Wayne and Wanda: I’m lost in the digital dating world and need to find a better way to connect

Hi Wanda and Wayne.

I feel lost in the world of dating. I’m in my late 20s and I’ve been all about school and work for what feels like forever. Now I’m ready for a serious relationship, a future with a partner. Problem is, dating has been nothing but a challenge and frustration.

I’ve tried almost all of the online dating sites and apps that Alaskans use, and it sucks out there. Scrolling through profiles (many of them the same guys on multiple sites), messages, and swipes leaves me feeling tired and hopeless. Despite my best efforts, it’s difficult to connect with someone on a meaningful level and it feels like I’m not going to match with anyone.

Then there’s the communication. It’s a nonstop barrage of messages, ranging from funny and charming to crude and nasty. When I do bite, I’ve had my fair share of good chats, only to have the other person go ghost when it comes time to meet up, if not before. It’s beyond frustrating and leaves me feeling like I’m wasting my time or even not worthy of dating in this modern era. I know that’s silly, but it does hurt. And even the rare first date hasn’t gone beyond that — no one is who they claim to be.

Then there’s this whole hookup culture vs. long-term relationship thing. It seems that finding someone online who shares my desire for a committed, monogamous relationship is increasingly challenging. Hooking up is just not what I want, and that seems like all everyone else is looking for on these apps.

The dream scenario is meeting someone great offline and recognizing the organic chemistry, but my social circle is pretty limited, and one of my rules is not dating anyone from work — I’ve seen those disasters play out.

So, there you have it. I could really use some advice on how to navigate dating. Am I wasting my time online? If not, what am I doing wrong? And if so, where do I find singles if I’m not online?


Wanda says:

I wish I could tell you to log off and await your magical Hallmark meet-cute in the produce section at Fred Meyer — but I won’t. Because online dating — as mind-boggling, weird, time-consuming and awkward as it can be — is the most efficient way to meet people who have self-selected into a pool of others also (allegedly) interested in romance.

So instead of bailing, take a pause, regroup and consider incorporating some of these best practices.

First off, ensure your profile is authentic. The photo should be recent and look like you — not you with filters and digital fillers, but awesome you on a normal day. Make sure your bio truly reflects your personality and interests — not what you think someone wants to hear. And be super specific about what you want. “Looking for love” could be interpreted as a fun fling or a forever thing, depending on one’s lens.

Next up, be selective. Don’t let fear or desperation pull you toward options that aren’t optimal. You know what you want, so swipe selectively, not inclusively.

As for all these rando messengers peppering your inbox — go on offense! If you see someone you’re interested in, don’t hesitate to message them first, and go in with a question that inspires conversation. Some good ones are “Describe your perfect day off,” or, “If you could be anywhere else right now, where is it and why?”

Once you click with someone, ask to meet up. The surest way to go all in or move on is to have that initial in-person meeting and see if the sparks fly. Not every match will lead to a meaningful connection, just like you could be in a room of 100 single prospects and not connect with a single one. But stay positive. Your heart — and energy — is in the right place.

Wayne says:

Sorry, but if you’re trying to find your person, you have to go where the people are. And today, they’re online. Nearly half of the 5,000 respondents in a recent Forbes Health/OnePoll State of Dating survey said that the apps are where they meet people for dating, by far the most popular choice.

You want real-world encounters? Further strengthening the go-where-the-people-are trend, pollsters also favored meeting someone through friends, a social club or hobby, and, sorry again, at work. Concerts and festivals are hot spots for finding dates, too — lots of people having fun and mingling — and so is social media. How are your thirst trap profile shots? While the good old standard, bars, barely cracked the list’s top 10, a surprising (to me?) number of respondents said they meet people playing online video games. And Wanda is wise: A slim number of respondents look for dates in a grocery store. Cleanup on Aisle Broken Heart!

Unlike you, 60% of respondents said they feel either very or somewhat positive about dating. That said, in response to another question, nearly 40% of respondents claimed to not even be actively dating, which signals online burnout and/or a pattern of people focusing on themselves instead of others. Stacey Diane Arañez Litam, Ph.D., a licensed professional clinical counselor, sexologist and Forbes Health Advisory Board member, added, “The current state of dating in America is trending toward dating yourself first … (with more singles prioritizing their mental health and feeling more empowered to foster the love they desire).”

So, perhaps at this point of frustration for you, it’s time to go dark on the apps for a bit, bank some of that energy you currently spend scanning profiles and responding to going-nowhere conversations to catch your breath, and take some pressure off of yourself. It will all be there when you’re feeling better and have a clearer head. And when you’re out in the real world, smile at people walking by, make a comment in the coffee line, set your mat up next to the sexy yoga dude. You’d be amazed at people’s reactions to genuine human interaction since everyone is so used to burying their faces in their phones.

[I’m connecting with people on dating apps, but rounds of flirting and conversation aren’t going anywhere]

[I thought I’d found love online but the physical connection wasn’t there. Now I want to bail.]

[Wayne and Wanda: My budding romance has been a fantasy. How do I bring it into reality?]

[Wayne and Wanda: My girlfriend wants us to exchange shared locations. Is this weird or am I out of touch?]

Wayne and Wanda

Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at