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“He’s cute,” my best friend says, as we scroll through the bio pictures of a twenty-seven-year-old guy on my newly installed Bumble account. In a moment of frustration I had downloaded the app, led by a combination of wanting to get over feelings for someone, and also wanting to meet a guy not at a crowded bar on a Friday night.
“Or him,” she said, swiping right and giggling, living the single life vicariously through me with every match. “He has nice hair.”
She continued, squealing as the app notified us of my matches. I smiled, trying to be interested but my mind was everywhere else. I closed my eyes, letting the sounds of a Monday night—neighbors laughter, clinking glasses, airplanes taking off overhead—float around us. We were laying back on my bed, legs dangling off the side. I couldn’t help but wonder about these matches, about these bio photos, about these guys, wherever they were, doing the same thing—swiping right or left, wondering if they’d meet someone, basing their connection with a person on a tiny 4×4 photo on a screen.
And as much as I tried to feign nonchalance and enjoyment, as much as I tried to laugh and swipe through the photos without giving it too much thought, I couldn’t.
Because when I think about the people I’ve loved, when I think about the friendships I’ve made or the connections with people that have run deeper than physical, I think about how I was never led by attraction alone. It was never based on the physical, but about who that person was, what their mind and heart were like.
I wasn’t guided by my lust. I wasn’t caught up in their facial features or bodies or smiles. Sure, there was a strong layer of attraction with each of the people I’d given my heart to, but it was so much more than that.
I was attracted to their thoughts. I was interested in what they felt. I had wanted to learn who they were behind the outer appearance, behind the photos on a profile, behind an image or a text on a screen.
And so I got to know them. I talked. I listened. I shared stories. I opened up. I learned about their lives and what made them strong, or weak, or scared, or lonely. I trusted them. I went places and did things. I didn’t just judge them because of their photographs or two-sentence bios.
I didn’t base my attractiveness on their appearance. Because attraction isn’t just about appearance, it’s about how deep your connection runs.
And in all the close friendships I have, all the strongest, most beautiful relationships I’ve been in, it’s been about who they were, how they made me think, what they shared with me beyond the physical. Our closeness was formed not because of how we looked, but about how we felt.
My attraction was formed because I loved their soul, not just their body.
And I think that’s what we miss when we base our attraction on physical alone. We see these images on a screen and we swipe right or left so quickly, not realizing that maybe we’re missing out on someone who is right for us, simply because we’re too worried about being with the ‘best’ or the ‘hottest.’
We don’t consider where we’ve been or who we’ve loved—how, perhaps, those people were not perfect and flawless, but our hearts were tied to them nonetheless. We don’t think about how our attraction to those we’ve loved was not just about our bodies, but about our words and thoughts and souls.
We’re so quick to right off unattractiveness, so quick to swipe left when we don’t think a person meets our standards. But do we even meet these standards we hold everyone else to? Have we ever found something true, just basing a connection off of pictures and bodies and lust?
When we base our connections off physical, we lose how it could feel to talk to someone about their biggest fears. We lose the nights staying up way too late comparing dreams. We miss out on relationships built by trust and kindness and vulnerability. We lose the emotional aspect, the part that equates to longevity and something real.
When we base our attraction on the physical alone, we forget that there is so much more to a person than what meets the eye. We learn that there are layers to each of us, some dark and some bright, and all these layers make us who we are, make us human and worthy of love.
When we base our attraction off appearance, we lose out on the people who will love us for us. Because we don’t see them noticing the depth of who we are—we’re too busy searching for a perfection we’re never going to find.
When we base our attraction on pictures, on bodies, on superficial or lust-filled aspects of people, we chase relationships that aren’t meaningful. We chalk up people to images. We objectify instead of learn who someone is.
And we hold ourselves back from finding something, someone confusing and complicated and wonderful and real.
So I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out, my legs dangling off the edge of my bed, the messages filling my screen from men who, it seems, have based their potential connection to me simply on a photograph. I can’t help but feel like there’s something more, something deeper on the other side of these images, these apps, these physically-dependent matches. I can’t help but wonder what I’m losing as these bios fill my screen.
But I don’t want to wait to find out.