Catching up with my Dad one evening, conversation turned to a couple of dates I’d been on recently, and he asked the obvious question: “Where did you meet him?”
Much as I like to be open with my parents, I couldn’t quite bring myself to tell the truth. “Just in a bar”, I said, reasoning in my head that meeting on Tinder is basically today’s equivalent.
(Now you know, Dad. Sorry!)
For those of us who are natural extroverts – who thrive off the buzz of meeting new people and forming connections – dating apps and sites offer unprecedented opportunity. All it takes is a simple swipe and a few words exchanged, and minutes later you could be tucked in the corner of a cosy pub, stepping into the life of someone you’d never otherwise have met.
But lovely as he was, Tinder Boy wasn’t really for me, and neither was the app. There’s only so much time a girl can give to swiping through a catalogue of people who all like Scrubs and Pizza Hut on Facebook, trying to pick out the few who might be able to hold a decent conversation.
Moving on to OkCupid seemed a far more productive use of time – here, I could write a little more about myself, and filter matches by things that mattered to me like their faith, political views and salary…just kidding. Messages came through thick and fast. I ignored the majority, but even being very selective about who I replied to, it didn’t take long to get into plenty of interesting conversations, swapping anecdotes, opinions and ambitions.
When you’re created to be a social creature, and your energy comes from people, what could be better than an app that creates for you new connections – instantly and abundantly?
This attitude to my personal life is one that reflects a lot of Christian culture. More people from more places connected in more ways must be good. At the Christian New Media Conference a few weeks ago, I was sat in a seminar about how churches can build community through technology and social media. I heard examples of churches live-streaming their services around the world, setting up international discipleship groups through Facebook chat, and praying with vulnerable people from the other side of the planet. Although it was all well-intentioned and the numbers were undoubtedly impressive, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that quantity doesn’t always mean quality.
If church is about community, a numbers game shouldn’t be one we want to play. If our live-streamed service reaches thousands, will we ever notice the one who hasn’t been there for a while? If our ‘congregation’ lives on different continents, will they really knit together as family? If my time is taken up with responding to the prayer requests of strangers in other countries, will I notice when my friend at work could do with a chat over a quiet pint?
Back on OkCupid, it didn’t take long before I hit my limit of meaningful interaction. Message from Pete – is this the Pete who works in investment banking, or the Pete who wants to travel to Asia next summer? A WhatsApp message from a number I forgot to save, is it Sam I’m meant to meet at the weekend? It quickly became a logistical nightmare and I stopped bothering to reply to any. Not the most Christ-like way to treat people.
Jesus invested in the few. Sure, he didn’t have a Smartphone or a high-speed internet connection. But even if he had, I’m not sure he’d have been too bothered about connecting the masses with his teaching or even with his friendship. He gave his time for the ones around him, whether or not they were the most interesting, attractive, exciting, or even the ones who needed him most. He wasn’t always on the lookout for the next buzz, or the widest reach. He went for depth and intimacy. And because of that he made a profound impact on everyone he met.
As it happens, between deciding to write this piece and actually writing it, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a particularly lovely boy through OkCupid. We have much more in common than our Facebook likes, and the thought of getting to see him again is much more exciting than the idea of sifting through scores of messages from strangers. Three dates in, and I’m glad I stuck around there long enough to meet him.
But whether it works out with him or not, I’m ready to take down my profiles and delete the apps, because I’m done with picking quantity over quality. At the risk of sounding too keen, maybe soon I’ll try sticking with this one man instead of always keeping an eye out for the next new crush. For now, it’s time to commit to the few – the few people in my church, who mostly wouldn’t care in the slightest for live-streaming or Facebook discipleship threads. And it’s time to reinvest myself in the friends and family I’ve already got, loving them with all their quirks and flaws, and having the joy of being known deeply and loved anyway.
There’s surely no app in the Play Store that will ever beat that.