I know, I know. Everyone on the internet is already talking about Love is Blind. They’re talking about the giving wine to a dog, and the getting engaged to someone you’ve never seen, and the love triangles and weird fights and general ridiculousness of it all. Of course they are. It’s the kind of enjoyably insane TV that was made for the internet to discuss, and meme, and probably troll because apparently people on the internet are horrible these days.
But, as the mother of two small children my internet time is limited, and much of life is lived in WhatsApp groups. Usually talking about how our children refuse to nap, and occasionally talking about what to watch when our children are napping. And sadly I’m not in any WhatsApp groups where everyone has watched Love is Blind, so I run the risk of accidentally spoiling what is perhaps the greatest televisual event since Cheer. When those kids finally nap, those mums would be furious with me for doing that.
My husband has refused to watch it with me, because he thinks it’s cruel and unpleasant television and he wishes to take a moral stand against it. Most of the time I’m too tired to literally stand, let alone take a moral stand against anything. Except the Tories. And climate change. And toxic masculinity. And Brexit. And all the other things that any self-respecting 30-something, middle class, left-leaning mother of boys is meant to take a stand against. But after all that standing, there isn’t enough energy left to take a stand against what is both magnificent TV, and something the participants willingly signed up for.
Hence, I really, really need to talk about Love Is Blind.
And what I need to ask is this: is this what dating is like now? Not literally, obviously – although I suppose speed dating in the dark, behind a screen, with a blindfold on is something that’s probably happened somewhere. But is the dating experience so divorced from what I knew that you can suggest a show where people get engaged without ever seeing each other and find a bunch of participants willing to go for it because it makes such a refreshing change from the shallow, snap judgements of apps? Is that really what’s going on in dating society?
I did my dating in a different world, you see. It was pre-Tinder. It was pre-Instagram. It was pre-Netflix and chill. My dating life ended when I met my husband in 2009, a time when Facebook was pretty much the only social network (except LinkedIn, but who counts that?), and smartphones were only about halfway through taking over the world. When I was dating, if you sent a message and didn’t get a response you could just pretend they hadn’t received it. There were no dots of doom. There were no blue ticks. For a large chunk of my dating life, there was only space for 15 messages on most people’s phones, and it was always a distinct possibility that whoever you were messaging had run out of credit. Being left on read simply wasn’t a thing.
Yes, internet dating was a thing, and yes, a friend of mine put me on mysinglefriend.com – which, incidentally, secured me a grand total of two dates. One was with a man who clearly thought I had a drinking problem (well done James. Clocked that one before I did), and the other was with an ex, so I obviously tried so hard to show that I was absolutely great, doing just great, seriously never been more great that I doubtless came across as someone who was in the middle of a complete collapse of their emotional and mental health. A bit like Jessica was in Love is Blind. Guys, she was absolutely fine! Everything was amazing! She was totally winning at life and not at all madly in love with someone who didn’t love her back!
But the apps…well, the apps were not a thing. Swiping left and right meant nothing to anyone, and if I tell the truth they still mean nothing to me (which one’s good? I never know). I did not have the issue of being able to Instagram stalk the person I was chatting to, and making a load of snap judgements on them based on a few pictures. Sure, I could make snap judgements based on messages, but if I really wanted to get my judge on I had to do it in person. And I didn’t have to make like the Love is Blind crew and go on a fancy holiday to Mexico to get away from devices and social media. Because for most of my dating time my devices were a click-wheeled iPod, a Samsung flip phone, and a digital camera where you had to actually transfer the photos to a computer to be able to do anything with them.
So yeah, dating now seems absolutely horrific. I’m incredibly glad that I’ve not had to go through it. But I’m also incredibly glad that it’s horrific enough to make people go on a show like Love is Blind, because the world would be a much worse place without us being able to watch a bunch of strangers trying to decide whether or not to leave each other at the altar. And that is a statement I will stand by.