At least 89% of the couples I know (excluding those who've been married for 5,000 years) met online. Now, that's not such a weird thing to say, but 10 years ago, I probably wouldn't have known that. Before everyone had a smartphone and swiping right became a cultural phenomenon, online dating wasn't something the cool kids admitted to (in 2005, almost 30% of people thought using a dating app was "desperate") . So, lots of people who met online lied about it. They'd make up stories about running into each other at a bar or being set up on a blind date.
But it's 2018 now, and all single people with access to a smartphone have probably tried online dating. It's such a widespread thing that we've made up words for the bad behavior our matches exhibit, like "ghosting," "breadcrumbing," and "orbiting." So imagine my surprise when I first started dating my girlfriend (who I will proudly say I met on Tinder) and she asked me if I wanted to lie about how we met. I thought we were over that particular cultural moment. Turns out, not so much.
Maybe you think my girlfriend is the only millennial left on the planet who still considers lying about meeting someone on dating apps. She's not. Cosmo writer Nora Whelen has noticed lots of people (mostly men) throwing a "funny" line like, "Let's lie about how we met," in their profiles. The line isn't exactly new, says dating coach Natalia Juarez. Guys she matched with back when she first started using dating apps in 2002 used that line all the time. "Almost 20 years later, the fact that that's still a thing is so outdated," she says. Some people using that line probably mean it as a joke, but the fact that it's something to joke about also points to remnants of shame around online dating.
"Some daters carry a sense of shame that they haven't met someone yet, that love didn't just fall into their lap, and they feel embarrassed that they have to put in effort to hunt for it online," says Samantha Burns, dating coach and author of Breaking Up & Bouncing Back. Maybe that shame feels irrational in a time when everyone and their mother is searching for love online, but it's still there. When my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to lie about our Tinder origins she did it because other people had asked her to lie in the past. "So now I like to check in so I can be sure to respect your privacy," she says. That's super sweet, but why is meeting someone on a dating app a matter of privacy?
The things you keep private are things that might influence someone's opinion of you — your sexual fantasies, for example. So, in saying that lying about their use of dating apps protects someone's privacy, we're saying that knowing someone uses dating apps might fundamentally alter how someone see that person. And, unfortunately, that could still be true, Juarez says. It's all about knowing your audience. "You're taking on people's preconceived notions when you put it out there," she says. If you're talking to a group of millennials who live in a big city, you're probably not going to turn any heads when you say you met your S.O. on Tinder. But the same proclamation to a group of suburbanites in their 40s and 50s could cause them to silently judge you for using "that hookup app" (as my mom likes to call it).
With that in mind, it makes more sense that a woman my girlfriend once dated asked her to say that they met through a friend of a friend when they were going to a work event. The audience there was tricky, and might think that using Tinder means she was looking to sleep around. That's not something you want coworkers to think about you. In that situation, a lie is totally forgivable.
But if you're lying to everyone just because you wish you and your S.O. had a more romantic origin, that's another story. "Some singles still fantasize about a romantic first encounter that happens organically, like bumping into each other in Whole Foods," Burns says. "Though intentionally searching online for your ideal partner is practical and helps you cross paths with many people you may have never met 'in the wild,' it's not the fairytale meeting that you probably envisioned."
If that's your hangup, then it's time to wake up from your dream. Because, honestly, sometimes reality is better than fairy tales. And who said meeting on Tinder isn't romantic, anyway? Juarez thinks it can be incredibly romantic. She often suggests to clients who've met someone online that they take a screenshot of their first messages, because those will be a momento of your relationship down the road. Your love story is your love story, so be proud of it.