Skip to Content

Ashley Kelsch on Dating Through Screens

I get it. Dating IRL is hard – but totally worth it.

Ashley Kelsch is Austin’s top certified, professional dating and relationship coach and former owner of Teddies for Betty’s, the lingerie boutique on 2nd Street that she ran for a decade. She offers one-on-one life-coaching programs to help clients acknowledge and understand limiting beliefs, to set boundaries and to learn how to change mindsets so they can get what they want in their romantic lives and feel empowered. Ashley helps men and women of all ages, single and married. She has a weekly podcast called Modern Renegades, and you can follow her on Instagram @AshleyMKelsch.

Has anyone else noticed how some people seem like they’d rather date your phone rather than you? It’s like a weird love triangle, and you’re stuck in the middle, wondering if they want to see you or just be seen on your screen.

Like the guys who send pictures of food they cooked themselves for dinner – what exactly are you are trying to tell me? That you can cook? That you’re home? You need some cooking tips? It seems like they might be saying, “I’m trying to impress you, but I’m not interested enough to ask you to eat with me.” God forbid this happens on a day I’ve been working and haven’t figured out dinner for myself.

Have I totally misunderstood the meaning of food porn all these years? I originally thought these images of food were shared in an effort to get me drooling and thinking about how tasty the dish looks and to get me on my way over to his dinner table to enjoy it.

But actual porn is limited to only looking, right? So, the message seems to be: Go ahead and think about how good it tastes, but don’t even think about getting some. You’re not invited. Screens only.

Then there’s this classic text: “I could really use some of you over here right now.” Wait, really? Are you inviting me? Oh, you’re in on a Zoom call. Of course. That’s so weird of me to think I was invited over right now. But you just want a picture of “that beautiful face.” Got it. You want me there on your screen. What was I thinking? It’s so silly of me to expect you to invite me over. In person.

Don’t even get me started on phone sex. I understand if you’re in a long-distance relationship and this is how, as a couple, you are meeting each other’s needs. But if you think for a minute that I’m the least bit interested in sex over a screen rather than having you in my bed, feeling your touch, then you’re out of your mind.

I’d rather practice “hands on” alone time.

You’d think that after a year of social distancing people would be craving the in-person experience of dating and engaging, but no. To the guys who are still sending memes, thinking that’s enough to keep me interested – guess what? It’s not. It’s honestly kind of boring.

It makes me question whether I’m getting old, or we are becoming more and more disconnected. Artificial intelligence and virtual sex are becoming a reality, for sure. I for one – starting with your food pics – am not interested in getting on board.

In all fairness, it’s not your fault. Our human brains are wired to seek pleasure, avoid discomfort and be efficient. Engaging over screens is very easy and alluring for the brain. It doesn’t require much energy or effort on our part. It minimizes the uncomfortable emotions that come with in-person engagement. There’s less risk.

To date IRL would mean you have to put in some work, like making plans, engaging in conversation, feeling vulnerable. That sounds hard to the brain. The person you want to date could say no; it might be awkward; you might be bored; or worse, the other person might be bored. Why would we do that when we can send a text, see a picture and feel a rush of gush with little to no negative side effects and the least amount of effort?

I’ll tell you why: Because we as humans need connection and closeness. It’s beyond the easy screen-to-screen connection – in the person-to-person engaging – where we experience emotional depth and growth. This is what provides all sorts of juicy, feel-good chemicals and how we as humans evolve.

As a dating and relationship coach, I can’t begin to tell you how many of my clients have adapted to connecting over screens and feel emotionally disconnected from only others, as well as from themselves.

In-person connection is an experience that reminds us what it is to be alive. It develops the capacity to feel nervousness, excitement and to experience doubt and curiosity. It’s okay to be vulnerable. This, my dear reader, builds confidence.

If you want to connect with my screens and live in a virtual world, by all means, you do you. But please consider leading with your intentions and respect my response. This will require communication, which you can do over text if that feels safe.

Try this: “I’m interested in being seen and seeing you on screens. You into it?”