By Nicole Nelson
Chill dating culture is basically this noncommittal amorphous blob of “hanging out” and “chilling together” without ever defining what the relationship is or could be. Defining relationships shows interest, interest shows vulnerability and that’s so not chill. There has been an increased desire to hang out with the chill person who is laid back and doesn’t care if we cancel plans with them last minute to take our friends up on their offer to go do something way cooler than see the person we are “hanging out” with. Chill has created a lack of accountability in the dating world and an emotional void that is super damaging to forming relationships, monogamous or not.
Dating apps like Tinder, Grindr, Plenty of Fish, and Coffee Meets Bagel are great, in theory. All of these potential friends, partners, lovers, fuck buddies, friends with benefits, concert accompaniers etc. all at your fingertips whenever you want. Whenever you want, you can see who’s around to have a summer fling with, chill with, fall in love with; the possibilities are endless — or at least that’s what we tend to believe.
But what happens after all the swiping to the right and mutual matching is done? A few Tinder messages are passed back and forth. The standard “heys and the “what’s ups” are exchanged, maybe even an obligatory (or genuine) compliment is thrown in there and before you know it, the conversation is totally dead, interest gone, motivation to get up off the couch and maybe go meet this person, gone. This is where the chill dating culture thrives: in those initial conversations where there’s this pressure not to feel too interested or too desperate to meet the other person. It seems that no one is looking for anything serious, they just want to hang out, to have fun.
Don’t misunderstand me: I am all about having fun. But how can you really get to know anyone to have fun with them when you are forever in an ambivalence competition?
Speaking as a queer non-monogamous person (who is currently dating a man), it is especially difficult for me to meet other partners through dating apps like Tinder and Plenty of Fish. The struggle is real. I think this problem stems from two issues: 1) the chill dating norms that dating apps have helped cultivate and 2) the common skepticism around non-monogamy.
Despite the ambivalent facade that many dating app users put out, I think there are many folks that do in fact want to connect with people and form lasting relationships, but that desire is stunted by the chillness of modern dating. There is this an ever-present fear of being rejected, of wanting too much, of being the person that is interested “more” than the person on the other side of the phone that is exacerbated by the chill dating culture. Mix that fear with non-monogamy and instantly you are met with resistance.
I am often categorized by people I match with on Tinder as someone that there will be no future with, as someone who is just cheating on her partner, as someone that is not to be taken seriously. I’ve had people tell me “So you just cheat and that’s okay with your boyfriend?” or “Does he know you are on here [Tinder] cruising…I doubt it.” My favorites are the pickup lines or “compliments” like these: “If you were my girlfriend I’d never let you sleep with anyone else” or “I bet if you slept with me you’d change your mind about being open.” Thank you? I get it, monogamy is still largely the norm in the U.S and people get freaked out when your lifestyle makes them question their own, but come on, some people can just be rude or super narcissistic.
It’s ironic: in the chill dating world, it’s normal to be noncommittal with those you are talking to on dating apps, so why wouldn’t a non-monogamous person be perfect to get to know, if you really don’t want to be (monogamously) committed to someone? Probably because you really do want that connection but we are just being socialized through modern dating to deny it.
This forced ambivalence we sometimes feel pressured to exude thanks to the fast-paced dating app connecting, combined with many people’s assumptions about what non-monogamy is, makes it difficult to even talk to people about what one is looking for in non-monogamous partners, never mind actually meeting them in person and pursuing relationships with them.
Modern dating is complicated and people (myself included) are probably going to continue to struggle with the chillness that apps and websites have created. Leave room to feel some feels, people, that’s all I have to say and tone down the Judgy McJudgerson criticisms if someone on the other end of that dating app has a different relationship style than you.
Images: Amodiovalerio Verde/Flickr; Giphy (2)