Swipe happens: Welcome to the age of Digital Dating

Photographer: Illustrations by Drew Nowacoski

Young singles talk about the weird world of dating, circa 2015


If you’re single, odds are high that you’ve dipped your toes into the pool of online dating.

Tinder, Grindr, How About We, Scissr, OKCupid, POF, Match – the sites sit there, taunting you, waiting for that one late night when (a little boozy) you decide to reactivate your account. Because why the heck not?

The profile questions are a little like those MySpace surveys your friends used to tag you in – a Myers-Briggs test to make you seem fun and datable. It’s the ultimate quiz – one where you can skip questions you don’t like, swipe left, swipe right and present the best possible version of yourself – all from the safety of your screen, attempting to win the ultimate prize: affection, love, intimacy and (maybe) a little bit of action.



Sommer, age 27. Currently active on a number of online dating apps and sites.


Erin Dorney: Tell us about your experience meeting people online.

Sommer: I was on OKCupid for three years. I was on so long that they asked me to be a moderator! When I first signed up, I got 50 messages in the first 48 hours. It was insane. I needed a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. I got out of it completely after a bad breakup, but now I’m back on Tinder.

ED: Why did you get back online?

S: I felt like there was no other option. It’s the only way to meet people besides being introduced by friends or at a house party. Then, you won’t believe this, a guy I’d been casually sleeping with brought a Match.com date to a gathering of mutual friends. I was pissed.

GirlSocial0215ED: What role does texting play in the modern dating scene?

S: Well, typically the process is message, text, one phone call – to make sure they’re a real person – then meet up. It’s a lot of work, the energy required, you know? Find a match, write an interesting message, hope for a reply. Then you exchange numbers and text for a week. Sometimes that’s where it ends – there’s just nothing there. Or, one person texts more than the other person and you get freaked out. Or moves too fast. Sometimes people are just looking for a “messaging buddy.” There’s one guy who has been randomly texting me for two months but never wants to meet up in real life. Emojis suck. I have seriously asked my friends, “Is a red heart more serious than the others?” I almost refused to meet up with another guy because he was sending emojis with every. single. text.

ED: Do you believe the percentage match number is a true indicator of compatibility?

S: I had an 87 percent match, which in my experience has been a good indicator. It was the worst date in history. I’ll give you the highlights. He showed up in stained, ripped jeans, wearing a hoodie, an anime t-shirt and missing a tooth. (Why wasn’t that in any of the pictures?) He never once stopped talking. He hated libraries, the president and all Democrats. Again, not in his profile. I had no warning. His profile did say he was an engineer, which he then explained to mean he “cleaned and serviced” fountains.  He told me about his assault rifle named Esther. Maybe not good first date material. He made me watch an anime video on his phone. I passed on dinner and declined a ride, but he followed me to the bus stop, explaining his (intolerant) views on gay marriage. I told him about my gay brother, and he had the nerve to ask if we’d be seeing each other again. I mean, this was an 87 percent match we’re talking about!

ED: Tell us about the worst date you’ve experienced recently.

S: There are just so many. One guy took me on a date to a farmers market and said he had to pick up groceries before he went back to his mom’s house. Another guy got mad because I started eating my soup appetizer before he got back from the bathroom. I mean, how much time do you have? Sometimes the “good” dates are just as bad – you talk for hours over beers until 1 a.m., think you’re cutting through all the bullshit by just flat-out saying, “Hey, I had a really great time. I’d like to hang out again,” and he still drops off the face of the Earth without even a, “Sorry, I’m not interested.” Maybe you eventually sleep with them, after a few dates, or maybe you never even have that first date because he calls you drunk from a chicken coop at 2 a.m. after crashing his car into a telephone pole. Wait, can I say another one? Days before I was supposed to meet this one guy, he mentioned he was into dressing up like a cat and sent me photos of himself crouched on the floor drinking milk from a saucer. So that one wasn’t even a date, but … yeah.


“People think they know what they are looking for, so they are going to these more specific dating apps. Bristlr for people who love beards. FarmersOnly.com. When my friend found out she had celiac disease, her doctor gave her a brochure for Gluten Free Singles.” – Sommer


ED: Wow. You mentioned chatting over beers. Is the bar scene still a thing these days?

S: Three things are happening at bars: You’re going there to finagle a spontaneous one-night hook-up; you’re there for a pre-planned meet-up; or you’re part of a mixer under the pretense of a shared topic, you drink “specially priced” martinis and you awkwardly mingle, then flee home, telling yourself, “Well, I tried!” before logging in to check your messages.

