Online Dating

The dating landscape has drastically evolved over the decades. The ways of finding and expressing love have transformed – from sending love letters physically via paper, to electronic text messages, to now swiping left and right on an app on our phone. It is fairly strange that nowadays chatting and meeting up with strangers via the Internet is regarded as more socially acceptable than asking them out for a coffee while waiting for class in daylight. Internet has changed the rule of dating. For one, it has enlarged the size of dating pool. For those living in the past millennium, they would have had the help of parents and/or mutual friends to find dates if they hadn’t yet found “the one” after university. They were basically swimming in an indoor pool of friendship and familial acquaintances. It was very rare to meet someone outside this circle - although on some exceptional occasions, people did bump into their significant other on the street. But the chances for this romcom-inspired rendezvous are very low compared to having friends and family as the primary option to finding love. Those who are living in this millennium, however, have the luck to swim in the Pacific Ocean of dating pool. Online dating provides us with the chance to chat with strangers via our virtual profiles. We are no longer bound within our parents’ circle of acquaintances - we have more freedom and autonomy in our romantic lives. We could even select and filter the types of people we prefer to see online. In fact, most online dating apps automatically do this using their advanced algorithms as they obtain data from our, say, Facebook or Instagram profiles. They then try to match us with people with whom we share common interests so that we have topics for icebreakers! Online dating apps offer us a sense of “safety” and “confidence”. The virtual nature of the Internet does not demand physical connection - that is until we, or the other person, requests an actual encounter. This means that online daters can conceal themselves behind the screen, which hides their insecurity and boosts their confidence to chat with strangers. In any case, it feels safer to chat with strangers on the app rather than to directly converse with them in a bar. The virtual network and instantaneousness of online dating apps afford us that physical distance with the mentality of being “nearby”. However, the large dating pool online entails a higher chance that we will meet the “weirdos” of the world. This is because the epidemic accessibility of online dating apps means that everyone, including serial killer or rapist, can sign up for the service. Thus, the sense of “safety” offered by online dating apps may be deceptive, especially since 80% of online daters lie on their profiles. Although most deceits consist of only misrepresenting their height, weight or age, we absolutely have to keep a look out for ourselves when we meet strangers online. Online dating has also altered the meaning of dating. A few centuries ago, dating paved the way for reproduction and marriage. A few decades ago, the more progressive society rendered the goal of dating to find love. Now, the ease of finding (and tossing) love has eroded deep human connections. The liberty of swimming in the ocean has been misused to get casual sex with no strings attached, which generates the stigma of online dating apps as mere platforms for “hook-ups”. The provision of many fish in the sea means that monogamy and marriage are no longer the primary goal of dating. It is even safe to say that online dating apps assists the society in adopting a more liberal view of sex, which perhaps undermines the historic meaning of the intercourse altogether. The rampant availability of online dating apps has made the daters lazy and casual, and not only in a sex-related way. Our predecessors used to write love letters with poetic rhymes that require high level of intellect. Some of them had even written songs and played instruments for their beloved ones. Now? The online dating apps have eradicated the needs for those efforts, and if they get too clingy or fussy, we can just swipe them off and ditch them for the “many other fish”. The instantaneous swipe of left and right relies on our subconscious judgment, meaning that we won’t have to put a lot of thought into it. Online dating has revolutionised our efforts in our romantic lives, in a negative way (although granted, some online daters have the cheekiest and funniest pick-up lines I have ever heard in my entire life). Perhaps this is why people who seriously are trying to find “the one” prefer to stay away from online dating. However, one cannot simply defy the fact that online dating offers the possibility of removing the historic obstacles to true love. Distance, time and lack of mutual connections no longer hamper us from swimming in the ocean. There is a high chance that we might bump into some sharks, creeps and perverts on the online dating apps, but it should not deter us from trying to find love on the Internet altogether. It’s because there are some genuine people out there who might just be “the one”. And whilst we are young, what’s life without a little adventure and danger, eh?

