Online dating still carries a stigma in 2019 — but why?
When I met my boyfriend for the first time, he was sitting at a bar by himself drinking an old fashioned with bourbon … exactly like his Tinder profile said he would be. We had matched on the app only the Sunday before, and after a short conversation about surfing and confirming neither of us was in an open relationship (San Francisco living), we agreed to meet up for drinks the following Saturday. Drinks turned into a formal date, which turned into several dates, and three and a half years later we occupy a 400-square-foot apartment in the Mission and share a couch and a space heater that I can’t get him to turn off — even when it’s 80 degrees outside.
Despite how long we’ve been together, there is one question we tend to get asked over and over again. I’m sure that if you are in a relationship, or ever have been, then you’ve been asked the same one. It defies all classifications: sexual orientation, race, gender — we all eventually get it. The monstrous question: “So … how did you guys meet?”
And, if you met your significant other online, you’ve likely paused before answering said question.
41% OF PEOPLE THINK THAT RELATIONSHIPS ARE LESS SUCCESSFUL IF THEY BEGIN ONLINE.
Our culture is obsessed with “how did you meet” stories, but not just any “how did you meet” story will do. It has to be a “meet cute” story. Like when you run into The One at a coffee shop and he spills his fresh latte on your crisp white shirt, it’s apparent that fate had foreordained this precise moment for the two of you to begin your lives together. Or when your dog abruptly slips off its leash and goes tearing down the sidewalk as you watch it hop into the arms of your future lover. The universe, of course, cunningly orchestrated this bizarre “coincidence” in order for you to meet your other half. The more romantic, the more mystifying, the more impossible a story, the more it seems to solidify the success of a relationship. Destiny intervened so that you could find each other.
Instead, if you found your beloved while scrolling through Bumble on a Friday night, you might feel a little more hesitant to share. But it’s more than just that. Online dating has always held a stigma — even in 2019, when, according to an Axios study, 41 percent of people think that relationships are less successful (that is, less legitimate) if they begin on-line. And Pew Research found that 23 percent of U.S. adults agreed that singles who use online dating sites are desperate. Le sigh.
Which leaves those of us — the 40 percent who do use online dating, and the ones seemingly overlooked by destiny in her mad dash to orchestrate love — with what I like to call the “digital dating dilemma.” When asked the dreaded “How did you meet?” how do you respond? Are you a Truth Teller who believes that honesty is paramount? While it might feel awkward at first, it’s 2019 and the whole world is online dating. There’s no reason to lie!
Or maybe you’re a Cyberhider — someone who prefers to fib a little about how you met. Because while the truth may set you free, it’s not always everyone’s business.
So I conducted an Instagram poll: “If you met your S/O online, do you tell the truth about how you met or do you lie?” Some 83 percent of my friends who responded said they were Truth Tellers, but their answers typically came with caveats.
“Yes, I tell the truth,” declared a co-worker, “but I don’t tell my parents. I always say we met through mutual friends. That was the pretty standard response. In fact, 35 percent of Truth Tellers admitted to lying about how they met their partner at one point or another. “It’s just easier sometimes than going through the whole thing,” one polltaker revealed. When she did fess up, she felt that she needed to share additional information to prove the deep chemistry of their first-date encounter. “Yes, we met online, but as soon as we met at the bar, we talked until closing!”
And then there were the 13 percent who admitted to being Cyberhiders — the people who just didn’t feel it was necessary to divulge. Because divulging threatened the credibility of their relationship. It’s hard enough when relationships are judged by a million other things, so why add one more? As things start to get serious, you want others to take it seriously as well.
For the first few weeks, my boyfriend and I debated whether we should tell the truth. Ultimately, we decided to be Truth Tellers. However, put on the spot, I tend to pause, laugh and respond with a coy, “We met through a mutual friend named Tinder.” They’ll laugh, then sometimes say something like, “If it makes you feel better, I met my boyfriend on Tinder too.”
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t make me feel better. Because all I’m doing is propagating the absurd stigma of online dating. Who’s to say that meeting your significant other on a dating app wasn’t exactly what destiny had in store all along?
So, let me proudly introduce myself again. Hello, my name is Shaquille, and I met my boyfriend on Tinder.