Online dating is going strong even though most people will tell you they hate it. With new apps popping up all the time, Bumble has put a spin on traditional dating by putting the woman in charge. Taking a closer look, however, this may not be in her best interest. I have to admit that tackling a topic like online dating is a bit out of my wheelhouse. I’m going to be 50 soon, I’m not single, and although I’m divorced and met my current beau on Match.com six years ago, I feel very far removed from this culture. I am a therapist, however, so I often get a bird’s-eye view of the dating scene when conversing with my 20- and 30-something clients about their love lives. I feel lucky that I get to stay connected vicariously to the fascinating phenomenon of virtual dating. In general, the consensus is that online dating sucks. I have yet to meet anyone who loves it. It’s kind of like flying. You do it because you need to get from point A to point B, but in no way does the journey feel good. Online dating has become a hobby for many, a game for some, and a last-ditch effort for those who have practically given up on finding the right partner at all. In fact, online dating has become so commonplace that meeting someone in the real world is often considered “impossible” and even “old school.” So when a lovely 32-year-old client told me about Bumble, the newest dating app from the creators of Tinder, I was intrigued. “I’ve given up on all the dating sites,” she said, “except for this one called Bumble.” “What’s Bumble?” I asked (feeling pretty out of it having to even ask that question). She explained to me that it’s exactly like Tinder except that women make the first move, and if they get a response from the pursuit they only have 24 hours to close the deal. According to Bumble, “Girls must initiate the conversation with their matches, or else they disappear after 24 hours. The only control the guy has in the situation is the ability to extend one match each day for an extra 24 hours.” I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know how she felt about that flip-flop of traditional dating values. To me, it sounded like fishing using your own charm and good looks as the bait. The idea of putting yourself out there as a woman without any guarantee that he’ll bite seemed both empowering and frightening at the same time. I could see how this would be a great option for the more assertive and confident girls on Bumble, but for the insecure or shy it sounded like a nightmare. Handing girls the power to choose is good marketing at best, and the way it’s pitched leads girls to believe that they’ll have men piling up at their feet waiting to be selected. In reality, this app is basically Tinder without the mutual swipe. The real concern I have with Bumble is more about mate selection and how we’re messing with the natural dance we’re evolutionarily wired to engage in. At first, it seemed that the men were at a disadvantage, but as I thought about it more they were just being let off the hook. Online dating has changed the way we do courtship, robbing us of the very important primitive mating rituals we’re wired to practice–the ones that make our most important life encounters playful and fun, like flirting, looking fancy, gazing across the room, and making a move to approach. We know that traditionally the woman is pursued by the man and that the woman has always been in the position to accept or decline that pursuer. This may be an antiquated model in today’s world of modern love and female empowerment, but I couldn’t help but wonder if a website like Bumble isn’t messing things up even more. Dating is already a confusing process that has become more about thinking than natural chemistry, and now the one piece of the process that seemed to endure has been obliterated in the service of marketing a new online dating platform. I think there’s something important for a woman in being pursued by a man that is both romantic and flattering. All girls, even the most self-sufficient and independent, want to be the most desirable female around. She wants the males to find her, line up for her, and compete for her. This is part of our natural drive to mate, and for so long this has been the expectation of how things will play out. Women have already had to forgo many courtship traditions in response to the current dating culture, so stepping up to the batting plate is a move toward equality, but it also signifies a loss. Bumble has put a new spin on things, but maybe as women we shouldn’t be so quick to grab that mighty baton of being the pursuer without considering what is being sacrificed. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a more traditional experience, and acknowledging the need to be pursued and chosen is nothing to be ashamed of. The most important part of finding a partner is not how it happens, but there is great value in how you feel about the process. Do what feels good and right for you without apology, because at the end of the day you write the script of your love story, not Bumble.
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