Van Gogh

Not even the innovative Dutch post-Impressionist painter and artist extraordinaire Vincent van Gogh was able to measure up to the lofty demands and unattainable expectations of his parents. He may have put to shame nearly all of his contemporaries and revolutionised the impressionist genre of art. However, try as he might, the maverick in Western art was unable to fulfil the hopes and dreams of his parents, who had him as a replacement for their stillborn child. Van Gogh desperately sought the admiration of his father and mother, but failed at obtaining either. With this in mind, how can we mere mortals, who are not regarded as masters of our trades or geniuses in our professions, ever hope to meet the aspirations of our progenitors?  Alas, it seems that, perhaps, we cannot. Unfortunately, studies show that the majority of youth and young adults do not feel that they are living up to their parents’ expectations. In fact, a recent survey found that 64 percent of all Australians between the ages of 18 and 22 felt that they were at least “moderately disappointing” to their family members.  The same study revealed that slightly over half – 51.5 percent – of people aged 23 to 30 felt the exact same way. The numbers do tend to decrease with age; however, the number was still 32 percent for people over the age of 50! This means that roughly a third of all people go their entire adult lives without ever feeling that they have lived up to their parents’ expectations and desires. To gain a richer understanding of the prevalence, impact, and extent of people who feel they are not meeting the outrageously high bar set for them by their parents, I decided to take to the streets and solicit the opinions of everyday folks.  I first stumble upon Clara, a young, vibrant 21-year-old female in her third year pursuing a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. Clara studies at the University of Sydney and carries a 3.8 GPA. When I asked her about her relationship with her parents, she described it as “good, most of the time;” however, Clara did note that she is certainly not living up to their expectations. “It doesn’t matter what I do,” she explains, “I will never be good enough.”  Specifically, Clara admitted that her parents are unhappy with her lifestyle choices. “I live with my partner and my parents are old-fashioned…they do not like it,” Clara states, a clearly annoyed look on her face. She adds that her parents are constantly complaining about her spending habits and extracurricular activities. “I go to the bar like once a week and you would think I was an alcoholic to hear them explain my pastimes to our family members,” Clara jokes. Underneath her cavalier tone, however, I did detect a sentiment of resentment and upset. The next person on my quest to understand the dynamics between children and their parents was Joe – a 25-year-old artist working as a freelancer.  Immediately, my mind was taken to van Gogh and his failed attempts to appease his overly zealous and out-of-touch with reality parents. Joe is not as laid back and casual about his parents and their attitude towards his lifestyle choices as Clara.  “They are ridiculous,” he angrily states. “They think that the only reputable profession is that of a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.” Joe reveals that his parents have been very critical of his choice of profession and commonly make snide comments any chance they can.  Often, they will boast about Joe’s younger brother – a graduate of the prestigious MIT who now works as an engineer for Google – and then comment on how different Joe is from him. Joe states that he just grits his teeth and turns away when they start their nonsense. “It used to bother me – a lot – a whole lot,” he admits.  Nowadays, Joe is just happy living his life and pursuing his dreams. He does what makes him happy and does not think about his parents’ sentiments. Shrugging his shoulders, he says, “I just do not care anymore.” One must wonder if van Gogh felt the same way as Joe did about his parents.  It seems probable that, like Joe, apathy set in and prompted the Dutch genius to stop trying to keep up with the demands that he knew he could never meet. These sentiments are made manifest in his paintings and take on a tangible form in his artwork. It is no surprise that his father’s death served to liberate him – at least temporarily – from the bonds of constant rejection. After his father passed away, van Gogh was finally free to unleash his creativity in a wholly unique and unbridled manner. Van Gogh’s paintings after his father’s demise testify to the liberation he must have felt; the freedom he must have embraced.  They are bolder and more daring; they are less conventional, epitomising the quintessential avant-garde artist he was at heart. Van Gogh was, at last, able to step outside of a predefined notion of what he should be and allow himself to be who he was. It was at this point in his career that he painted his greatest masterpieces, and his mark on Dutch art was etched in stone. The interviews I conducted, coupled with the life of van Gogh, testify to the fact that parents, either purposefully or unintentionally, hold such high expectations for their children that youth are often unable to just enjoy their lives and pursue their own life paths.  Is it, therefore, any wonder that so many young people end up taking their own lives, just like van Gogh? At 37 years of age, van Gogh shot himself and died, a day and a half later. We as a society should carefully consider the fate of van Gogh and recognise that, while holding children responsible for their actions and setting some degree of expectations for them can be helpful, micromanaging their lives and demanding unattainable output is detrimental to their mental wellbeing, self-confidence, and self-worth.  Parents, please take the time to think about how your actions and words impact your children, and try to take a deep breath, step back, and refrain from living vicariously through your offspring. You lived your life, made mistakes, achieved goals, had your heart broken, and even failed – now, it is time to let your kids do the same.