"The future of dating is hybrid," a recent Axios article claimed. Really? According to the piece, gone are the days of first-date jitters, sweet kisses, or awkward goodbyes. Now, everyone should just date on Zoom. If the elite has their way, all of life, including first dates, will be lived virtually. The reason? It's cheaper, faster, and more convenient.
I'm all about saving time, money, and convenience—hello, online grocery shopping—but some things are meant to be felt and shared in real life. Dating—heck, most relationships—are some of those things. Pushing the most important things in life, like faith, family, and friends to the online space, will make us less human, lonelier, and more depressed than ever before.
Axios thanks the pandemic and the fact that most people were forced to work at home in 2020 for this lightbulb idea. "So just as people are now saving time and money on commuting and eating out with hybrid work, they're saving money on those first-impression drinks and dinners via hybrid dating." Saving money is great, but not at the expense of building a potential new relationships or fostering current ones.
Facetime chats are a convenient way to stay in touch on occasion, but replacing new relationships with virtual ones seems lazy, boring, even potentially dangerous, especially when dating someone new. The internet allows many people to hide their true selves, including "red flag"-level flaws, online. If you truly want to get to know the person you're dating, it's best to do it in person where you can see how that man or woman interacts with you, others, and under stress.
Despite its claims, the urge to push first dates online isn't even that convincing. The article quotes data from a dating app called Hinge to show that people actually need one another, even if it's just to brush up on their own social skills. "On top of that, 44 [percent] of Hinge users say they're nervous about dating again because they worry their social skills may have atrophied during the pandemic." I'm guessing if our collective social skills are getting rusty from being on Zoom too much, being on Zoom more isn't going to help.
The pressure to continue to live life in a virtual sense seems strange given the pandemic. While the world was trying to "flatten the curve" suicides and substance abuse skyrocketed. A not-so-subtle hint that mental health is important too. There is also a plethora of data available showing how harmful it is to a person's psyche to choose smartphone interactions over real life interactions.
A 2017 study on mobile use showed "smartphone penetration is the highest among 18 to 24-year-olds, at a staggering 93 percent." As convenient as the internet is on a smartphone or the ability to fire up a Zoom meeting on our home computer, this dramatic increase in use triggers depression and anxiety.
In the middle of the 2020 pandemic, another study was published that showed an increase in smartphone use leads to an increase in poor mental health, including anxiety, stress, poor sleep quality, and even "decreased educational attainment." So we're supposed to live a virtual life because it's convenient and bad for us?
Even if there were no studies showing that living one's life mostly online was harmful, living a real life should be proof enough that it's time we start discerning when to do things online and when to do things in person. Grocery shopping and work, tele-health and some communication are fantastic uses of the virtual space. But dating that new guy you've had your eye on for awhile? Or the cute woman you've finally gotten the courage to ask out? I don't think so.
As great as the online world is, nothing compares to the real life goosebumps of skin touching skin on that first handshake, legs accidentally brushing under a table at an outdoor bistro, wine glasses clinking at sunset, and an end-of-date kiss that says, "Let's do this again." If this isn't the stuff of relationships that makes life sweet, what is? And if this is, why would we pass it up to save a buck?
I'm all for "YOLO," as the kids say, and that's why I order my groceries online and buy presents on Amazon. But YOLO is also why I lean the other direction when it comes to friendships, time with my kids, dating, or other valuable relationships. Some things in life are just better in person—dating is one of those things. Going to your son's football game is one of those things. Having lunch with your parents is one of those things. Sharing margaritas with your girlfriends is one of those things. Attending a faith community is one of those things.
Don't give in to the newfangled pressure to live life virtually, be it dating, a night out with friends, or time with your family. Healthy relationships and the human connectivity, vulnerability, and deep knowledge that come from them ignite a part of us that makes life worth living. As human beings made in the image of a triune God, we long to connect both with our Creator and people by design and as a way to feel valued, known, seen, and loved. In an era where convenience is king, and Zoom is common, resist the urge to Amazon Prime the things that matter: faith, family, and friends.