The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Social Disconnect:

Young people face dating difficulties despite access to more options
Brandon Washington
Twenty six-year-old Michael Vanderbeck views Tinder.

Michael Vanderbeck, often called Mikey, was a golden retriever of a human being. At 5-foot 5-inches, he was smaller in stature than most men, though he stood tall in his optimism and general enthusiasm for life. His scruffy, boyish face was offset by his developed muscle tone, honed through years of heavy-weight training in the gym. Quite the literal example of the term “small but mighty.” His mahogany brown eyes seemed to light up whenever the spirit of laughter surged through his face, which was frequently. 

His jovial personality shone through the most when he’s around the people he cared for, his friends, his family and his current girlfriend. Despite these glowing characteristics and the most amiable personality imaginable, Mikey was one of many young people who were facing an epidemic of loneliness.

Navigating the world of dating isn’t particularly easy, even though in our modern world we have access to so many means of connecting with people. We have dating apps like Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and a myriad of other social sites tailored to meeting new people. For a young man like Mikey, any one of these would seem like the perfect chance to meet someone new after feeling so romantically isolated, but it’s never that simple. 

To Mikey, dating apps had become something like vapid, soulless cesspools, where hope for genuine interaction goes to lay itself to rest. Even the most optimistic of people can grow weary, and he was no different. His eager and cheerful approach to dating life had been steadily chipped away over the years since his last relationship.

The women he did end up meeting were few and far between, he’d often end up ghosted after a brief conversation with someone he’d just met. When someone did stumble into his life, he found that they seemed to be whisked away just as quickly. Whether they matched with him simply for the feeling of validation or just to kill time, each and every one began to bear weight on his enthusiasm more and more until he had all but given up on the premise of dating altogether. 



“Another dead end”

“I just want to be loved”

Hope seemed to finally breakthrough for him. While lying in bed swiping idly on Tinder, it had become somewhat of a mindless routine, he got a match. His eyes lit up with excitement, but at that point he knew better than to get his hopes up. He approached cautiously, not wanting to deter his new match with too enthusiastic of a greeting, but also not wanting to appear disinterested. Within minutes she responded to his message, and surprisingly their conversation took off. 

Days passed and the two hadn’t stopped messaging each other. Whenever Mikey wasn’t directly involved with doing something, his time and attention was spent talking to her. It was simply bliss. Attention starved, he didn’t give the fact that they had spent over a week texting each other and had not yet met in person. He didn’t care, the attention from having a woman reciprocate his attention was enough initially, he was simply happy to have someone to talk to, that pit in his gut, carved out of loneliness had finally started to mend. He finally had met someone he had some semblance of chemistry with, and that made the following week all that much more gut-wrenching.

He woke up in the morning, before having the chance to even wipe the sleep from his eyes and grabbed his phone, pulling her number up immediately and sending her a good morning text. She responded in kind, sending him a message full of hearts and light flirtation. His confidence was up, he knew they had developed chemistry over the last week, and he wanted to capitalize on it.


 “I want to take you on a date, are you free any time this week?” 


He mustered his courage and took a breath before sending it. He was nervous of course, but he swallowed that emotion whole. When four hours went by with no response, initially he thought nothing of it. Perhaps she was busy at work, or hadn’t looked at her phone that morning. When evening came he sent her another message, this time simply a funny picture based on an inside joke they enjoyed. He couldn’t help but think she had a bad day and needed some levity that he often provided.

  The following morning is when worry began to grip at his gut. An entire day with no response planted seeds of doubt inside of his mind. Had she not seen his texts? Maybe she was simply too busy, or her phone was broken. With anxiety welling up in his chest he opened his phone only to be greeted with a haunting sight, a “read” status on the last message she had sent her, it had been opened and left on read. Ever the optimist however, he sent her another message, simply to check in if nothing else. 

If she was going through something, he wanted to offer his help at the very least. So, he sent it and waited, going about his day while trying to beat back the negative thoughts bubbling up in his brain. It was a week later when he finally came to terms with what happened. Every message he had sent had been opened and read, but with no reply. 

He turned his phone over and let his head rest in his palms, trying to choke down the frustration and confusion that came from being ghosted. His thoughts raced through his mind like a hurricane. Had she simply become bored of him? Did he say something to offend or deter her? Or was she never that interested in the first place? 

He’d heard of that before, someone going on dating apps simply to sate their own attention seeking nature and nothing more, his fingers curled in and he gripped his knees hard enough to turn his knuckles white. Tears found their way to the edges of his vision as he sat with his thoughts. Whatever the answer was, he’d never know. She was gone from his life, a mist briefly palmed between his hands before being diffused in the summer air. A ghost.


. . .

The world of dating can be unpredictable, and unforgiving. Even more so when the time isn’t taken to truly understand and get to know your potential partner. With all the conveniences of modern dating, it’s easy to forget that taking the time to get to know someone is an important factor when it comes to dating. In an age of dizzyingly instant gratification, waiting around to develop a relationship seems painfully slow to some.

For Zack Hall, this was true, whether it was intentional or not. A tall man, 6-foot, 1-inch and charming to boot. He had a way of drawing friends to himself wherever he happened to be. Those close to him often said he had an “effortless charm” of sorts and would find themselves unable to stay mad at him for very long, a sentiment often reserved for puppies or lovable old men. Zack was neither, and yet exuded this magnetic quality all the same. This quality of his also seemed to bleed over into his dating life, something he’d refer to as “regrettable.”

