There’s a certain camaraderie when it comes to internet dating – most often exemplified when a user makes a clichéd, pithy comment in their profile about telling people “we met in a [insert delightfully whimsical activity here to convey that you’re only joking about not being okay with online dating as a defense mechanism to hide not being completely okay with having to resort to online dating].” With 60 percent of the U.S. population in agreement that online dating is a good way to meet someone, and dating apps like Tinder and Hinge dramatically increasing the number of online daters, it’s no surprise that we’re bound to run into the same people across multiple sites. But what do you do when that happens? The etiquette can be a bit hazy, but one thing is for sure: intrasite shaming is not the way to go.
That was the case for me last week, when I matched on Hinge with someone I had been chatting with back and forth on OKCupid. I recognized him when I was mindlessly scrolling through Hinge from the privacy of my bathroom, and I figured it was more awkward to not accept, than to ignore someone I had already agreed to a date with. What I was not prepared for? Having him shoot me a message that read “Wow I’ve never matched with the same person on three different dating sites. That’s gotta be a record.” Cue frantically loading up Tinder, an app I rarely use unless I’m $45 in the hole that month on extra Candy Crush moves and have literally no other apps to open, to search his name, just to find he was right, we did indeed match on Tinder as well a few weeks prior, though no messaging had been exchanged.
I can’t pinpoint exactly why being recognized as the same girl on multiple sites, especially by someone also equally invested in the same sites, is mortifying, but a large part of it is that if having to give in and admit that you could use the online dating help is slightly embarrassing, being recognized across multiple platforms is akin to strapping a flashing neon sign to your head that reads “I’M DESPERATE.” It’s like running into your coworker at Trader Joe’s on a Friday night when you’re both wearing sweats and glasses. You both are well aware neither of you is buying those Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Two Buck Chuck to last you longer than the next two hours, but the first rule of Trader Joe’s is never bringing up seeing someone else’s shameful, single Trader Joe’s purchases, on a weekend night no less, at a later date. Online dating run-ins should be like that, but with fewer cookies. (Or more cookies, really, because online dating is stressful as fuck.)
If this was an isolated incident, I’d chalk it up to socially awkward Internet strangers trying to make small talk while trying to pre-empt being made fun of themselves, but this is not the first time I’ve been called out by males for being seen on multiple sites, and it’s usually with far less tact, and far more comments along the lines of “Wow, I’ve seen you everywhere.” And every time someone does it, my immediate thought is “Why?” Well, my immediate immediate thought is “Oh my god, I could actually die right now,” but after that, indignation. Calling someone out for their number of online dating profiles is one of the biggest no-win situations you can put an e-stranger in, right up along with my personal favorite evil question: “So, how long have you been on [insert dating site here]?” Neither question has a good answer (“Oh, you know, just trying to triple my odds, but what’s three times zero boyfriends, again?”; “What’s six months less than the number of months you think I should have found a boyfriend by, if I’m not completely nuts, but one month more than someone who just signed up to move on to a new boyfriend before her ex can? That amount of time.”), but when these are the only questions asked in a message, they’re pretty hard to deflect.
Plus, when you mention having seen someone’s avatar around the web, it automatically puts them on the defensive. While the called out and their caller might share the same crime (and is it a crime?), only one is forced to answer for it. Not fair. My method of handling it? Completely ceasing communication. It may not be an out-and-out online neg, but since I already feel generally awkward and uncomfortable at all times around people I’ve known for years, the last person I need to be casually called out by is a stranger. Especially a stranger to whom I’m baring my most personal desire: please love me.
No matter what baggage e-love hunting brings up for you, two facts remain: 1) No one woke up this morning thanking the lord that instead of having to meet people the old-fashioned way, the internet exists to streamline the process; and 2) technology is making this rapidly growing world feel smaller and smaller. Running into people across dating sites is inevitable – especially when Hinge is handing out extra matches like candy these days – but making the other person feel awkward about it? That’s a choice. No one is saying to ignore any mention at all, but there are far better ways to laugh it off (“The algorithms really want us to be together!” – except not that, because you’re not the dad in a 90s sitcom), without hypocritically shaming your future date for the same thing you’re doing too.