When I type the first words of a question into the Google search bar, the list of suggested questions often reads, to me, like the din of a panicked mob in the town square, demanding answers from their lord. Once I was looking for a solution to a mundane problem, probably looking for an ingredient substitute in a dish I wasn’t prepared to prepare, or something similarly insignificant. I typed, “what can be done about…” and the internet screamed their queries from the void: What can we do about... THE BEES?! DONALD TRUMP?! CLIMATE CHANGE?! MY ACNE?! The search engine suggests what others have searched, so the autocomplete suggestions reflect the anxieties of humankind. It’s the desire to voice the worries that won’t leave you alone; to ask an unanswerable question and have something respond to you calmly and with authority: Here’s all the information that exists. You will be OK. It should come as no surprise that humankind has a lot of anxieties surrounding online dating. Below are the top results for each of the most common question stems.
It’s clear from these suggestions that online daters need encouragement. The only reason someone would search these things is because they are looking for validation for their own shame or assumptions. This gets close to the pervasive mistaken assumption that online dating is a fallback for people who couldn’t meet someone in person. More than ever before, this is false. With a pandemic raging, meeting and dating online is THE safe, conscientious, and logical choice.
People are nervous. It’s hard to enter the online dating world, just as it’s hard to talk to introduce yourself in person. These suggestions hint that online daters searching these things need confidence or encouragement. If you’re searching “is online dating worth it?” you’re probably looking for a success story, an outcome you can keep in mind when things aren’t going how you want them to. In other words, they want to predict the future. If someone is searching whether online dating is bad, or a sin, they are probably looking to confirm or dispel their feelings of guilt or shame. That or they think Google is a religious entity, and they can pray to it directly through the search bar.
The first one of the suggestions is looking for confirmation of their own opinions, and from there, it’s just people desperate to know if they’re doing things right. There is no right answer to any of these questions, but the black-and-white answer isn’t what’s important. It’s the support, or lack thereof.
I don’t know what to do about the bees, or my acne, or climate change, or if you should talk on the phone, or if online dating is a sin. What I do know is that we’re all confused, in this together, and looking for hope, validation and encouragement. Trust your gut, ask a friend, and let us help you. You’ve got this all figured out.