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The Dating Game: Is It Really Harder In Wichita?

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Wichita has a reputation for being a tough city for singles — at least, according to some very unscientific rankings. Here's what a few single young Wichitans, and a dating expert, said about what modern dating is really like.

Joseph, 29, in a relationship

"I think it is hard to date. I think it's hard to date anywhere. I think what makes it difficult in Wichita is the fact that I don't feel we have, now we're getting more community spaces where we're allowed to interact with different people our age and get to go and go out with friends but also might spark a conversation with the table next to us because it's a communal table. There are more bars, more breweries, all this stuff, but we're just getting that. So I think we've missed out on a couple of years of having space for people to actually go and meet each other.

I think each place has its own problems, though. The bigger the city the harder it is to actually meet people sometimes. You tend to feel a little bitt more isolated. And I tend to find that we have a very nice community here in Wichita where everybody kind of knows each other if you show up to the same places over and over and over again. I think that's really nice and I think we need to take more advantage of that.

Then again, I'm part of a community that's even a subset of a subset of a subset of a community, right? So it's like, 'Oh yeah, been through pretty much all the available gays in town and there's five left, so let's knock one more down,' right? It's very difficult, and I think a lot of people, especially in the LGBT community, feel quite limited because, [like] I said, everybody knows everyone. I think that's magnified even more so in a smaller community. For the LGBT community it is quite hard here, it is quite limiting, and I think it's an even further magnification of that the heterosexual community experiences."

Lindsay, 27, single

"It's really hard to date in Wichita. I have friends that are in the same boat as myself who we just keep finding guys that seem really awesome at first, and then it just turns out to be a dud, and then we are right back to square one. You don't have a lot to pick from in Wichita. It's a place that it's big enough that you don't know everyone, but it's also, if you're connected in ways, you know everybody. So you start meeting these guys and you might not know them but you know all of their friends, you worked with their friends, you have some of relationship ... it's like the nine degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon.

I've lived in other places temporarily, and I've experienced living in a foreign country and dating which is pretty cool and interesting. I did date a guy for a while in Spain, but he was British. We met in a bar we didn't meet [on] the new Tinder, Bumble thing, which was pretty cool. Nowadays I feel like you have to meet people online before you meet them in a bar. I think anymore we don't know how to communicate with people in person. It's still there, obviously, but it's shifted, it's now we're on our phones and we're texting and we're sending each other Snapchats and you're messaging people on these dating apps.

It's also hard, I think, because it's the instant gratification of swiping through profiles, like, 'Oh, she's cute, he's cute' ... It's like you could meet someone and they could be awesome but in their back pocket they've got thousands of girls that they could immediately get connected to. I think that has changed the way that my generation dates people because they have everything at their fingertips and they can immediately switch to somebody else in the flip of a switch. They can just swipe. They could swipe and it's all done and they've moved on and they've met somebody else, and that kind of scares me because it's not genuine.

I feel like I have less stress in my life that I'm not on these dating apps. I mean, I have it on my phone and I look through it, but I have not in probably three months messaged anyone on it and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. New year, new me, no new dating apps."

Suzanna Matthews, founder and president of The Date Maven

"Every, almost every, city think it's the worst place. Wichita's not alone in that. Wichita does have one unique challenge and a lot of the people that i work with have borne this out. It's a big small town, or a small big city, however you want to look at it. And so sometimes' there's that, 'Oh, you're dating Joe Bob? Well, Joe Bob dated Nancy, who's my cousin's dentist's neighbor,' or whatever. There's that whole six degrees of separation that's really reduced to like two or three in a town this size. And I've had a number of people say, 'I just don't want to date anyone because I'll either know something about them or they'll know something about me, and then things are a little bit distorted to begin with.'

I do know that there are a lot of women here who feel like they have exhausted this market in terms of what they're looking for. And so I encourage them to maybe look kind of more regionally, like Kansas City, or Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Denver, Chicago, so on. Unless you have like literally children that you're raising, or grandchildren that you're raising, you know, the two best reasons to move are for love or a great career.

A number of years back a psychologist named Barry Schwartz came out with this book called "The Paradox of Choice," and that relates very much to how dating apps function. When we have the perception of having abundant choices available to us, we tend to be not only pickier and choosier but we also tend to make choices that ultimately are less satisfying and that we're not as happy with. Or we put off making a choice altogether, which means you swipe and you swipe and you swipe and you stay single.

One thing I would tell people about dating apps is first of all, you need to be on at least two to really kind of do it well. If you're just on one you're probably not really giving it the effort it deserves. Second of all, you need to plan on being on there for six months or longer. You don't get to say that you gave it an honest effort until you've been on there for six months or longer.

Really going in with, I'll never say low expectations, but I will say just almost sort of releasing outcome. If your outcome is to have fun, you can't go wrong. That was my outcome when I got on Bumble. My outcome is to just meet some cool people and have some good conversations. I'll probably get some good stories that I can use with my clients. I had zero expectation of anything else. And that's when the magic happened."

Jayde, 28, in a relationship

"I think it's it's probably awful everywhere. I don't know. I really don't know. But my part of my problem is that I get really nervous when I talk to women. If I'm attracted to a person and my brain just shuts down and it's like I can't put word to mouth anymore, you know. I feel terrible about that.

I had Tinder and Bumble and Hinge, and I think I even had OK Cupid all at one time at one point just to see if there's anything out there. Granted, in a town like Wichita, which has a like a big city feel in like a small, actually small town, there's a lot of people on all of them. So you'll see the same people across it.

It's very difficult to find anybody to match with, especially especially in this small town. Since we're not that big of a city, you get through the available options out there quickly. You'll swipe and it'll say, 'Oh, you're all caught up. Try again tomorrow.' Maybe they'll be two or three that you haven't seen yet which is kind of a let down too, I guess.

I've never actually gone out on a date on Tinder or Bumble or Hinge or anything. I've talked to many women on there, but it's like, I don't know, if I get too nervous to ask them out, or what happens really. I think once it gets to that point, I'm like, 'I don't know if I really want to do this.' And so I just end our conversation — ghost. I ghost them, that's the term.

I met my current girlfriend through Instagram, which is something new for me. I never thought I could do that before. But I think Instagram is cool because you get to see a little bit more of who the person is whereas Tinder may only give you six pictures to look at and a little bit of a bio. I feel like Instagram or Facebook or social media in general can give you a deeper dive into the person might be I think maybe that helped."

Follow Nadya Faulx on Twitter @NadyaFaulx. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.