Online dating: How to deal with guilt and disappointment

12 Mar 2021
By Gioia D M., Student at University of Glasgow

Online dating sure ain’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be soul-destroying. Student writer Gioia explains why you should manage expectations, experience the good (and the bad) and roll with it.

Dating online can be a daunting process and, to be honest, I consider myself old-fashioned. In fact, it took me a while to get used to the idea that meeting someone online is completely fine and nothing to be ashamed of.

But technology is part of our lives now - for better or worse - and we may as well make the most of it.

Here, I’m sharing my online dating experience from the past few months in the hope I can make you feel a little bit more at ease if you’re thinking of giving it a shot.

Taking the plunge

It took me a while to get over the guilt of online dating. I don’t know if this is a widely-spread phenomenon, but, personally, I’m one of those people who sees dating through rose-tinted glasses.

Therefore, the idea of meeting someone online seemed to be a disrupting factor to the fairytale vision instilled in me by many romantic comedies. I kept thinking: ‘Am I preventing myself from experiencing a meet-cute just like in the movies?’ or, ‘Don’t I deserve a meet-cute?’ and, my favourite, ‘What if I meet the love of my life and this is the story we tell when people ask us where we met?’

At the end of the day, I just had to remind myself that I wasn’t on Tinder to meet the love of my life. I was on Tinder because I wanted to have fun, like any other 20-year-old.

Downloading Tinder

I joined Tinder in October. Truth be told, I didn’t join with any serious intention to actually date but, one night, my flatmates and I were bored, so we all downloaded the app together.

In retrospect, I think we were subconsciously trying to simulate a fun night out. You know, when you go to a pub and sit with your friends, perusing the area? Browsing through Tinder’s many ‘options’ felt a bit like that; a fun activity with no long-term scope, just like an actual night on the town.

It did start to feel a little bit impersonal after a while of scrolling through endless pictures of anonymous faces. But it’s addictive, the swiping left and right with a simple flick of your thumb.

I started wondering what the world would actually be like if dating in real life also worked like this. What if you met someone in a coffee shop, didn’t like them and just simply moved them out of the way? I’m not sure this kind of social interaction would be quite as unanimously accepted.

Dealing with disappointing dates

In any case, given our current climate, online dating seemed like the only option available. I also realised I had never actually dated before. One way or another, I was always in relationships that were immediately exclusive, and dating, regardless of it starting online, was a whole new world for me.

But there were some things I learned pretty quickly. The first, that seven out of the 10 people you will talk to on Tinder are either going to ghost you or you’re going to ghost them. Most of the time, it’s not personal but I understand it can be a bit demoralising.

The important thing is not to have too many expectations and to not let your life revolve around how many matches you have. When I finally went on my first date, I had been on Tinder for about a month.

Honestly? The date wasn’t great, either. The person I was meeting didn’t look like the pictures and his charisma wasn’t the same as over our text messages. I didn’t really feel attracted to him in real life and I actually ended up running away with such a blatant excuse.

I felt really bad about it afterwards, like I had already made some sort of commitment to this person. I actually felt like a bad person for not liking him and not wanting to spend any more time with him. Luckily, when I spoke to him again and explained how I felt, he was really understanding about it.

The lesson here? Honesty is the best policy. Even more so when you’re online.

Reflecting on what online dating taught me

1) Say no to guilt

My bad date did make me reflect more on why I felt like I was breaking a promise I never made. I decided I was too much in the mindset of conventional dating. Again, I made the mistake of going into Tinder thinking it was going to be an easy way to find myself in a relationship.

The reality is that being in a relationship with someone you know and trust is very different from dating itself. That takes time and, if you don’t click, that’s okay, too.

So, don’t just use dating to meet other people, use it to get to know yourself and grow in the process of doing so. If a date goes well, great! If it doesn’t, it’s not the end of the world.

I see my bad date as a life lesson. I shouldn’t feel bad about not wanting to waste any time on a person that I don’t find attractive. It’s not good for anyone; not for me, and certainly not for him. Especially during these unsettling times, I want to enjoy the time I’m spending with someone. If I’m not enjoying myself, is it really worth it?

2) Be realistic

Throughout my online dating experience, I have come to the understanding that the trick is to have no expectations whatsoever.

This is a seemingly easy rule to follow and yet we often take it for granted. It’s very easy to start fantasising about your future with someone when you start getting to know them, without actually focusing on who you’re with and the present you’re already sharing together.

I want to learn how to be present. Essentially, I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that this is totally the right attitude to have while dating. I want to make sure I am happy and comfortable before diving into anything.

3) Do what makes you happy

Consider these to my dating resolutions: be with someone because they make you happy, because they’re worth your time and don’t forget to experience everything (the good and the bad) with some life philosophy.

Considering the online format of dating apps like Tinder, and how many ‘options’ they give you, this is all the more important as you navigate the online dating minefield.

Good luck!

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Currently studying English Literature and Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow! A little Italian making her way through the world, lover of all food and dead scared of pigeons! I lived in England for the past five years, but I’m also a massive fan of Scotland - and a little obsessed with Mary Queen of Scots…