Saturday, 11 February 2017


I'll confess - part of me has always felt like I missed out by never tipping my toe into the fun pool that is online dating. I met my now Husband in 2001, when I was 28 and he didn't even have a phone, or even a proper home. He was travelling through London living in a room with 6 other guys - ON THE BOTTOM BUNK. I wonder what attracted him to the single gal with her own 2 bed Victorian conversion flat in West Hampstead?

Anyway, we met because I nearly knocked him out. He was tying his shoelace when I threw open the kitchen door of the bar he worked in - causing him to go flying. Prior to that I tended to meet potential dates in a sweaty dive bar called Lateleys in my hood, where there was zero shame in asking the DJ to play Britney and your feet stuck to the floor. The bar was littered with mannequins and bizarre tat and had some old school space invader tables out the back. I would scrawl my number on boys' arms in lipstick or eyeliner and dance up a storm with my girlfriends.

Other than that I tended to meet potential suitors through friends, at packed vodka-fuelled house parties or once passing a (now A lister) actor in China town where we both did a double take and then traded numbers.

I never had to upload a profile, or write humorous paragraphs highlighting my wit, or spend days taking the perfect selfie - 70 filters later. I have on occasion lived vicariously through friends - helping them do all the above on various sites -such as one a friend calls, 'Guardian Soul destroyer.' It seemed like a whole heap of fun - until you realise that most men are either looking for sex or are serial killers. One good looking young buck uploaded pics of penguins shagging - which in retrospect, didn't make him suitable marriage material no matter how chiselled his cheekbones.

But a recent discovery has thrown the whole dating ritual into a new and startling focus. It is called 'Raya' and is a dating site for 'those in the creative industries.' Apparently it is where famous folk can swipe left or right and meet without having to deal with a load of star struck dirty little civilians. Members are apparently selected by a super secret anonymous committee (sounds like trying to get a soho house membership in 1997 before it became an ad agency mecca and lost all credibility) - but get this - it is based on their Instagram presence.

At this point I almost want to grab a sandwich board and run into the street shouting 'the end of the world is nigh!!' I mean WTF? Are we seriously saying people are now valued - in romantic relationships (I'm not talking as a brand here as that I get) because of their followers? Applicants are evaluated by an algorithm with considers 'overall Instagram influence, who recommended the applicant and how many active Raya members follow the applicant on Instagram.' 

Now I ask you - sincerely - if you are only deemed a worthwhile person because of your Instagram following - how fucking tragic does that make you?? I mean, am I alone here in thinking that this type of categorisation is the death knell of civilisation as we know it? Sure, politically the world is in a mess at the moment - but this kind of value placed on a person makes me wonder what the hell has happened to us all? Any idiot can drum up desperate followers (a recent article by a Times journalist showed him ditching his real life family pics and curating a made-up life filled with arty shots and a fake glam lifestyle and he watched followers rocket) - but what does that make you as a person? Kind? Funny? Engaging? Reliable? Honest? Intelligent? Being socially media savvy often doesn't mean anything more than being overly narcissistic....

Surely the whole endeavour is a paradox in itself - those who are so uber famous they can't meet anyone,  wish for anonymity to find love, yet have to go on dating site that will only allow them onboard if they are famous enough? What cardboard cut out souls will they meet on it? Apparently (I have never been on this site) the pics are all tracked to music which is about as basic as you can possibly get... 

Meanwhile I saw a magazine journalist recently uploaded her new agent's details to Twitter, hoping for work in TV as a scriptwriter. Her agency turned out to be Curtis Brown - and on her CV, an update of how many Twitter followers she had. Perhaps there is a correlation between being a skilled dramatic script writer and being popular on social media, but I have yet to find it. 

More depressingly, actors are now getting jobs because studios use their Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram followings to sell their movie. Emma Thompson lamented this saying that actors are becoming attached in 'the sort of business way' to their social media profiles - which she thought was a disaster. Exactly. Shouldn't they be practicing their craft rather than uploading selfies? Can you imagine Cate Blanchett, Brando or Streep thinking of how to gain more followers? 

I find it all wildly depressing. We have lost the ability to judge people on merit alone - to interact in the flesh and appreciate talent and hard work - instead following the herd and relying on insignificant numbers to establish a person's worth. We all know deep down that Facebook and Instagram are the edited highlight reels of a person's life - they don't show their true colours: everything has been filtered and airbrushed to establish perfection - all of life's flaws and warts are wiped away. What we are left with is an image, polished and preened and utterly devoid of soul. If that isn't the Emperor's new clothes, frankly, I don't know what is. So those celebs hoping to meet someone real on the site? How likely is that?

So for those who aren't worthy enough to make it onto Raya's books, I wouldn't despair. I'd grab a beer at your local dive bar, chat to the person next to you and throw some strange shapes on the dance floor.  Least whoever you meet will appreciate you for you - no filters required. 

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