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Virtual Dating: Swipe Right for the Death of Romance

20/10/2015 17:23 BST | Updated 18/10/2016 10:12 BST

Online dating makes sense: people are busy, time is scarce and relationships, to varying degrees, are enjoyable. Virtual matchmaking may be convenient, but is it the only answer? It is a construction that attempts to harmonise our urge for productive efficiency with a desire for human interrelation, but does it quite stick? There's reason to be concerned if formulaic partner formation becomes a replacement of, rather than a supplement to, talking and courting. It's not about condemning frivolous flirtation on hook-up sites, but more of a call to consider the negative consequences of our mindless usage of them.

Not too long ago, online dating was largely seen as a last throw of the romantic dice. Whilst the mainstreaming of on-screen matchmaking has helped dismantle such an unwarranted stigma, it has also eroded our patience to nurture organic relationships. Smart phones deliver everything consumable instantly to our fingertips, but the online dating world condenses us down to a virtual product, no different to an Argos catalogue. Despite being complex beings, dating profiles hollow out life to fit within a 200-character profile template. The endless delivery of dating profiles in any one-swipe session lends itself to the self-fulfilling cycle of shallowness that inflates as more people use it. The consequence of the virtual dating world is the erection of a barrier between the user and the romantic prospect.

Euphemisms in courting are one thing, but the larger concern is our disconnection from ourselves. The online dating game forces us to present an image of what we once were, or perhaps how we wish we looked, rather than showing the ugly fuck that we are. Acknowledgement of physical attraction is nothing new, yet the swipe-era renders our appearance disproportionately significant. The screen is a veil where we can sit behind an outdated photo and idealised self-presentation. People used to have the opportunity to increase in appeal over time, but now the only window to impress is on a smartphone screen. Progression on to second base used to be an achievement but now a momentary, thoughtless, passive twitch of the index finger dictates whether a pair will proceed to its virtual equivalent: a hellish cybernetic introduction.

Technology has left us reliant on our 3G-location service to link us with our café crush. Matchmaking has become an online industry that speaks to the person within earshot, so that we don't have to. Siri needn't be our mouthpiece when, in the most part, we have a mouth of our own. We just need to unplug those earphones, look up and have a natter. Despite it's best efforts, technology just can't assimilate subtle human interaction online. Take Bumble's dog-eared attempt, which gives 24 hours for a lady to message her match. This attempt to deliver female control results in a form of penalty (due to the time limit) on those that are occupied in real life. Put simply, no emoji can simulate eye contact and no combination of brackets and punctuation can replace a subtle touch of the leg or a magnetic smile. In short, no app profile can match that spark when two people just click.

Technology is all about ease, shortcuts and preempting our next move, so that we don't have to, but romance is one realm beyond the remit of technological assistance. Whether online or in person, a connection greater than a moment of lust cannot be reduced to an efficiency drive. The combination of excitement and pre-date nerves has been replaced with a lonely seat on the sofa, a cold slice of pizza and a careless stroke of the next virtual prospect. No attempt to transpose love making into app. development can do it justice. Technology and the demand for immediate results has receded our patience to realise the world's greatest thing for ourselves. It has transformed something raw, intangible and organic to a computerised caricature of love consumption. So, can online dating really be viewed as social progression?

Next time, just think before you swipe.