When it comes to casual dating, many people think that it’s hard because it seems so superficial. Shallow. Where’s the magic?
To quote an article on ‘The Superficiality of Online Dating Apps’ in Huffington Post, ‘We now browse potential suitors as if we’re looking through a catalogue, or better yet.. window shopping… If you and another person both happen to swipe right on each other’s picture, congrats- you are a match OR as Tinder says, you can “Keep Playing.”’
Not me – or so I thought. I was on Tinder purely for the casual and superficial. I got to meet different people, have random, deep conversations, and yes, occasionally indulge in the eggplant emoji. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, so this worked out just fine.
The reality of casual dating
It proved to be fun for the first few months. But the reality is that casual dating isn’t hard because it’s superficial; it’s hard because it’s a lot of work. Here’s what casual dating usually involves:
- Connecting with someone through Tinder, Coffee Meets Bagel, Bumble, or the time honoured tradition of sliding into a person’s DMs
- Having a conversation that ping pongs between a few ‘How are yous’ and ‘What are you doings’ until someone asks someone out for ‘coffee or something’*
- Meeting up for coffee ‘or something’
- Never hearing from each other again
*Fact #1: 95% of conversations end after the first round of ‘How are yous’.
And just like clicking on yet another Buzzfeed quiz or Facebook link, it gets boring after a while. Casual dating is fun, don’t get me wrong. But as someone who is currently freelancing after a stint at a company where I had clear progression and goals, it’s easy to draw correlations between the two experiences. I love the freedom that comes with these lifestyle choices – there’s very little commitment and a lot of room for flexibility and experimenting.
However, there’s a lot of ground work that you have to do to make these choices work. Before you can go on a fun date, there’s the swiping and narrowing down of prospective guys. Then, there’s the flirting and small talk that you have to repeat with each new date. Before I knew it, I’d developed my own 3-step strategy for chatting with guys, a template reply to get past the mundane first conversations.
Then this too became tedious, and without even realising it, I stopped checking my dating apps and entered a self-imposed dating drought.
What I learned
A few weeks ago, I decided to be more mindful of how I spend my time on my phone. I deleted my Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr apps because I found myself mindlessly scrolling through them whenever I needed a distraction. Still, I realise that they’re great ways to keep up with my social circle, so I make conscious time to check my pages on my laptop every once in a while.
In the same way, casual (online) dating in itself is not bad. You just need to know what you want out of it so that you can take clear steps that don’t waste your time. Ask yourself – what exactly are you looking for?
If you’re looking for a hook-up with no strings attached, get to the point.
As an Asian woman, this was difficult at first as we have so many preconceived notions about how we should flirt – be coy, play hard to get, etc. However, once I gave it a go and stated my intentions upfront, I found that most people found it refreshing. I wasn’t the only one who was feeling the tedium of repetitive small talk; there were others who were just as lazy and eager to get right to it.
Sure, it can seem transactional to the more romantic at heart but if both parties are transparent about what they’re looking for…hey, why not? I had less pressure to look for ‘the one’ and keep up appearances, and instead could just chill out and have fun.
If you’re looking for the social element, look for it elsewhere when this stops being fun.
Casual dating is a great way to meet new, interesting people and have cool stories to tell your friends… but it’s not your only option. I’m an introvert, and dating as a social activity is not for me. Instead, I’ve been more conscious (this is a theme) about planning my social calendar around my friends and other people I care about.
You can also use Couchsurfing or Facebook groups or even a shoutout in your office’s WhatsApp group to connect with new people over activities you love. If you’re like me, this comes with the added benefit of developing deeper connections where you don’t have to fall back on the usual topics like food and your mutual Facebook friends.
If you’re looking for a long term connection, it’s okay to acknowledge that and date more purposefully.
Many people date casually with the subconscious hope that it’ll lead to something more concrete. Kind of like that entry level job you take while secretly thinking you’ll be Head of Department by the end of the year. It’s the road that leads to many disappointments, friends. Instead, be honest about what you’re looking for. You can start by dating casually to get the lay of the land, but gradually be more selective about who you choose to spend your time with.
Casual dating is hard work and most people give up because of it. Are we destined to be a multi-tasking generation that does everything without excelling at anything? Fret not! The secret – again, like many other things in this age of the internet – is to do it mindfully. Know what you really want out of casual dating, and actively work towards it. You’ll get there!
For more articles on dating, read 5 Ways to Better Use Tinder (From an Ex-Tinderer Herself), or Worst Dates Series: Horror Set-Up by a Friend!