‘How I met my fiancee on Instagram’
Fiona Falkiner is no stranger to the concept of transformation. In 2006, Falkiner was a contestant on The Biggest Loser, and she was hoping losing weight would make her happy. But following major success on the show, she found herself spiralling into a deep depression. Here, in a column for news.com.au, she talks about life before, during and after the reality TV juggernaut, of coming out and finding love. You can read last week's column here.
Dating can be all kinds of fun but it can also be pretty soul destroying.
In my twenties, I would get all prettied up and head out to bars every weekend hoping to meet the "one", but as I got older the thought of trolling bars became less appealing and having a nice dinner out with friends became the preferred way to spend my Friday or Saturday night.
When dating apps became popular, I decided to give them a go. I looked at dating like it was a numbers game and I went on as many dates as I could. For roughly a year I went on two or three dates a week. It was fun in the beginning, but it quickly became a chore getting dressed up and having to make small talk with strangers.
Once upon a time back in our parents' days people were introduced to potential partners through friends. People threw dinner parties and introductions were done over a wine and a vol-au-vent.
These days people barely have time to catch up with friends let alone host dinner parties and of course there's work and the hours of sleep you try to squeeze in somewhere in the middle. It's tough out there, and I hate to say it … it doesn't get any easier!
But, that doesn't mean it's impossible.
While my methods of dating over time have changed, my attitude has remained the same - you have to give everything a go. So, when the dating apps started to become a thing I thought, 'why not'?
I tried them all - Tinder, Bumble, Hinge, POF, Raya, EHarmony … you name it I tried it! They all had their pros and cons. I think the problem the apps and online dating (or at least I found anyway) is that you get so used to swiping away, having several conversations on the go that you lose that respect in giving someone your undivided attention.
Even when you meet up with them, in the back of your mind you know you've got a couple of others on the go in case whoever's in front of you doesn't work out. When you're introduced to someone through a mutual friend you almost feel more inclined to give it a proper go, rather than jumping into an Uber to get home and start swiping again when the chat isn't flowing as smoothly as you had hoped.
I guess my way of trying to avoid wasting any time I decided when using the apps that whoever I was talking to I would aim to meet them within the first week.
I am a big believer in chemistry, someone can have great chat and you can be having conversations for weeks before meeting up to find you just don't have that chemistry. What a waste of time that is.
I've had friends chat to guys and girls for months and months, investing so much time into a person they had never met. They would spend hours each night chatting back and fourth even getting to the point or chatting on the phone but never actually meeting up. They would get into this false state where they believed they were actually in some kind of relationship with this stranger.
I had one friend who did this for over 6 months with two different guys. Finally when she did met up with them, she had so much self doubt that she wouldn't live up to their expectations so she threw herself at them and slept with them on the first date. Both guys were never heard from again.
She was devastated, she felt she had broken up with someone she really cared about, but in my mind she had only really known the guys that one night. Anyone can pretend to be what they want to be while hiding behind a key board.
It really made me angry to see her so upset over these players but it happens so often I think everyone just needs to be a bit smarter about how they are using these apps.
Safety is also something I feel needs to be taken a bit more seriously with the online dating world. Whenever I went on a date with someone online I was always cautious. I would usually start with just a coffee date, at one of my busy local cafes and I would tell a friend all the details of where when who etc and even get them to give me a call in the first hour just to make sure everything was OK. Maybe I was being over cautious but I did a lot of my dating overseas and I just wanted to be safe rather than sorry.
The way I met my fiance I believe, could be the way forward.
RELATED: Column Five: The moment Fiona realised she was gay
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Hayley one day "slid into my DM's" - or better explained by saying she sent me a private message on Instagram asking me out for a drink. It was short, simple and straight to the point.
Hayley has an open profile so I was able to have "a good stalk" - aka go as deep as I could into her profile - and from that I was able to get a pretty good indication of the kind of person she was.
There were photos with her family, her dogs, her friends, I could see she liked to go camping, she looked happy, friendly and normal - she ticked a lot of boxes. I agreed to go on a date with her but I was overseas at the time so we spent some time chatting online.
We kept our conversation pretty limited though, I guess we both didn't want to pour too much hope and effort into something in case it didn't work out when I returned to Oz. When we finally did meet it up it was amazing, and here we are shoulders deep in wedding mags as we plan our special day.
What I think made it special is that Hayley picked me out of the hundreds of thousands, millions, of people out there on Instagram to chat to.
It was ballsy and I respected that, her confident and no fuss approach had me interested from the start.
In an age where we seem to find ourselves so time poor, it was perfect. Of course there will be people out there trying to sleep their way through each city, but one thing I always told myself was to remember that if I was on there looking for someone special, there had to be someone else like me out there doing the same.
I know a lot of people who have found "the one" online so for anyone who has given up I say just keep trying.
Fiona Falkiner is a model, presenter and former Biggest Loser contestant. Follow her journey on Instagram @fionafalkiner.