Our world isn’t built for love

I’m scrolling through Tinder once more. Aimlessly swiping through the faces of my next would-be lovers, who more realistically will probably be a list of strangers I never actually meet. I’m back here again.  The dust has settled on the last breakup and although I tried, tried, and tried again, you can’t always knit your lives together in the way you want to. Sometimes the seams just don’t fit. So after considerable weeping, the real ugly, snotty kind, and after I’ve consumed enough bread to feed a small village, because there’s nothing better than complex carbohydrates to mop up the last dredges of a broken heart, here I am on the dating scene once more. In the game. On the market. Or whatever other derivative is used to make me feel like I was some type of house to be viewed, valued and bided upon.

It doesn’t matter whether I’m scrolling through Bumble, Tinder or swimming through Plenty of Fish, I’ve noticed an eerie desolation hanging over the dating scene these days. It hasn’t always been there either. Once upon a time Tinder was a riot. When I first moved to London it was an endless opportunity to meet fun and interesting people as you were getting to know the big city. It’s the reason I made friends, found hidden restaurants and filled my evenings with social activities when I didn’t know anyone. Not every date led somewhere. Often, I found I had no chemistry with the men sitting opposite me, but we still had a great night and became friends. People were willing and enthusiastic about meeting one another. There was a kind of hope that hung in the air. A promise of possibility permeated every exchange.

Now however, you match and stare at each other’s profile pictures to see who will break and message first. Or, if you happen to be like me who doesn’t care for such games, you’ll send a message and wait for a reply that never comes. There seems to be a laziness hanging over dating today, a reluctance to step outside the confines of home and interact with one another in reality. A disregard for the process of dating and if that’s the case, I wonder if we care less?

But pinning the problems of modern dating on the state of men or women isn’t fair and I don’t think we do care less. I think there are more lonely hearts out in the world than ever before.

Rather, I think the current structure of our society isn’t actually built for love, and when the system is against you it’s hard to win. Take for example, the show Love Island. A reality television show in which you couple up on the first day, however, you’re forced to re-couple later in the show. Anyone who remains single is eliminated and kicked off the island. On first glance it looks like a show that is a proponent of love and relationships, but bear in mind, you’re allowed to break up a couple in order to stay on the island. In short, we have a show that is watched by 2.9 million people that advocates cheating and breaking up relationships. 52.3% of those viewers are aged 16-24. I’m literally learning that love is disposable and easily breakable. If that is true, it doesn’t fill me with enthusiasm to go on another date or start another conversation, not if that’s what’s waiting for me.

 Similar shows like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea all center around breakups and sleeping with other people. Either that or I’m watching avidly as celebrities like Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna have very public, very ugly breakups and receive an incredible amount of fame for them.

Even social media, despite its original purpose, somehow disconnects us from one another and if you exist in an app, you’re merely a pixelated version of yourself as opposed to a sentient being. It’s easy to ghost, ignore or cheat on someone who is merely a collection of pixels as opposed to a collective of human emotion and feelings. I’ve tried loving someone through a phone screen and the result is a loneliness so acute it can make your teeth shatter. If we’re not going to show up in person we don’t have much hope.

We’ve also got more choice and access than we’ve ever had before. Which is incredible when I want to shop different brands and order things to arrive the very same day, but those attitudes infiltrate our dating lives and the always on, constant need for instant gratification, and the ever-lurking promise of something better begins to change the way we can love. It changes our very ideas of how we love. We no longer meet someone and put our effort and time into discovering if you have a future together, but rather you keep them in the maybe pile, giving half your attention and time while your eye, or in this case your thumb, wanders constantly over the possibility of something better. I’ve even caught myself doing it subconsciously.

Apathy and a scorn for romantic gestures has also taken over and the biggest rule is to hide your emotion and for someone who’s candid and expressive, that’s a hard ask for me.

If this is the current state we’re living in, how can we expect relationships to bloom. It’s a barren wasteland out there and nothing is growing. We’re in a love drought and there seems to be no sign of rain. And the thing is, love is so ridiculous in its ability to change us, that it needs ridiculously romantic gestures, even if they are cheesy and sometimes cringe-worthy.

People will tell you that social media is the devil and dating apps should be deleted, instead just leaving the fate of your love life to chance because you might just happen to meet ‘the one’ down your local pub one day. They normally say this with a good dollop of judgement as they tell you in their day they didn’t need such apps. Well great, thanks Karen, this isn’t your day and nobody cares because life has changed. We live differently now and instead of damning our current platform and burning social media to the ground, we need to learn how to foster relationships in our current world because those apps aren’t going anywhere. Technology is phenomenal but we need to learn how to add a little human heart to it. Maybe we need to come up with new apps for modern dating or even events that take us outside the safe confines of those apps. Or maybe we just need to have conversations a bit like this one so we can remember that although so much of our modern lives are disposable, love isn’t, and there is always a human heart beating on the other side of your screen, whether you can see it or not.

Salma El-Wardany