COLUMN: Online dating isn’t for the weak of heart

It’s no secret online dating is more popular than ever. With a laundry list of apps that’s growing exponentially, pretty much everyone and their mother has been subjected to a quick glimpse into just how stirring these apps can be. With millions of eligible suitors right at your fingertips, we’re bound to run into craziness somehow. 

In the midst of swipes, likes and roses, online dating is overwhelming. The chaos disillusions us from what it’s all really about: finding someone that makes us happy. To say online dating is rough may be an understatement, but it’s still possible to find “the one.” 

There are an estimated 44 million individuals on some sort of online dating platform from the United States alone. Of these 44 million, 26 million are using dating apps, via Statista. Although these numbers suggest there’s a menagerie of possible soulmates out there waiting for us to swipe right, it’s safe to say that there’s bound to be chaos with millions of humans right at our fingertips. 

Tinder, Bumble and Hinge seem to be the holy trinity among people in their twenties. All you need is a couple of photos, a bio and an unbreakable spirit.

What follows suit will ultimately be the outlandish story you tell at parties, amateur stand up comedy night, or like me: articles for the school newspaper, so that your fellow classmates can revel in the fact that their love lives are better than the less fortunate. 

It’s time we start laughing about how rough online dating can be. Forget left swipes and ghosts. Embrace the absurdity. It makes all the bad dates and matches and texts feel a bit less depressing and a bit more entertaining.

And if you ever feel bad, don’t worry. 

Things could get worse. 

And for me? Oh trust me, they have. 

My first ever date with someone I met online was after I came home from my first semester away at college. He was three or four years older. We’d made plans to take our dogs on a walk in the forest preserve. As I wrapped my dog in her very best sweater, he texted me and said that the weather was less-than-ideal, so I left her at home and we decided to go to his place to watch a movie. Since it was a holiday break, I ended up meeting his entire extended family. I made awkward small talk with his dad and grandmother. Truly painful. We ended the night watching “Bojack Horseman” in his basement. 

I wish I could say there wasn’t a second date. But there was. He took me to Petco because he wanted to get a pet gecko. There wasn’t a third. 

As summer rolled around, I matched with a guy on Hinge. Was it solely because his bio said he was a “dog dad” and included an adorable photo of a furry black dog with an underbite? No comment.

We talked for a bit, but it fizzled out since we both got busy. But September rolls around, and one night, at three in the morning, I get a phone call. It’s him. He starts panicking. He was at LAX, on his way to Kauai, and the girl he’d hired to watch his dog, Chowder, had skipped town. 

After some back and forth, I agreed and made my way down to Streeterville to rescue him. It was four in the morning. We came back, went to my apartment, and Chowder climbed into my bed. As I felt myself be pushed off of my own bed by a dog who’d made himself right at home, I came to the halting realization:

I think I have horrible taste in men. 

I never expected my dates to turn into window shopping for geckos or new dog sitting clients. When we find ourselves packaged into a handful of photos and singular bio, it’s easy to present as something that’s a bit better than the reality. Despite the one dimensional aspects of swiping on whatever app suits your fancy, humans are much more than the clever one liner we use on Tinder. For better and for worse.

It’s easy to find yourself discouraged with the prospect of online dating after one failed date, situationship, talking stage, or another. It can be disheartening, but these horror stories of sorts aren’t always the case. It might take a bit more swiping, but there’s good within the chaos.

My best friend met her boyfriend on Bumble. My brother met his girlfriend on Hinge. One in 10 U.S. users say they’ve found love — even marriages — online, via study Pew Research. Sure, these may be rare cases, but with a pool chock full of finance bros, girls with butterfly tattoos, “dog dads,” and even those with star signs and heights just waiting to be read, it’s safe to say that there’s a little bit of everything for, well, everyone. In a world where pretty much everything’s online, it’s only natural for people to use the digital world as a dating pool. 

So who’s to say your soulmate isn’t out there right now, fending off geckos, meeting the family, horrible first and second dates, dogs named after soup, all in hopes of finding you