ED: My last question: What do you think the future holds for online dating?

S: Probably weirder sites. People think they know what they are looking for, so they are going to these more specific dating apps. Bristlr for people who love beards. FarmersOnly.com. When my friend found out she had celiac disease, her doctor gave her a brochure for Gluten Free Singles. I don’t think online dating is going anywhere. A lot of us never really got the social skills or confidence to go out to a bar or ask someone out. There’s an instant satisfaction to it – you can “meet” someone while lying alone on the couch. Actually getting off the couch – that’s the hard part.



Tristan, age 26. Currently in a relationship with a woman he met through online dating site OKCupid.


Erin Dorney: How did you expect you would meet your girlfriend?

Tristan: Through friends of friends probably, or maybe I imagined we would both be single at a wedding. Or, I’d meet her through mutual interests or hobbies – hiking or at the dog park, maybe.

ED: But you met her through an online dating website. Did that surprise you?

T: Yeah, I’m probably just a fluke, though. Most of my friends are on there to hook up. I actually got on as a joke. I was on a cross-country road trip with friends from high school, and we all downloaded Tinder in the car. It was a race to see who could get a match first. I mostly was on to mess with people – see how weird and awkward I could make things. I made my profile pictures all Shia LaBeouf. I talked to a lot of interesting girls. Meeting someone in the process was just a bonus.

BoySocial0215ED: Tell us about the worst date you’ve ever been on.

T: We chatted for, like, weeks, and then met up. Dinner was great – no weird awkward pauses or anything. Then she drops the bomb – “You are totally my husband’s type.” After weeks of talking, she had neglected to mention that she was married and was online with the sole purpose of finding someone for a threesome. I paid for dinner and left. She assumed because my profile said bisexual, that’s what I was looking for, too. Another time, in a text, this woman “forgave me” for not liking stand-up comedy – her “favorite thing.” But when we met, it came up at dinner. She was so surprised by this fact that, without warning, she stood up and left the bar for a good minute. She came back and said, “See? That was spontaneous and original and funny.” She also insisted that I refer to her only by her last name.

ED: Follow-up question – what did you do?

T: I shamefully ignored her text, although she knows I read it thanks to iMessage. We never spoke again.

ED: Are you still active on any of the online dating sites now that you’re in a relationship?

T: I mean, my profile is “deactivated.” People can see the last time you’ve logged in. I was dating this one girl, before I met my girlfriend, Lindsay. I had deactivated my profile, but one night my friends were curious and wanted to see her picture. Since I didn’t have any, I logged back in to show them her profile. I noticed she had logged in recently. Um, excuse me? Then I went back and started checking all her logins. Like, 11 minutes before our date!? WTF? But, I guess I’m logging in too…to check. I wish they wouldn’t show that on the profile or whatever. It always seems to get you in trouble.

ED: What are some of the downsides of online dating?

T: Well there’s no process, no protocol. No one knows what they’re doing, and everyone has a different idea of what’s acceptable. Plus, online relationships feel … disposable, in a way. The other person is just a profile. Or a picture. You can overcome that, like I did, but it’s hard. Sometimes you learn so much about a person before you meet that it’s awkward in person. You already know stuff about them that wouldn’t come up until four or five dates in otherwise.

ED: What do you think the future holds for online dating?

T: We’re constantly told that we can find the perfect person, that they’re within our reach. We keep swiping for a 21 when we have a solid 19 in our hand. It’s the new American Dream – finding the person who completes you, that 95-percent or 100-percent match. I mean, what can I say – it worked for me.


What’s your experience in digital dating? Do you think the bar scene is still a viable place to meet someone new? Tell us below!


  • Share on Tumblr
Posted in Arts+Culture, Arts+Culture – Harrisburg, Arts+Culture – Lancaster, Arts+Culture – York, Harrisburg Headlines, Headlines, Lancaster Headlines, Out & About, Out & About – Harrisburg, Out & About – Lancaster, Out & About – York, PROfiles, York Headlines

Erin Dorney is the editor and co-founder of The Triangle, a literary group based in Lancaster, PA. Erin has an MA in English (creative writing) from West Chester University and an MS in Library and Information Science from Syracuse University. She has been published in various literary journals including The Found Poetry Review, Rufous City Review, The Pinch Literary Journal, and Birdfeast Magazine.

Close Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *