The world of online dating is a strange one. To say it can be positive or negative is pretty obvious. Social media (I use this as an umbrella term for any site that allows people to interact and connect) gives people the space to share experiences, connect, feel less alone, learn and grow but also allows people to hide behind a keyboard and show their lowest most vulgar side with minimal consequences to themselves.
I want to share my personal experience of online dating as someone with a visual impairment who is part of the LGBT community, demisexual and also suffers from a mental illness. This is not to say that everyone’s experience will be the same. This is just what I have experienced and learned from.
Disclaimer: from here on out if everything seems a bit jumbled and you find it hard to distinguish specific points, I apologize. But it’s like headphone leads after leaving them in your pocket for too long or being given a massive string ball and being told to untangle it. It’s just to much work to try and untangle as everything is interlinked to a certain extent.
I first dipped my toe into the online dating world about 5 years ago. The main reasons why I initially took this first step include:
My mental health – over the years my mental health has left me with little confidence meeting new people face to face. Meeting someone new that you don’t know in a date situation can be nerve-wracking enough. Add in social anxiety and that nervousness can be increased tenfold and for me at least I would have found any excuse to cancel or wiggle out of meeting someone new if I hadn’t seen or spoken to them beforehand. Another outcome of my social anxiety and depression meant … and still does mean … that I have absolutely no idea of the verbal and physical cues someone gives to show that they are interested in anything more than just friendship. So in a date situation, my thought process would immediately go down a worst-case path. What if they don’t like the way I look? What if they can tell I have a visual impairment and don’t want to deal with that? What if they think I’m weird or not the sort of person for them? What if I can’t keep a conversation going or I would say something quirky that my friends find funny but go completely over their head?
It’s almost like chatting to someone through technology gives me that mental time and space I need to get to know them a little bit and test the waters with my quirkiness.
My vision – Just like the debate about whether or not to reveal a disability early on in the application or interview process I have found that I struggle when or if to reveal that I have a visual impairment. What if the person instantly loses any romantic interest and feels sympathetic or starts becoming patronizing?
On a side note, I do have enough vision that if I zoom in on a picture of someone online I have a better idea of who to look for when meeting for the first time in public
My sexuality and demisexuality – I am in the process of writing a blog about demisexuality, however, I will give a quick overview now. Demisexuality is not a sexual orientation in the same regard as gay, lesbian, bi, etc. Anyone, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation can be demi. In it’s most basic description demisexuality is the growth of sexual attraction to someone with whom you have a deep emotional connection. Just as anyone who isn’t demi doesn’t find every jo blogs on the street sexually attractive someone who’s demi won’t instantly be attracted to all their closest friends.
So, back to the point. This is linked to my mental health and visual impairment (I find facial recognition very difficult and if I have my earphones in or I’m just walking as if I’m on a mission I’m not always gonna get a vocal cue especially if I’ve only met someone once), reasonings in that I would find it easier to see many new people online. I have a much wider opportunity to see someone (or many people) who piques my interest and who I can spark up a conversation with online as my gaydar, flirting skills and confidence in approaching people at clubs or house parties are just non-existent.
WHOWSA, that was a long-winded way of explaining my reasoning for doing the whole online dating thing and I hope it made at least a little bit of sense.
As I mentioned before social media isn’t always a bed of roses … well, it kinda is in a way because it can be sweet and beautiful but be spiky and painful at times as well.
For me, the three biggest reasons why I have found this to be the case are:
Some people are just absolute dicks, metaphorically and literally.
My mental health has a funny way of creeping in and sabotaging conversations sometimes.
My previous unclarity around how I identify and what or who I was looking for. Linked into both my mental health and sexual orientation confusion is my demisexuality which is why I’m not giving it it’s own point.
So obviously the first point doesn’t need any explanation as we have all met people that are just absolute dicks for one reason or another. So naturally online sites give them a space to get more creative with their fuckery and dickish behaviors.
The next two points are both easy and fucking rediculous to try and explain but I’ll do my best.
In regards to my mental health illness, I have always struggled to think of creative first message ideas. I know there’s loads of advice online about using the information on someone’s profile page to ask about in regards to trying to break the ice.
My brain takes that as a cue to ask as many questions as possible and just completely ignore any creative, witty, unique ways of slam-dunking my personality into that first message. Logically I can appreciate how impersonal it may seem and how it comes across as me just bombarding someone by not selling myself and creating a good first impression.
