For years, internet dating carried a stigma of cybersex and anonymity that made it a scorned and potentially risky venture. But we now find ourselves in an age where technology is embraced as a part of our lives, rather than a geeky substitute for it. As the century turned, so did attitudes towards internet dating, which over the last decade has evolved from strangers meeting up in a text chat room to a true online matchmaking business model.

Looks like she got my e-mail...

Looks like someone got my e-mail!

I’ve tried online dating in the past with little success, but in fairness I was using the free dating site  I imagine online dating is like any other service, in that you get what you pay for as well as what you put into it. I ended up going on a handful of dates over the course of several years, and while I didn’t collect any horror stories, I also didn’t make any connections beyond casual friendship. Still, in my experience I didn’t come across anybody too weird or out of the ordinary.

Being a man, though, I’m at a unique advantage since I’m not exposed to the darker side of dating, online or otherwise. There’s no denying that guys have a much deeper capacity to be creeps than women, particularly when it comes to the internet. While I certainly wouldn’t say that women are always more adept at romance and dating (see yesterday’s post), men are more apt to commit embarrassing faux pas that create painfully awkward first impressions.

Still, I couldn’t help but be apprehensive towards the idea of jumping head first into the internet dating pool. A free site like OKCupid was one thing; I never paid for it and thus never took it seriously. Using a paid service with the intended goal of finding my life partner is a horse of a different color and one I’m not sure I wanted to ride. So I turned to some good friends – as well as my followers on Twitter – to see if my fears could be dissuaded or if they’d simply be reinforced.

For Simpler Living blogger Naomi Seldin, provided her with the worst dating experience of her adult life. The man she met was noticeably heavier and older than he was in his profile picture, which is a baffling practice considering the aim of the site is to transition to an actual one on one encounter. As they were ordering coffee, he told her he was going to wait outside due to the presence of a woman he had once gone on a blind date with. Naturally, he did this before the transaction was completed, which left poor Naomi to settle the bill.

LEFT: What Naomi saw on her date's online profile. RIGHT: What she met instead.

Even Naomi, though, admits the experience wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And others I’ve talked to may not have had the greatest dates, but they didn’t have any horrible stories to tell either. The risk of spectacular failure or anecdotes resulting from a calamitous encounter is no greater than it is than it is out in the real world (a phrase I was hesitant to employ due to the ever-increasing prevalence of online communication in our day to day lives).

In fact, the success rate amongst people I know has been pretty good. The two people I know that have been in the longest relationships (that aren’t currently engaged or married) both met their significant others through In fact my friend Maeve, who was always notoriously picky when it comes to men, ended up in a long-term relationship with the second date she went on through the service. Her and her significant other, Seth, have been together now for almost three years. Additionally, Twitter followers @AngelosTzelepis and @TheresaJDRFneny both met their respective spouses on Yes, they’re those stories you see on television.

So what is it about online dating that makes it so much more successful amongst my contemporaries? The pre-screening process. While the first date is still more of an introductory exercise, there’s not as much awkward small-talk to find out what a person does for a living, what kind of a background they have, or what they want out of a relationship. It’s all there on their profile for your review and scrutiny. There may be a tendency amongst some to exaggerate or misrepresent themselves in these profiles, but plenty of folks do the same thing without the use of a computer.

There are, however, the right way and wrong way to go about this thing. From the friends I’ve seen who have had success with services like and eHarmony, I can gather the following are the keys to success:

  1. Be yourself and be honest. Any façade that you try to put up is going to be burst on that first encounter, so really you’re just wasting your time and theirs.
  2. Use a current picture. Again, you’re only going to fool people so long as it takes for you to meet them. We can talk about how “looks shouldn’t matter,” but they do and more importantly so does honesty (see: number 1).
  3. If you don’t have any interests or hobbies, just say so or go develop some. If you say you like hiking and fishing and haven’t done so when you were 8, you’re going to have egg on your face when she shows up in Timberlands and carrying a net.
  4. Don’t pontificate. Leave some room for discussion when you finally meet someone.
  5. Be patient! Just like the real world, you can get lucky on the first date (NOT LIKE THAT YOU PERV), but most likely you’ll have to put in some work to find the person that’s right for you.

So why don’t I try this online dating thing? It should seem like a no-brainer. My friends have had a lot of success with it and have urged me to try it out on more than one occasion.  I’ve even received comments and messages regarding the blog post suggesting as such. I could say that I’m no good at selling myself, or that I find that I have a lot of trouble reading people when I don’t have them right in front of me. I could come up with a million excuses for why I don’t use these services, and they’d all be just that: excuses.

As for the real reason, I can’t definitively say. It could be any number of things including but not limited to ideas I had about internet dating going into this project. In the process of talking with people and writing this post, however, most of those preconceived notions have been shattered.  So why am I still so hesitant to sign up for  After much thought and self-reflection, I can only come to one conclusion.

I’m afraid it’ll work.

Tomorrow (the finale): WHAT DO WE WANT?

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21 Responses to The Not So Scary World of Online Dating

  1. Naomi Seldin says:

    A date with Wilford Brimley might be fun, actually. At least until he started hitting me with his cane.