 Zack never found difficulty in the aspect of finding a potential partner. For him, women flowed in and out of his life like water through a grate. The difficulty he found was in pacing himself properly when he found a new partner. He was almost never without a relationship, even when he had no intention of having one to begin with. 

A seemingly subconscious need for partnership would cause what were meant to be strict friendships with women, to turn into romantic relationships before he could realize how far he had stepped. This became a pattern of sorts, developing a relationship with one woman, the inevitable break-up, and then the all too sudden start of a new one shortly after.

 There was no rest, no reprieve between partners, but more of an unintentional marathon of relationships that he didn’t know how to stop running. The common factor in every one of these relationships, however, was the fact that he wished he’d spent more time getting to know each one before becoming a couple. 

In one instance, this unwitting habit had dire consequences for him and his relationship. During his time living in Georgia on the heels of a relationship that didn’t work out, the Publix grocery clerk had met a woman, a coworker named Autumn. Their friendship developed quickly at the time, moving from simple workplace kindness toward more constant flirtation. Though Zack didn’t mean for any romantic relationship to develop, he didn’t refrain from allowing it to blossom either. 

The swiftly developing nature of their relationship had snared them both in the euphoric whirlwind of intimacy. Looking back, he’d say his actions at the time were irresponsible. She moved in with him in the following months. Zack’s need for companionship had bred a relationship that gave no heed to timing, or the nuances of each other’s personalities. 

Zack and Autumn were together for nearly two months when it happened. He was out for a night-time walk, the cool spring breeze rolling through his hair like the tide moving through a bed of sea grass. His blue eyes, illuminated by the moon, were filled with worry. During his walk, he received a text from her.


 “Come home, I’m scared.” 


He’d never moved faster than in the two minutes it took him to get home that night. His feet carrying him back down streets and sidewalks as fast as they could, the surrounding neighborhood became a blur of dark buildings streaking with the elongated lights of the streetlamps as he raced home.

 When he opened his apartment door, fear spread across his usually calm face. Blood on the floor, a series of crimson dots paved the way from the front door toward the kitchen. There were no lights on, save for the dim lamp light leaking through from the living room. His heart lurched in his chest as he made his way to the kitchen, slowly, one hand touching the wall to both balance himself, and keep his mental state grounded for what he may find. He turned the corner and there she was. 

Standing in the kitchen, holding a knife, a look of cold disconnect in her eyes, and blood dripping down her arm. Zack’s heart went cold, and his breath caught in his chest. With a numb mind, and a steady hand, he took the knife from her and helped her clean up for the rest of the night. He learned then that his new girlfriend, the woman he’d only recently jumped into a relationship with and moved into his apartment, had severe depression, and he was entirely unprepared to be able to help her manage it. 

Their relationship never quite found its footing after that day, the shock of seeing someone he cared for in such a state had stuck in Zack’s mind like a gash etched into the wood of a tree. What added to that nauseating sense of the unknown, was the fact that Zack realized he knew next to nothing about her. Until that point their relationship had been one of pure desire and physical intimacy, they had come to know each other in the most carnal sense, but knew nothing about each other’s mental or emotional states, or how to go about fixing the damage that had already been done.

 Every day after that was a poorly made act, a facade erected by the both of them to pretend that things were normal and fine between the both of them, but things were anything but. With both of them refusing to acknowledge the severity of what happened, and their own shortcomings in communicating with each other, the relationship crumbled over the next few weeks. Neither of them were able to admit fault for jumping into a relationship too quickly, nor were they able to look past what happened, and try again from the ground up.

. . .

Samantha Mazze was no stranger to disappointment when it came to dating. The 22-year-old psychology student had been through her fair share of ups and downs in the world of dating. In the course of several months she had downloaded, loathed, uninstalled and re-downloaded the same dating apps. Trapped in a cyclical limbo of disappointment, she experienced the worst of what dating apps had to offer. She was no stranger to being ghosted, she’d been catfished, and ignored countless times. Like many before and after he, she was tired of putting in so much effort for nothing.

Weary of the seemingly endless grind it took just to get a match with someone. She made up her mind one morning. This was her last attempt at using Tinder, it caused her nothing but grief and aggravation until that point. The loneliness she felt was exacerbated by the fleeting connections that seemed to whizz by before anything solid was established, this was her last shot. With a deep breath and a reassuring stroke of her hand on her dog’s velvety ears, she began again.

It didn’t take long for her to get a match this time, she half expected the match to be gone by the time she even opened the notification. With some sense of hesitancy, she opened her app and took a look at the man she matched with. At first, she thought nothing of it, he seemed rather ordinary at first glance. His facial hair was kind of scruffy, and he wasn’t that tall. 

In fact on his profile, he seemed to be pretty short compared to some of the guys she had met before. There was something charming about this one, his smile. Even in the still images of the photos on his profile, the sheer joy that shone through from his smile had its own sort of alluring charm to it. Despite his height however, at a second glance she found he looked pretty strong for his size. His muscles seemed to show through in every outfit that he wore, which added to that boyish charm he exuded.


“What the hell? He seems nice enough.”


With that, Sam took a chance and swiped right on Mikey.

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