Online Dating And Natural Selection: Using Darwin To Overthrow Fate And Romantic Luddism

No one would go to the cinema to see 'I Decided I Wanted A Loving Relationship So I Found It Using A Combination Of Safari Browsing, Instant Messaging and Email'.
Publish date:
January 23, 2013
online dating, Dating, natural selection

I’ve always thought the concept of online dating is a bit wrong. Not because of its (completely outdated) rep as ‘desperate’ or because of stranger-danger, but because it messes with Fate. This is partly to do with the fact my brain is saturated with Meg Ryan scripts but mainly because online dating is so… deliberate. My rudimentary thought process went something like this:

"The right person for me will be around, in real life. Placed handily somewhere that I also will be. And no matter what may conspire to take our evenings off course, we will happen to get talking. (We will both be in the right frame of mind to talk to a stranger). We will both be in the mood to drink ale rather than beer and as we order at the bar – which we will have walked to and found a spot at, at precisely the same time – we will lock eyes and strike up a chemistry-laden conversation about this banal fact…"

You see where I’m going with this.

Until recently, I was obsessed with ‘things happening naturally’. That was the only true way. But as I attempted, – and failed – to justify my online dating aversion to a friend, I realised that I’d confused ‘things happening naturally’ with the concept of Fate – something I wasn’t even aware I believed in, let alone put my faith in. Such is the power of Meg Ryan*.

They’re not the same thing at all. Fate – if we are to believe in it– is fixed and randomly assigned. I.e. THIS will happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Whereas ‘things happening naturally,’ the state of ‘natural,’ is an evolving organism.

Finding out Charles Darwin defined the term ‘natural selection’ with the process of artificial selection in mind (the latter existed as a practice before the former as a theory was even born) has been something of a revelation.

Now called ‘selective breeding,’ artificial selection is a course of action with a purpose - a certain means to a definite end; a new dog breed or a flower with a different scent.

On the other hand, and taken at its most crude, ‘natural selection’ can be seen as nature mutating when certain traits dwindle or flourish to fit their environment, creating an ever-evolving organism, be it human or animal.

My theory about dating very much had its roots in the mutation > consequence > mutation concept I associated with natural selection. But rather than biological occurrences, it was environmental and circumstantial effects I had faith in.

It was all the little things that would lead me to meeting The One. The random incidents at work that would lead me to feeling sad at 6pm and therefore deciding to go to the pub after work, totally randomly. And then what I ate for lunch dictating my taste buds’ need for ale rather than beer. And popping to the cashpoint beforehand, leading me to the bar at the exact right time.

But in reality, that's now how it works. And in a broader sense, society exists, functions and grows through both inevitability and human intervention (the two make a perfect storm of society’s big issues, such as euthanasia and reproductive sciences).

Through a type of artificial selection, of humans creating and mixing and breeding knowledge and product and technology, we arrive at the creation of the internet, and using it to date.

Online dating is as ‘natural’ now as mobile phones were in 1990: a newish technological – and societal - device hesitantly circled by some and speedily adapted by the brave.

I’d made the mistake of associating online dating with artificiality, but my romantic Luddism had nowhere to hide, because online dating isn’t artificial at all.

It is just another consequence of a (relatively) intelligent and creative species expert at ‘producing change over time’. The same type who gawped at the camera, got spooked by the telephone and rolled their eyes at Twitter. (Let’s not go into the irony of my secret hope that patience is all that’s needed before someone perfect falls in love with my updates)

However, despite many embracing this new development, when it comes to Love, an affair appearing out of nowhere is still the jackpot.

It’s why against-all-odds love clichés draw the most bucks at the box office and why no one would go to the cinema to see I Decided I Wanted a Loving Relationship so I Found Her Using a Combination of Safari Browsing, Instant Messaging and Email.

The fact I instinctively place so much importance on love ‘just happening’ is because giving greater credence to the things entirely not of our making is a human condition. We’re not just fans of inaction but positively idolise it. Rather than hold up the things that take effort and sweat, we put random fortune on a pedestal. An astounding voice; a glamorous girl with a rich daddy; winning the lottery.

A thing that to us is touted to mean more. IT’S DESTINY. When in fact we all know the opposite is true – that making something happen yourself is by far the most satisfying thing of all.

Some of us want to think certain things are meant for us, and if we’re patient enough, they’ll come. The rest have cottoned on to the fact there are other ways to be pick - and be picked - than waiting.

*In the interests of impartiality and movie-accuracy: Although Meg Ryan to be Fate’s Spokesperson, a lot of her films actually involve her . Take Sleepless in Seattle: sure she first hears the radio at a great moment, but off the back of that she drives to Seattle to ‘bump into’ Tom Hanks. And then there’s You’ve Got Mail, er, set online.

Were or are you reluctant to start online dating? Are you happily partnered up in a relationship that started on t’internet? Tell all!

Sally is waiting for someone perfect to fall in love with her Twitter feed. Failing that, take his top off for her Pinterest.