'Online dating is lethal for the soul,' says author who has vowed never to do it again

A picture of Katy Regan, who now can't bear online dating, in an open field.
Best-selling author of the novel How To Find Your Way Home, Katy Regan, is convinced that online dating is not for her despite all the success stories she's heard. (Image: @louisquail) (@louisquail)

The other day, I was out for a drink with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while when she asked me: “So, when do you think you’ll get back on Tinder?” I knew the online dating question was coming.

These days, there's an assumption that if you’re single, you must be looking and if you’re looking, you must be doing it online.

Anyway, this innocent question struck dread into my heart like say, “Would you like to join our rounders team?” might, and I found myself replying with a conviction that even surprised me:

“I’d rather be single than go on another internet date ever again.”

It’s not even that being single feels like the lesser of two evils anymore. I’ve probably never been more at ease with my singleness than I am now.

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The last time I dated someone was 2017. I haven’t even looked at an internet dating site since and have no intention of doing so. Don’t get me wrong, half my friends met their partner online so I know it works for others – just, why does it not work for me?

A picture of Katy Regan (autumn colours).
Katy Regan's objection to dating sites partly comes from her being anti the idea of 'selling herself as a commodity'. (Image: @louisquail) (@louisquail)

Dating nightmares

One of the main reasons I am over dating sites is what I call ‘date-min’, i.e. all the palaver that’s involved before you even get on the date.

First, there’s the writing of the profile – a fatal blow to the self-esteem before you even swipe right if you’re not careful.

This is because if you’re to compare yourself (which naturally I did) or believe other people’s profiles, (inadvisable) they’re all superhuman! Jumping out of planes and building schools in Uganda.

At the very least, they ski. All of them ski. Or they’re professional stand-ups their profiles are so witty; or seductresses worthy of a part in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Portrait of couple talking to each other at summer street cafe.
Katy Regan says meeting someone the old-fashioned way would be far better than writing 'soul-destroying' online dating profiles. (Getty Images) (Evgeniia Siiankovskaia via Getty Images)

The point I’m making is that internet dating means you’ve got to be prepared to sell yourself like a commodity and I don’t want to do that anymore. It’s lethal for the soul.

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Don’t get me started on the questionnaires. They’re terrible for myriad reasons. They’re pointless for a start (oh, you like Korean and I hate it? Let’s call the whole thing off) and I’d go as far as to say, morally dangerous.

They encourage you to lie because who in their right mind is going to admit they smoke 30 a day, drink heavily or find Jimmy Carr funny?

And – along with the profile photos – encourage rampant prejudice and small-mindedness. I found myself scrolling through profiles thinking:

Incompatible star-sign/His shoulders are too narrow/I don’t like his shoes/I don’t like his politics/I don’t like the look of his friend/Or his sofa.

Is that one of those signs that says ‘Love Lives Here’ on the mantelpiece? Because if it is, he’s out.

I mean, you turn into a monster. And the worst thing is you know they’re doing the same thing too.

Close up hand holding smartphone.
Texting strangers during the online dating process gets painfully boring, says Katy Regan. (Getty Images) (Iqbal Nuril Anwar via Getty Images)

Texting dilemmas

The texting and talking stage is similarly ghoulish because you have so little to go on when you first make contact that conversation is excruciating and usually goes something like this:

Him: “Good weekend?”

You: “Yeah great thanks, saw friends, went outdoor swimming. You?”

Him: “Yeah had a good one.”

The End

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My friend Annabelle who for years was on Guardian Soulmates like me. (We called it Guardian Soul Destroyer – cynics? Us?) complained recently: “This guy is texting far too often. He texted ‘How are you?’ this morning but I am no different from when he asked me how I was yesterday. Like, nothing has changed.”

So, she lied – as I have done on numerous occasions – simply because what she’d actually done was unblock the toilet and done a big shop at Aldi.

It’s just all so inauthentic.

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Happy female couple running on the water's edge at the beach
Katy Regan would rather have quality time with her friends than waste hours on disatrous online dates. Posed by models. (Getty Images) (Jordi Salas via Getty Images)

The big date

This isn’t a piece about dates from hell, but since we’re here, let me share some highlights:

There was a guy whom – having arranged to meet me that evening for our first date – emailed me two hours beforehand to say: “Listen, I’ve Googled you and seen pics and I’m just not feeling it in the loins, do you get what I mean? Like, no disrespect but I don’t want to waste your time.'

Then there was the man who when I came back from the toilet on our date asked gleefully, “Was that a number one or number two?”

And the one who spent all night going through the Greek Myths (actually that was one of the better dates.)

Still, at least these were good stories. What was more soul-destroying and what usually happened was this:

I paid for a babysitter and the train fare to spend my evening talking to a total stranger who was perfectly pleasant but then I’d get home and either one of us would text:

“I was really good to meet you but I didn’t feel a connection.’

And I realised I was effectively paying to have loads of encounters with people I didn’t connect with in the hope I might find one with whom I did – the truth is, this was making me feel way more alienated than being single.

Rear view of young woman stretching arms against sunset in the sky.
Katy Regan is totally at ease with being single and has no desperate need to meet a partner. (Getty Images) (Oscar Wong via Getty Images)

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I met my friend who got divorced two years ago recently and she said, “People keep asking me when I’m going to start internet dating but why – when I don’t even see the friends I love and am guaranteed a great night with, why would I give up a kid-free night to meet a stranger?”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

If someone perfect walked into my life next week, of course I’d be interested. But I’m not actively looking for it anymore – not on the internet. It’s just not a good return on investment. Life is too short.