13 Feb 2024 ///

‘The Lost Art of the Meet Cute’ – How Dating Went Digital

It’s not an unpopular opinion that “general” intimacy has changed since the pre-COVID era; with constant tech advancements and apps available to satisfy almost every interest you could have. It’s also no surprise that many of us feel that our lives, post-lockdown, have turned intimacy completely digital.

When the inevitable topic of ‘love’ comes up amongst friends, I find the conversation more often than not, an iteration of the same story with the same outcome as it was the last time we caught up. Maybe it’s because I’m Gen Z, and our teenage years are founded in chatting it up on Mxit and BBM –  we should be used to quick comms with zero return – but I was never that girl who would be chatting to a minimum of five friends at once, let alone a boy… I mean what would I even say to them that could be THAT interesting?! 

This is why when I first pitched this story, my thinking was centred more around the fact that you barely ever hear of a couple’s inception story starting with any sort of physical in-the-flesh interaction like, “We bumped into each other at the grocery store”, or “I saw them walking on the street and I had to introduce myself.” The response is very often around something to do with an app. Specifically a swipe, a DM, or a stalk between a mutual friend’s followers because of a tag on Instagram.

DTS ‘Weirdly Ever After’ by Agustin Farias

In an article from the National Library of Medicine ‘Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on mobile dating’, Gibson notes that “while offering a mechanism for people to seek out sexual or emotional experiences and connections with others (both online and offline), such apps also produce various ‘institutionalised routines, habits and knowledge practices.” Meaning that how we behave in the world has “become further routinised through app use, including people’s self‐presentation and hyper‐aware impression management,” and in the context of dating, this often presents itself as a sudden ending in zero communication AKA ghosting or emoting through emojis. [insert Sparkles (✨) = magic, beauty, and awe.]

I’m not ignorant of the zeitgeist that we find ourselves existing in, it’s inevitable; technology is taking over to the point where some cannot function without a microchip on their person. Yet, the hopeless romantic in me can’t help but wonder what went so awry so quickly? What happened to musical sequences on bleacher steps as an apology, leaving notes in obscure places for your loved one to find during their day, or chasing a taxi through peak traffic because you can’t stand to live another minute without the person you love? It makes me wonder how much more comfortable with intimacy we might be if the digital space wasn’t such a dominant factor in our daily and dating lives.

That’s why this idea of a “meet-cute” fascinates me so much. Popularised to be embedded in the film genre of romance where the love interests’ paths suddenly cross and their worlds are changed, forever to be connected… The meet-cute is the story you hope to share with friends, family, strangers, and ultimately your grandchildren one day. Now, if you research how to write the perfect meet-cute, you’ll always find the following pointers:

  1. Conflict: There has to be high emotions – I mean, of course, this is high-stakes stuff, okes.
  2. Surprise: Adding a little unordinary detail into the ordinary of real life (see sparkles above).
  3. And, Resistance: Because who doesn’t love a little dramatic flair topped off with internal conflict!? “I could never be with him!” or “It would never work between us, they live 3000 miles away!”

This is all good and well when the story is spread across 300 pages or a 2-hour-long film with a cinematic backing track building and developing, along with a bird’s eye view of on-screen hints and POVs. But in reality, I’m an overthinker and I have standards so if you’re hitting me or anyone up with an opening liner that Google guaranteed you’d get a response with (to paraphrase the words of Mother Bella “Homeboy is like… not gonna get it”) then, there is absolutely zero surprise in that delivery and all of the resistant conflicting feelings from me. Vanessa Torre – a self-proclaimed relentless “hyper” of women in midlife, wrote that “the awful part of being a society totally trained to find romance by endlessly staring at our phones is that we’ve become convinced of one of two things: 1) Romance only lives in our phones and the only way to find it is to keep swiping on it until the genie in our phones lets it out or 2) Romance does not exist at all. I wholeheartedly resist both ideas.”

DTS ‘First date Pt2’ by Agustin Farias

DTS ‘First date’ by Agustin Farias

I think it’s about time in our trend cycle that we uno-reverse it. So this is my plea to you, my dear reader. I’m also just a girl, standing (sitting) in front of a boy (her computer), asking him to love her (asking you to please please, capitalise while the summer vibes are still here, to ‘fun times tan lines’ it up and put your cellular device down to respectfully go up to them.) If you’re stumped on what your opening line could be, tell them their fit is fire (and I don’t mean inflect it with the flames emoji), they have a great smile/ laugh, or maybe even pretend you have a question you need to ask them, then after the intros, confess there was no real question you just thought they were beautiful and wanted to talk to them. I can confirm that this will work, not just because the receiver will be flattered but because there is an element of surprise at the lack of the game that seems to linger around texting; and of course, internal resistance that a genuine human conversation with interest intent can be that simple.

So please don’t be that person, and you know who you are (insert face with raised eyebrow emoji), who goes out and proclaims to spot the love of their life and is too skaam to approach them. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and if you get turned down, thank them for their time, wish them a good night, and move along. It’s that simple. My number one piece of advice is to just go for it. It’s not that deep, and the worst that can happen is they’re flattered but say ‘no’. Showing interest does not a marriage proposal equate, people. 

I don’t expect anyone who reads this to suddenly stop swiping, reacting, or sliding into those DMs. It is all too easy and convenient with the odds being overtly in our favour choice-wise. Hopefully, this makes you think twice though and maybe, just maybe, it gives some of us the chutzpah to make 2024 the year of Hollywood-worthy meet-cutes, blind dates, and genuine human interaction.

So go forth and meet-cuties!

Written by: Briony Blevin

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