistent with little break in conversation). Others did not pan out as nicely. In some instances, the conversations were dry, or some men would initiate conversation and then not follow through, or I would get sent a request to initiate the conversation (which I didn’t like; I believe that the man should be the pursuer and the woman should be the pursued). The latter observation begs a few questions, one being whether you can still have traditional methods of “dating” with someone on a dating site. Another question is whether there are rules already set, or if the individuals make up the rules based on their own convictions, morals, and standards. Does the cat and mouse analogy still apply? Or do dating apps make tradition obsolete?

In the conversations that I had, some brief, some more in-depth, one of the questions that I posed was their reason behind joining the app. The most common response I received was “to connect with new people and make friends.” In this process, I have surprised myself, because I was okay with that response. There was a season of my life where I would have quit while I was ahead out of fear of being hurt or rejected on a larger scale. This was both interesting and insightful to me because while we are in quarantine due to the Coronavirus, it seems as though people are seeking social interaction in different ways in the midst of this required social separation. I think that you have to go into this with a neutral spirit and mindset, understanding that the premise of any relationship is friendship. If more stems from it, then that is a blessing and an exciting adventure on which to embark!

I consider myself to be a modern-day Esther (Esther 2:12), and through this experience, albeit brief, what I learned was that I am more of a traditionalist than perhaps I thought. Though Hinge is a better dating app than most that I’ve tried, after nearly three months, I canceled my account. It felt good to fly on the wings of anticipation, and revisit the idea of online dating now as a more seasoned twenty-something. However, I concluded that I didn’t fancy it. I am filled with a hopeful expectation, that the Lord will redeem the time that I’ve waited for “Mr. Right” in His perfect timing, and I’m more than okay with that!

Copyright © 2020 by Ariel Elizabeth Gaskill

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