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I’ve got dating app burnout, but where else can I look to meet someone?

WORDS BY SIENNA BARTON

A girl can only swipe for so long.

After a wild night out, Carrie and her girlfriends are eating brunch. A hungover Charlotte is hunched over her cup of coffee, while Carrie and Miranda eat their eggs, and Samantha shares the details of her wild sexual exploits with a firefighter. Exasperated and a little emotional, Charlotte whines, “I’ve been dating since I was fifteen, I’m exhausted! Where is he?”

As I approach my 29th birthday in May, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t wondered the same thing. Instead of 1990s Manhattan, I’m living in 2020s Melbourne – and not much has changed. Rather than catching the Staten Island Ferry to judge a calendar competition for firefighters, I’m trawling the depths of the internet for men. 


Looking for more thought-provoking reads? Try our Life section.


My last relationship ended just over two years ago, when COVID seemed like a far away thing that only existed overseas, and I never imagined that multiple lockdowns would have me enter the longest sexual dry spell of my life. Trying to date in lockdown seemed too hard, as Dan Andrews laid out rules that allowed Melburnians to visit only their “intimate partners”.

It got to July of that year, and I was in a bit of a weird space with this guy I’d been talking to online – a real Ross-and-Rachel-will-they-won’t-they vibe (spoiler: we didn’t) – and I just couldn’t bear to ask him to be my intimate partner when we hadn’t yet had the chance to kiss. So I let it go, and spent most of my time in lockdown learning new crafts and binge-watching TV shows.

Fast forward to the end of 2021, and it seems like our days of never ending lockdowns are behind us. I’d largely forgotten how to be social after months of talking only to my dog and colleagues on Zoom, and couldn’t imagine how I would meet someone I’d like to date. Like many of us in moments of desperation, I got on my phone and download the big three: Bumble, Tinder and Hinge. It might have been oversaturation, but I figured that dating might be a numbers game – and the more people who saw me, the better? 

Nearly six months have passed since I returned to “the apps” and I’m more exhausted than ever, and worse yet, still dateless. It’s hard to say what exactly has left me feeling so disillusioned when it comes to online dating, but I suspect it’s a combination of things. Many men, feeling removed from the real world and protected behind their phone screens, seem to think they have permission to blatantly objectify me based on my gargantuan boobs or round bum.

In my experience, an emboldened man might go with a relatively benign “I like your curves” or more revoltingly, “I’d like to treat you like homework. Slam you on my desk and do you all night”. Then there’s the bafflingly stupid messages, like the young man who boasted about his “ripper” dad joke: “Why was the building never finished? Because Russia took ur-crane!” I immediately swiped left, not only because joking about a human rights crisis is in poor taste, but the joke also made no fucking sense. 

This mood of total defeat and tiredness seems to be common among my single friends, as they try daily to strike up unique and engaging conversations with complete strangers in hopes of making a meaningful connection. I was recently talking to a friend-of-a-friend, who proclaimed that the dating apps are dead, and that the real way to meet someone now is via Twitter or Instagram.

Though this approach confused me, it’s a theory I have seen work successfully in practice. My friend, newly single and dtf, recently posted a thirst trap on her Instagram stories with the caption “Who wants to go see The Batman with me?” The guy she’d intended to message her did so within half an hour, and though he’d already seen the film, they made plans to see The Batman the following evening.

I contemplated trying this exact move myself, but became crippled by shyness and deep neuroses, and chickened out – as I worried that no one would reply. If this was dating now, then I wasn’t ready for it. Was my grandma right, should I just join one of the academic clubs at uni in hopes of meeting a man? As a mature-aged Masters student at a university with academic clubs full of eighteen year olds, the jury’s still out on that one.

Now, back to our girls in that Manhattan diner… Consoling her friend, Carrie suggests that maybe their group of friends are “the white knights” that will save each other from singledom, or maybe, it’s up to them to be the heroes of their own stories. It’s a predictable trope, but as I watched those friends comfort each other through years of painful dating, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be some truth to it.

As Melbourne regains some of its pre-COVID sparkle and we begin socialising like we did before, the pool of people we’re naturally exposed to will widen and we’ll date people that we’ve met organically. I’m not sure how long I can be bothered persisting with talking to strangers on dating apps, but when I leave, I don’t think I’ll be missing out on anything. At the moment, I’m content with using that energy to spend time with my friends, aka my own white knights. That being said, if you’d like to go on a date with me, my DMs are open.

For more on dating apps, head here.

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