    (also: OMG, Jon Hamm!) did provide me with a pretty bad date (and a good story), but I also know people who’ve used it successfully. My sister met her husband on Myspace (kids: It was kind of like Facebook, but with glitter and for old people). My mother is dating a nice man she met on Whatever works, people.

  2. tassiegrl says:

    My experience with on-line dating (paid and free sites) led to 35 first dates over 18 months. Of those, about half resulted in follow up dates, but only 1 turned into a great friend and none developed into an intimate relationship. You may get better “quality” on the paid sites (read: less men who are in relationships but are secretly looking for something on the side) but I found e-harmony to be a waste of money.

    After a year and a half of the on-line dating experience, I’ve pulled my ads to prevent me from getting jaded and bitter about the process.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I had a lot of fun doing Match. I never did meet the man of my dreams (if there is such a thing) but I had a lot of great dates and did date a few people more than once.

    I did date one guy for a couple of months though before his red flags started waving. Phillipe (not his real name) was the first guy I met through Match that I wanted to see again. He was funny, interesting and made me feel beautiful. We dated for a little while before he confessed to me that he had ADHD. I was fine with it, didn’t think it was a big deal. Then a couple of months into dating, he hit a rough financial patch and couldn’t afford his medication. Being a single mom with two kids I wasn’t exactly well off myself but I felt for the guy so after one date at his house I left money in his bathroom (that probably should have been a red flag for myself, the need to leave money in someone’s bathroom because you feel sorry for them)

    Then on our next date, I showed up to his house and his apartment was in shambles. He had decided to clean because I’m a bit of a neat freak and to do so, he apparently decided to empty every drawer, surface and shelf and put everything on the floor. Then, being off his medication, he got distracted and overwhelmed and left everything on the floors. He literally had to carve a path through stuff for me to get into the apartment. Red flag, no?

    I ended that one shortly after the cleaning incident.

  4. Laurel says:

    I dabbled in online dating a few years ago, and there were two things that repeatedly irked me. The first was terribly-written profiles. Obviously not everyone writes well, but I do think that we probably all learned about capitalization and spell-check somewhere along the line. It makes me wonder how much someone cares about themselves (and how seriously they’re taking their dating search) if they feel it’s okay to use a profile that looks like it was written by a drunken six year old to sell their finer traits.

    The second was guys who used current pictures of themselves, but didn’t bother to crop out the hot girls hanging all over them. Maybe it’s a self-esteem issue on my part, but knowing before we meet that you already have a bevy of babes to sit on your lap doesn’t exactly scream “ready for commitment” to me.

  5. Awesomedude says:

    Or you’re afraid it might generate some blog posts that aren’t as grandiloquent…

  6. derryX says:

    I made an okcupid comment, and low and behold, it told me that I am 91% match with one of my very good girl friends. That was probably the biggest kick in the pants of the whole thing!

    I’ve been talking to a few people and tossing messages back and forth. I mean, I’m taking it for what it is, and, as I am with everything, I am cautious, because I do realize that “The Internet” is a pretty big barrier to hide behind.

    I also think I’m no good at selling myself, that’s why I’m reluctant to do the thing where you pay. I don’t know. I think the persona I convey on the internet and in person are close to the same, but I feel like I’m alot less inhibited in person if I’m comfortable, so I feel like I can’t do a profile justice.

    That’s just about all I have for my stream of consciousness comment…

  7. LV says:

    I spent a year on and went on a bunch of mediocre dates that never turned into anything. I spent one night on Craigslist looking for a desk and wound up in a 2-year relationship. Dating is a total crapshoot.

  8. Rose and I met on just over four years ago. We just celebrated our fourth anniversary on Tuesday. One thing I would like to add to this thread for those real world dating or online dating is be brutally honest. Be open and upfront about everything from day one. It will make your life a whole lot easier.

  9. Erin L says:

    I met my first boyfriend online when I was 14 (about 11 years ago), way before it was popular to date online. We just hit it off and ended up in a very harmless, g-rated relationship. It was a fantastic experience though, we are still friends to this day and I continued to use it when the pool seemed a little lackluster in my day-to-day goings. I’ve made many good friends there and even had a few good relationships, and only one disaster date involving a Jehovah’s Witness who drank too much and ended up clinging to me like a dryer sheet.

    The guy I’m currently seeing now I met on OKCupid; personally, I don’t find OKC much different from the other paid services, although I would suspect that it’s more appropriate for students or young professionals than the older folk at this point, given the fact that most people on the site seem to be in their 20s and 30s.

    You should give online dating a shot if you really are looking for something. It has its advantages and disadvantages, but you may be surprised by what you find.

  10. Cute~Ella says:

    @derryx who ever could that be? I suppose that just goes to show that there’s some accuracy to those things!

    I’ve dabbled with online dating on and off for many years. It started as a joke from a cousin who didn’t like my then boyfriend. I didn’t even know she had posted it until I started getting messages via AIM! Long stories short, I’ve met some great guys, some real creeps and some with no personality to speak of…had some great times, some awful moments and have some good stories to tell. Be brave, do it – but be safe/careful and the worst that can happen is that it works.

