When I was a kid, I collected baseball cards. It was not a long lasting endeavor but while I was doing it, it took up a lot of my time. Since it was the pre-internet days, the value of a card wasn’t determined on Ebay. There was a magazine that came out regularly to tell you the value of the cards that you owned. Despite the “agreed upon” value of a card, there were also personal reasons to want a card: your favorite player, a set of your favorite team, etc. My most prized card was a George Foster card from when he played with the Cincinnati Reds. It wasn’t the most expensive card in the world or the most expensive that I owned. It was the most important one to me though. I bought it as an individual card because I knew that I wanted it. Most of the cards that I had were acquired in packs. It was the luck of the draw. Eventually the collection became less of a priority and collected dust in my parent’s house. I’m not sure when it was sold off but I still own all of my George Foster cards.
The description above may be recognizable to many people. The search for value in a particular area of interest. Some people enjoy the search. Others enjoy the find. The value of the items being searched through is completely subjective regardless of price tag. In the past year, I’ve felt the need to foray into a world that I didn’t expect to be in.
The world of online dating reminds me of my baseball card days but in an unsettling way. The searching part is semi-similar with the pictures, “statistics” and bios. There is a perceived value from the searcher that is based on personal preferences. The area that is most disconcerting to me is the people on the other end of this search and selection process. If I chose to put my Phil Niekro cards in the bottom of my hamster’s cage, Phil didn’t know about it nor was he upset. It’s not him, just his card. My lack of interest in his card doesn’t take anything away from him personally. However, the people on the opposite end of this search and selection process are impacted. Sometimes directly and others indirectly. Regardless, they are still people.
Most recently I’ve stared to feel like a baseball card. It’s not all of the time, just in certain instances. The baseball card feeling comes when I’ve matched with someone and then……. nothing! No communication. Just sitting there. It’s happened more than I’d like to admit. I’d like to call it ghosting but I believe that’s when communication from one side just stops. This is a strange message to send. “I like your profile enough to match but not to talk.” It seems like a bit of a waste and also discounts the person on the other end. Now I’m far from perfect. I have ghosted a few people in the past year but overall, I try to end the conversation with something. A recognition that there is a person on the other end of this equation and I know it.
As so many of our first interactions with people tend to be online, it’s easy forget people exist. Fully formed human beings who have all of the same needs for oxygen, water, food, shelter, love, etc. They are on the other end of that screen. Maybe they are not the person for you. That’s ok! Swipe left or hit the X button. There’s no shame in that. Mistakes happen too! “Whoops, I hit the ‘Super Swipe’ button with my really big thumbs!” It’s not a problem either. My standard message to end a conversation talks about it not “gaining traction” and that’s fine as well. Perhaps I’m too much of an empath and worry about those people who get effect by these things. With all of the stresses of our world, the ambiguity of not knowing where you stand seems unnecessary.
I don’t want to be a baseball card, an item to be collected but not engaged with. A lack of interest is easy to take but the uncertainty wreaks of a forgetfulness. Forgetting that we’re all humans and deserve a little better. Sure the dating world is not for the faint of heart but it also doesn’t need to be for the reckless and uncaring. We’re all in the same boat and could stand to do a little better for each other.