I have also noticed a trend where I’ll match with someone and I won’t take the initiative in sending the first message. I also recognize a continual thought cropping up. This thought may vary but the constant theme is that everyone I match with should message me or that I need to message whoever I match with.
After having gone through therapy I can now appreciate that just because you match online that doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it if you don’t want to. I don’t need to let myself get all excited and pin all my unrealistic expectations on one match or one first message from someone, another trait I have and can now recognize and say out loud.
Running with this theme of pining all my unrealistic expectations and excitement over messages. I can now clearly see that I have been someone who, mentally, invested and place too much ideology of a potential relationship on a simple conversation I’m having with someone. I believe this stems from never having had a true romantic relationship in my life. It’s almost like my brain has lost all reasonable perspective and just got straight to the high pitched, only dogs can hear me now screaming, ‘OMG THIS IS IT THIS IS GOING TO BE THE ONE’, even when we’ve been chatting for a while and we have a good few messages but it soon becomes clear that it’ll go no further than that.
It’s very reminiscent of my real-world life in the respect that I sometimes don’t see what’s right in front of my face and I don’t let myself properly connect with some people online because I’m so focused on denying the more geeky side of myself. So much so that I only want to talk to certain people and ignore those who I have more in common with because I want to fit in with ‘cool’ kids. Now I can say that’s ridiculous because I am cool I don’t need to pretend to be something I’m not and ignore the people who I would probably have a better connection with even if it just leads to an online friendship rather than a real-life romance.
To say that the online dating scene is full of people who are looking simply for hookups or sexual based conversations shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone anymore. However probably slightly more shocking is the fact that girls can be just as bad as guys sometimes when it comes to looking for sex talk/hookups. For some girls, not all though, it’s probably just because they want to explore sexual interactions with other girls just to experiment and that’s fine and acceptable.
My mental health has had a very negative impact on how I perceive myself and what I have to do to keep someone interested. Just as with my sexual orientation it has taken me a long time to realize that I am Demisexual. Even after this revelation, I have still exhibited behaviors that have been detrimental to my mental health.
I’ve never been one to have random hookups with people and to this date, I’ve only had sex once. I’m not ashamed to admit that. However, I can recall quite a few occasions where I’ve ‘sexted’ with people online. Some of the time I had no emotional involvement with what I was doing but there have been many times when I’ve felt uncomfortable about doing it but not been strong enough to say I don’t want to do this.
It doesn’t help that even within the LGBTQ community many people don’t understand what demisexuality is and even when I’ve explained it to them they have still pushed their luck, that’s their fault but the newness is truly on me for not standing up enough and either cutting off the conversation completely and moving on or trying to steer the conversation back to safer topics.
Many a time I have felt … dear I say it… violated and for so long I have blamed that on the person that I was chatting to (even though I only blamed them mentally). No … nope … just NOOOOO I was truly blaming myself and beating myself up for not realizing who I am and being more willing to stand up for myself.
The thing is I don’t need to forget about myself when looking for a girlfriend or boyfriend. I need to be unforgivably me and if they are attracted to that then perfect if not? Well then their lose I’ll just move on, see ya later bitches coz it’s you’re loss.
For so many years I was unwilling to accept that it’s ok to chat with both guys and girls and I would exclusively do one or the other. Thus limiting myself and perpetuating my unhappiness and confusion. I have now learned that it’s ok for me to explore chatting to both guys and girls and that I don’t need to expect anything from the conversation and just enjoy it and if anything develops then great and if not then it’s just another good experience and learning opportunity.
However, there have been times when, I can’t give any specific examples because it’s hard to try and remember them, but my mental health has jumped in and made me shut down experiences by making myself look like a pinicaty fool or someone who goes with the flow and then backtracks and pulls away from where the conversation has lead to. Again there have been many a time when I have let a conversation get too far, freak out, try and backtrack and just come across as a right looser rather than just standing up for what I want or don’t want right from the start.
To say my online dating journey has been an interesting ride would be an understatment of a lifetime. It’s been a tough learning curve and now I can say I’m learning to grow up, be myself, be free, be happy, be strong. I can be me I can let people know if I’m visually impaired, I can embrace the fact that some people will be interested and ask questions or be put off by it. I can stand up for myself and be strong and stable in what I’m looking for by not compramising myself to meet the needs or wants of others.