    And feel free to run any profiles you’d like by me. I have a great “SHE’S CRAZY/BAD NEWS/SHE SLEPT WITH MY BROTHER” reads on them.

    As a side, I met my boyfriend online – through our blogs after I had paid for 3 months worth of Match.

  11. Sue says:

    I’ve been using online dating for about a year, and have profiles at several sites (both paid and free). I’ve gone on a number of dates that went nowhere, a few that went somewhere and made some good friends.

    I met the guy I’m currently seeing on POF is a free site that offers services (like emailing users) that the paid sites will charge for. There are a lot more people on the free sites (makes sense) – so statistically, I guess there’d be more of ‘those’ people out there. But like anything else, there are quality people and they are worth looking for.

    I try to think of online dating as one more way to meet cool people. And there’s no reason reason to limit the ways we can find cool people, right?!

  12. GenWar says:

    I have consistently had very poor service from every online dating service I have every tried. Most never let me past the ‘registration’ screen declaring me 100% unmatchable because I am in a special (and not so unique) group.

    Frankly I was offended and have sworn off all of them as a result. Some people on twitter even said there are special sites for “people like (me)” which I find all the more offensive.

    So, no, given my experiences, I cannot recommend online dating.


  13. Tom Brophy says:

    I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I found a person who could come between me and my shadow, seven foot tall and a mute able to handle a chain saw and weighing in at 110lbs. Hair color not important. Think I got a shot?

  14. Tom – that woman has messaged me several times on

  15. Courtney says:

    I met Tom (my husband) on He was actually the only guy I met on that site who I went on an actual in person date with. He paid, I didn’t. He is *so* unlike any other guy that I had ever dated, that I am not sure how we would have met any other way. My sister also met her husband online (not on a dating website, but in an online game) and my aunt also met her husband through a dating website (not sure which one). It has really become normal, which is interesting to me. When Tom and I were first dating (7 years ago, wow) it was sort of embarrassing to tell people where we had met. Now we don’t even hesitate, no one bats an eyelash.

  16. Ski says:

    The advice I give to every one when it comes to online dating, is you need to go in with a sense of humor. If you sign up and expect to find the love of your life, a bad date can be absolutely heart breaking. But if you go in with the mind set, that you’re ready to meet new people, I find it’s a much more rewarding experience.

  17. Noficazal says:

    I have only tried free online sites, mostly because of my rather bleak outlook on their success. If you don’t think something will work, you are less likely to want to spend money on it. I think I am too honest in my profiles, scaring people away. The only semi-connection I have had at all through any of the dating sites, okcupid, lavalife, mingles …. has been with a Russian lady that needs me to send money for her to visit me here in the US. In case it is not obvious, this is pretty much one of the main dating scams on is apt to run into from research.

  18. Sally says:

    I’ve been on, and eharmony. The worst of all was Jdate.
    I met Adam and things went well for a bit until I realized the chemistry was off and broke things off. Then I found out that he was dating two other girls.

    Which leads me to the point that you must trust your gut with these things and that if you don’t feel the chemistry is right, don’t go any further. No matter what the website says about how perfect you are for each other, you are the judge of what’s right for you.

    In the end, I’m still on the internet sites looking for a guy. Maybe I’ll find him there and maybe I won’t. But I’ve put myself out there.

  19. Lauren says:

    I’m quite thankful for internet dating. Otherwise I would not have met my fiance, who lived across town at the time.
    He was new to Albany and neither of us went to bars “hooking” for dates, so the internet was great. It’s going on two years now. :)
    Ironically, we had both just about “given up” on looking and he sent me a message and we just clicked and let it go from there.
    It was amazing and a total cliche, cause I suddenly found out what “feeling like I’ve known you my whole life” felt like.

    I had some icky dates with liars and cheaters BEFORE I met him though, I’ll admit. It is easier to lie on the web, but as long as you meet up front and can make your own estimation at someone’s honesty and character, I think it’s a great way to meet people.

  20. As #8 (Michael) said – we met on 4 years ago.

    For someone who wants to take online dating seriously I do suggest biting the bullet and paying for First off you’re more apt to meet someone else who’s serious about it. Second off, if you’re going to pay for a site, pay for the one that’s most heavily advertised and has the most traffic.

    I also agree, be brutally honest.

    Another tip – when I participated in online dating the first time I quickly learned that some guys out there just “picture shop” and send you messages, winks, etc. based on your picture. It was blatantly obvious that many of them hadn’t read a word of my profile. So my 2nd go around I set up my account so that no picture showed in the search, but there were pictures inside my post. So that weeded out the window shoppers, but if someone was serious they were able to find the picture to see if they were attracted after they read my profile.

    I won’t lie and say all my dates were wonderful, but there was only 1 REAL PSYCHO, 1 weirdo, 1 cheap as hell creep and the rest were very cool. In fact – one of the guys I dated works at the TU and invited me to his wedding a couple years after our date :) So obviously I made some very good friends in the process as well :)

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