On Jan. 12, 2020, I rejoined the ranks of being single, or in the words of my roommate, I got remarried to the game. I was single for most of freshman year, so I thought I was well acquainted with my new life; but, when I started dating again, everything felt different. Soon, I realized that the game itself had not changed, but I had. See, for the last year, dating was no game to me because I was in love with my girlfriend. But now I found myself in the starting lineup of a game I no longer understood.

In the dating game, we devalue people and reduce them to numbers; we rate them on a scale of one to 10; we constantly brag about our hookups to mask our feelings; we swipe on Tinder because we’re bored. Talking to friends, I am constantly astonished by the numbers they casually mention. 238 Tinder matches. 12 bodies. 23 Snapchats. Of those three people, they have collectively been on two dates and in no relationships over the last six months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no position to slut shame anyone. I’m not even looking for a relationship right now, but I am looking for something beyond the meaningless games we’re playing. To transcend the games and make dating work again, we must address a couple of core issues.

Problem 1: Single people are too selfish.

Every Thursday, I wake up at about 9:45 a.m., just in time to sprint to my 10 a.m. I put in my headphones and don’t open my mouth until I need participation points. I attend classes until 4 p.m. and, after napping, either go to Hatcher to do homework or hang out with my friends. Wash, rinse, repeat. We all get caught up in these vicious cycles of routines because they’re comfortable and, in many ways, necessary. However, this conventional routine is flawed because it revolves entirely around one person.

While monotonous at times, our routines bestow upon us the curse of independence before our minds have fully developed. We grow up so self-reliant and self-conscious that we inevitably become self-centered and run the risk of becoming egotistical. Thus, when we venture to date — whether casual or serious — we struggle with empathy, which allows us to justify mistreating others or makes us oblivious altogether.

This phenomenon influences the decisions we make when pursuing potential partners because many of us are simply too self-conscious to talk to new people — except on Tinder, which I’ll address later. Instead, we prefer to stay confined in our social circles, which consolidates the dating pool considerably. In fact, Engineering senior Arjun Lama encapsulated it perfectly when he said: “I go to Rick’s, but no one meets people there. If you go up to someone, then, all of a sudden, you’re weird.” Now, this is where I draw a line. If there’s a social stigma against talking to people in a bar, we have officially gone too far. In order to expand our horizons, our generation needs to be bolder and reshape the dating landscape. Go talk to that cute girl in your biology class. Go sit with that hot guy in the dining hall. The world won’t shatter. The worst thing they can say is no.

Problem 2: Single people are too fake.

Have you ever looked at someone on Instagram after you met them in real life, but you didn’t recognize them at all? Today, we have this image that everyone should put forward a perfect face online. We need to look our best or people won’t put forth the effort to learn the person underneath the looks. Enter, Tinder.

Everyone who has told you that looks don’t matter is either someone hot, lying to themselves or someone who is not on Tinder. Looks aren’t insignificant, but they’re definitely not the most important thing. In person, you can overwhelm someone with your charm and bravado while Tinder’s main form of currency is ab muscles. Now, Tinder has some redeeming qualities like their bio section, Spotify preferences and the post-match messaging process. However, in order to get to the best parts of the app, people deem your attraction worthy of their attention. That’s what I call a flawed process.

If you want to cut through the noise, you can, but it’s exceedingly difficult when you only meet people through Tinder or through friends. Much like the previous problem, the solution is to get outside of the ordinary and meet some strangers. No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll probably find someone better in real life than you ever could on Tinder, and that is the point.

June 14, 2018: During orientation, I was on a bus talking with a friend about fantasy football when the bus came to a screeching halt and I fell forward into the girl in front of me. While I was profusely apologizing, she turned around and I noticed her piercing green eyes and dirty blonde hair. She said, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. By the way, I’m Morgan.” I spent the rest of the night talking to the charming stranger, going back to East Quad and then to Bubble Island. Right before we left Bubble Island, I heard a thunderclap and saw a torrential downpour outside. I took her hand and we ran out. In the middle of that summer storm, I spun her around and we kissed. That’s why I talk to strangers.

At the end of the day, dating isn’t that complex. It’s just two people who want to be noticed, to be seen and accepted for who they truly are. Whether it is for one night or a lifetime, the rush in your head, the fluttering of your heart and the tingling of your skin make you feel alive. Those things make you want to step out of your bubble, stop being selfish and care for someone else.

Keith Johnstone can be reached at keithja@umich.edu.

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