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It isn’t the age of the hook-up; it’s the age of the never-ending first date.While any slut can game the system if he or she so pleases, bedding the city via Tinder or any number of online dating apps, what’s less often acknowledged is that regular people are going on an inordinate number of dates and getting very little—sexual or otherwise—in the process.I am, as the Jerome Kern tune goes, old-fashioned, even though I’m 26, and I like old-fashioned girls.If I could bend the world into another reality, I would mold it after Woody Allen’s great musical comedy But I can’t, so last summer I joined Ok Cupid, the online dating site.This is a major, and ridiculously exhausting, shift in how we mate as a species, the biggest, it seems, since birth control.As online dating becomes less stigmatized—just 21 percent of Internet users think online dating is “desperate,” down eight points since 2005, according to the Pew Research Center—more and more singles, hoping to meet their match, are turning to the digital world.That one petered out almost as quickly as the rest.I certainly didn’t set out to meet as many women as possible, an exhausting goal.

But it’s also a terrible place, as you are forced to sit and stare at a person you barely know for a long period of time without the option of looking away when awkward silences arise—and they always do.

The whole romantic process was starting to feel forced, perfunctory, dehumanizing and, yes, expensive.“It never felt natural,” said a 28-year-old copywriter (likes Don De Lillo) who lives in Brooklyn and recently deleted his Ok Cupid and Tinder accounts in favor of offline encounters.

“I felt like I was working as a machine, pumping data into a function and hoping to find the right results.” “I used to think online dating was the best thing to ever come along, but now I think it’s almost a curse,” said a 43-year-old photo editor (really good at: swimming, cartwheels, eating French fries).

I’d like to say that this shift implies we’ve become bolder human beings, but that’s sadly not the case. Unlike asking someone out in person, you don’t have to muster the strength to walk up to someone, or even just call them, and possibly get rejected.

The vulnerability—and the spontaneity that goes along with it—in romantic connection is diminished; online dating may make you a more active dater, but it also turns you into a more passive romancer.

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