By Jillian Curran, MTV Insights
Valentine’s Day: couples at dinner, single dudes playing xbox….and some single ladies are playing what might just be the ultimate video game - online dating.
As of recent, dating in the digital world has become this generation’s biggest & best-kept secret. When asked, 1 in 4 of our viewers at MTV have online dated, while 1 in 2 has “had a friend” who’s done it! There’s something fishy about that math….
We wanted to get a deeper understanding of the secret life of online dating, so we enlisted a crew of fearless female crusaders to sign up on a dating site of their choice, and then document every ;-), photo flirt, and key stroke for 30 days and bring @mtvinsights along for the ride.
We quickly came to the undeniable conclusion that these young women weren’t just dating – they were gaming…and online dating had all the markers of the ultimate female video game.
Perhaps this comes as no surprise. MTV’s previous research into the “game-like” mentality of the Millennial generation revealed that the majority feel that “people my age view everything in life as a game”.
Before they knew it, our crew had been plugged in for hours. Armed with a smart phone as their controller and dinner dates as their leader board, the layers and levels of this process played out like a World of Date-Craft.
Level One: Player Select. For a generation allergic to categorizations, trying to sum up their personality in the “Personal Profile” box resulted in a virtual existential crisis. Each girl explained that the attribute balance was a high wire act between authentic and crafted persona. One participant even admitted having to redo her profile a number of times, admitting that after reading it aloud, it sounded nothing like her.
Picking Player 2 often made them, in fact, quite picky. With a database of a million faces, poses and profiles to choose from, little more than one weird picture or a cocky blurb caused our girls to click on by. One panelist referred to it as “like shopping for dudes.”
Level Two: One on One Combat. With the messages flooding their inboxes, they had to be quick on their feet to decide who to message back, avoid completely or ping. The girls soon formed their list of deal breakers as a “cheat code” to narrow down contenders. The most common dealbreakers:
- shirtless pictures (“omg”)
- the smolder stare (“lmfao”)
- pictures taken with other women (“wtf”).
“I couldn’t help but LMAO at some of the shocking and surprising content our girls shared with us. Guys taking pictures with animals to seem more sensitive, excessive use of emoticons...I mean come on! ”
Flirting in a digital world was a delicate dance of reading the signals in a very thin medium. As most girls expressed, nothing substitutes physical chemistry, so at a certain point, they felt the need to ditch the emails back and forth and make a reservation.
Level Three. Live Action Role Play. When going on a “live actual date”, our girls all expressed a flood of doubt as they met their potential suitors. “I’m in Awkward Land!” said one panelist. While most girls fear he’ll be a serial killer, most guys fear she’ll be fat.
The confidence behind the computer screen seemed to disappear at the door of the restaurant. Some dates went well, but most amounted to nothing but a comment-worthy Facebook post the next day. On screen chemistry, it seemed for our crew, was not necessarily a great indication of off screen romance.
Level Four: Game Over or Play Again. Online dating provided, it seemed, a digital shield to protect against rejection and press restart if Level I doesn’t progress to Level II. One panelist said, “If I don’t receive a message back it’s not that big of a blow to my ego since it’s only a date from the internet, it’s not real life. There’s always another game to start, another player to choose….”
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