Funnels and Friends with Benefits

A reflection on my experiences in modern dating — optimizing apps, defining relationships, and reconciling emotions.

Netflix Without the Chill

In the summer of 2017, I had a friend that I was completely enamored with. We messaged every day and had crossed the Berkeley-SF divide several times to platonically ‘hang out’. But I wanted to take things to the next level. Confident that she also liked me, I drew on my several months of dating app experience and approached it the only way I knew how. I proposed the tried-and-true method of watching a movie together under the influence, assured that something would happen through the unspoken expectations of Netflix and chill.

Into the Fray

My journey into dating happened quite late. Throughout high school and college, I was a complete nonparticipant in any kind of romantic endeavors despite being surrounded by school romances. I was also laughably oblivious to even overt advances.

Funnel Conversions

By now, the transactional, commitment-phobic nature of modern dating in younger generations has been discussed at great length. Plenty of new variables influence the increasingly online dating experience — rising expectations to have a ‘soulmate’ who is your perfect lifelong match and not just a partner, the way our dating pool has scaled exponentially to encompass people from all over the world, the impossible exercise of compressing a representative slice of your humanity into six images and 500 characters, and our persistent but faulty belief that filtering by surface-level criteria is a good predictor of who we will have chemistry with in person.

Tiers of Commitment

This mindset in modern hookup culture inevitably leads to what the Hidden Brain describes as an implicit ‘race to the bottom’ of commitment. Whoever cares less, wins. The less invested you are in someone, the less likely you’ll be hurt. It’s a clear takeaway — maintain as much emotional distance as possible.

A Ceiling to the Floor

In my circles, I don’t hear as much traditional bravado about counting ‘notches on the belt’ and such, but I’ve definitely noticed subtler forms of toxic masculinity. It shows up insidiously in the language we use. Someone who wants to pursue a long-term relationship is jokingly described as ‘settling’ or ‘retiring’, an evolution of the classic ‘tied down’ that also connotes giving up in some way.

Conceal, Don’t Feel

When I discuss this with friends, responses range from ‘well this sounds awful, what a terrible time to be single’ to ‘at least you GET matches, or don’t have to deal with fearing for your personal safety on dates’ and ‘why are you so sad Patrick, chill out lol’. It’s not all bad — I’ve left out all the healthy, noncommitted dates I’ve enjoyed, the breadth of life stories I’ve heard, the cross-Europe whirlwind Tinder romance I shared, and the times where I did have candid, mature discussions that grew my capacity to feel.

Product manager, photographer, optimistic nihilist with musings on life

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