Why I'm Quitting Internet Dating

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I've been meeting men and women online for about three years. Sometimes it would turn into a monogamous relationship - but when things ended, I would always go back.

It began when I made the decision that I was going to find a Dominant. I wanted to see if I could get my needs met, somehow, with only a vague idea of what they were and what would satisfy them. I joined Fetlife, a networking site for kinky people. As a teenager, I was cripplingly agoraphobic and anxious. I don't know how I could best describe to you what it's like to possess both a crazed sexual drive, and a fear of talking to people I find attractive. The two do not easily coexist and used to push me to do dangerous and destructive things, in an attempt to break the periods of isolation that my fear of crowds and open spaces often confined me to. I would have moments of explosive, wild bravery, where my impulses would briefly overcome my fear, and compel me to take a desperate risk. When I joined Fetlife, it was the first time I was able to talk to others about my deepest desires on a casual, daily basis. I lost my shyness and extremity, and was quickly found. Within two weeks I was in a relationship.

Ten months later, when that relationship ended, I returned to Fetlife. This time around, I joined Tinder as well. At first it was thrilling to have limitless choices again, without the phobias and the shame that had tortured me. I explored everything I discovered, with a greater understanding of my own needs, and so much less at stake. But the words we use in matters of the heart are heavily recycled, and over the last three years, there has been hardly any original communication. A lot of those conversations could have been written by the same lover. I've used OkCupid, Bumble, Tinder, Happn, Fetlife, Whiplr, Her, SugarDaddy.com, and a whole host of other dating sites in the gaps where I was free to. I started to come across people I had already dated. Swiping past exes in my Tinder stack, I would laugh at the contrast between their profile and what I knew of their real self, re-writing them in my head. In my relationships, I kept finding little clues; flashes of deja vu come to tell me I was dating the same man, only in a different form. They appeared in odd combinations and in unexpected moments. The plain navy bedding. The Batman laptop stickers. That certain IKEA chest of drawers. The candle jar with the black paraffin soot up the sides, that stains my hand every time I light it. Them, crying, unable to cope. Me, silent and tired. The black sex toys. The belt. The empty bottles of whisky. The drunken phone calls. The morning light. The train station.

Growing detached and observant on dates, that feeling of repetition intensified, until it began to feel like a game of Guess Who. Except it was not a game, but my one and only romantic life. As time has passed, I have grown tired of that type of  person. The majority of people looking around online are not ready to find something. Especially something like me. 

I have changed since all this started. I'm openly kinky to all and everyone I meet, and I have a much larger circle of kinky friends now, who I can explore with, should I wish to. I no longer need the distance of a dating app in order to be honest about that. The usual rhetoric is that internet dating is just a convenient means to an end, because our lifestyles make it difficult to meet people organically. But I have come to believe that only truly applies to a small percentage. For me, it was about having very specific kinks that I needed to confess. And for all the men that I met, it seemed to be about disposability, and their incapacity to connect to another person in real life or otherwise.

The other day, after all these years, I deleted all my dating accounts. Not just the apps, the actual accounts. For a while I was afraid to do this, thinking my love life would be barren without them, but I needn't have worried. If anything, I feel more approachable in person now, more connected to the people around me. Should the dates become less frequent, I still think I will survive. I can't imagine anything worse than one day, as an old woman with grey and wrinkled hands, still leaning down to light a candle with paraffin soot up the sides of the jar, and not even caring who it's for.

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