A Male Perspective On Online Dating in Your 30s

Published: Jan 24, 2023  |  

Executive Editor

Find a partner, buy a house, get married, have one baby boy and one baby girl. That’s it. That’s the “ideal scenario” that is persistently thrust into your brain growing up. 

You know what I mean: it’s the vision of idyllic adult relationships where everything is going well, and the stresses of real life don’t exist—the white picket fences and family bread basket from the picnic on the perfectly cut lawn in the sunshine keep them out. 

But cut through the bullshit, back to reality: that version of life is extremely rare. And yet it’s what you are taught as part of the “American Dream” (worth coveting regardless of where you’re living on the planet.) It’s a subliminal pressure from society you’ll experience throughout your entire life, during which you are made to feel a failure if you don’t keep up with these unwritten demands or don’t fall in line with what all your friends are doing. 

Life is tough, and for the majority of us, it doesn’t work out like this dream vision. People break up, get divorced, have kids, chase careers, and everything in between. People can grow apart from the person they’ve been in a long term relationship with, because, as you get older, you change, life changes, and what might have worked for you for 10,15, 20 years no longer does. There’s a pressure to stay together “for the kids,” for what your family may think, for religious beliefs, and—God forbid—how it looks to society. 

Love in a Time of Covid 

I think online dating apps have a lot to answer for when it comes to some of these breakups—and Covid-19 probably didn’t help either. Well, continuous lockdowns didn’t, anyway. There are so many stories of people being stuck at home, bored of seeing the same face, day in, day out. Maybe lockdown uncovered secrets that became harder to keep secrets… who knows? It definitely forced people to take a prolonged, hard look at their significant other and question: is this really who I want to get locked in with? (Literally and figuratively?)

Re-entering the world of single folks as we enter into a post-pandemic phase of life is intimidating. And if you’re currently in your thirties or above, whether you’ve been in a long-term relationship or not, it’s even more so, since you’re likely finding yourself back on dating apps. Many of us can still recall a time when, if you wanted to meet someone, well, you’d go out and mix with society. Remember that?

Nowadays, why would you do that? Covid got us used to on demand living. I can order food from the comfort of my sofa and someone will bring it to me, why would I leave? Also, eating out is expensive: there’s a cost of living crisis. 

By your 30s, all your friends have commitments, be it jobs, kids, marriage or those really annoying ones who’ve not settled down but have chosen to travel the world to “find themselves” and enjoy life before they get sucked into the rat race. You know, insufferable but inspiring pricks. 

Going out or working was how you met people. Now in the “work from home” era, that’s increasingly difficult. I could go days without seeing someone, which I’m actually quite content with. I enjoy my own company and it allows me to focus on the things I want to do. A slightly selfish outlook, but it works for me the majority of the time. 

This shift has impacted society—especially the dating scene. It’s good news for the apps, though…

Dating apps

If you’ve reached this point and you think I’m going to provide some sort of helpful tip as to which app is the best, which one will get you results, and how you can be successful, I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong person and the wrong article.

I can, however, provide you with the male perspective as to how much of a minefield these apps are, how endlessly tiring they can be, and how swiping left or right on someone just feels like a really odd and slightly wrong experience. 

It’s like flicking through a menu at a restaurant and picking what you like, but taking the chance that the dish you want is actually in stock (they like you back) you can eye up as much porterhouse steak as you like, but your only option (that likes you) could be a side order of mash. 

A slightly odd analogy, I know—and I assure you I do not see women as cuts of meat—but you get the point. And for clarity, some of that sounded very shallow, but I’m also very aware that I’ll be someone’s idea of a side order of mash. I’m cool with that. 

Within the apps, you have to decide how to present yourself, and for someone like myself who is quite private, this, too, can be daunting. You can “be yourself” all you like, but at the end of the day, you’re advertising yourself like a used car sale ad.

Ross, 33, 4 previous owners, few bumps and scrapes, would suit someone professional, lots of trunk space.

Should you “just be yourself”? Should you add a sprinkle of bullshit or exaggeration? Should you try to be funny at the risk of looking and sounding like a weirdo? What’s the perfect balance?

It’s the same with any social media app. The technology and advancement of such apps have skyrocketed in recent times, but the education on how to use them has been non-existent. That’s not to say there should be a crash course on these types of things, but you’re getting by on your own experience—or lack thereof. 

This brings us to when you actually do “match” someone. What do you say? Don’t be too boring, don’t be rude, don’t make an inappropriate joke, don’t make a dad joke, don’t be yourself, be yourself. There is no right answer—you just have to shoot your shot and see what happens. They’ll like it or they won’t. How can you tell what someone is like from one message and a few pictures? The whole thing is mental.

Red Flags

Something referenced in Sam Meredith’s recent piece for New Thinking was red flags—those warning signs you see that immediately put you off. These are specific to each individual, and maybe something you don’t think of when you’re younger, but as you get into your thirties, you have less tolerance for certain things. I’ll happily admit I’m not the most patient person in the world, but I think I have a more defined idea of what makes me happy and what I don’t like. 

“Do you have some examples?” I hear you asking. Well, yes:

“I’m not on here much, but here’s my Instagram [IG handle]”

No, you narcissistic tool. I’m not some pawn you can use to boost your social media following. “I’m not on here much”—well, don’t fucking use it, then. Is that what is important to you in life? Your social media following? You are in your thirties; get a grip.

“Add me on Snapchat [Snapchat handle]”

I’m sorry, you seem to have mistaken me for a 13-year-old. I’m not on Snapchat. I don’t like selfies or having my picture taken at the best of times. Nevermind a picture of me with fucking dog ears and tongue. Grow up. 

The “cute” filter. You know the one, the one with cute written on their face a million times. Just NO. 

They shouldn’t be called dating apps, they should be called love battleships. You’re only ever one step away from an emotional bomb or catfishing missile. But it seems to be how things are done these days.

The positives 

For all the moaning and negatives I’ve come up with, plenty of people have a positive experience when it comes to online dating, so who am I to judge? As I mentioned, my patience isn’t the best and things like this can take time. I just find the way some people use it a bit odd. The whole thing is odd. Judging a person within the space of a few seconds? Nah, not for me. 

To be fair, even I have had positive experiences thanks to online dating. There are some genuinely nice people out there you might meet through a dating app. Most recently, someone I met through an app turned out to be one of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. It was the best I’ve ever been treated, she had a heart of gold, and made all the effort in the world to make me happy. She thought about all the little things, which meant a lot. Nothing was ever for show or for selfish reasons. But it wasn’t to be for reasons I decided, admittedly selfish reasons, but reasons nonetheless. So… here we go again. 

Point being, to find someone truly golden like that, you have to jump several hurdles, dive face first through all the shit, and then find the needle in the virtual haystack, which even then might not be the right needle for you. 

I do still think that life is far better shared with someone else—so long as it’s the right someone. By contrast, there are many people who stay together longer than they should because they are settled and don’t want to go against society. In this case, life might be better single, until you can share it with someone you actually like.

So for now, I’ll keep up the sisyphean swiping, in hopes that it might land me a virtual match I might actually want to bring into my real life. As imperfect and odd as the apps may be, they’re at least better than nothing. And if I’m lucky, perhaps one day I’ll be the exact side of mash someone’s been looking for. Stranger things have happened.

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