Like all little girls of my generation, I was ruined by The Little Mermaid. Ariel sees Eric for the first time and falls instantly, hopelessly in love. He glimpses her briefly and falls instantly, hopelessly in love.
This formed the basis of my entire understanding of what love is supposed to look like.
I have always had this idea that when I met The One, I would just know it.
It would be purely visceral. Our eyes would lock, I would catch my breath as my entire nervous system froze, neither one of us knowing what to say or do as our twin souls, at last reunited, screamed at us to do something, and I would just know, like all those terribly romantic people in those terribly romantic movies, like Ariel and Eric, I would know.
That's not the experience you get from online dating.
Online dating is sort of like shopping for a car. You have an idea of the basic make and model you have in mind. Sure, you might have a whole list of specifications and options you would like to have, but you also understand that finding that perfect ONE is probably all but impossible, so you're already going into it with the idea that you'll probably have to settle. But you accept the reality of this and begin your diligent search, looking at an endless stream of pictures and scouring details, making comparisons—this one is a newer model, but this one has a clean title and less mileage—in the hopes that you'll eventually find something "good enough." Because you know, at some point, you have stop searching and just pick something already.
And that's what online dating is for—finding that "good enough" guy or girl after sifting through an endless sea of selfies and self-advertisements before landing on one that satisfies most, though not all, of your checklist items. You "favorite" each other the way you add items to your Amazon Wish List or Pin recipes you want to try later, then you schedule an in-person interview during which you'll have all manners of nonversation while in your head furiously trying to calculate whether or not this person should advance to the next round.
It is strategic and calculated and the absolute antithesis of romantic.
It's honest, sure. We're all looking for certain things, physical attraction often being the most immediate. It's possibly more pragmatic to treat dating like catalog shopping. Why waste time pursuing someone just to find out later that they want kids and you don't, or that they have 15 cats and you're allergic, or that their idea of a good time is monthlong camping trips and you can't function as a human without two hot showers a day?
These are all the kinds of things you get out of the way immediately with online dating. You click certain boxes and look for others who clicked the same boxes, read profiles to determine who has a sense of humor and a modicum of intelligence versus those whose who think it's enough to say, "Just looking for some cool people to chill with," usually with a few misspellings.
Or you just swipe left or right, which is really what we're already doing in our minds anyway.
It's all practical, yes. But I'm a sucker for a good story.
I remember the first time I ever saw my first boyfriend: playing rhythm guitar on Metallica's "Am I Evil" in his band, wearing a Nirvana shirt and black Chuck Taylors, head of longish blonde hair in headbanger's stance, and I just knew. It made for a great "how we met" story for the seven years we were together…even if it didn't last forever.
Despite every piece of evidence to the contrary, and never mind that I'm not getting any younger, I'm still convinced deep down of my own happy ending, of my great sweeping "movie love," of eyes meeting across the room and an immediate sense of just knowing.
And this is why I hate online dating: Not because of the "stigma" and not because it isn't practical, but because it feels so much like love brokering.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.