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.
I’ve tried online dating in the past with little success, but in fairness I was using the free dating site OKCupid.com. 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, Match.com 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.
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 Match.com. 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 Match.com. 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 Match.com and eHarmony, I can gather the following are the keys to success:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Don’t pontificate. Leave some room for discussion when you finally meet someone.
- 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 Match.com? 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?
- Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye…
- Listen to me LIVE as guest co-host of Alternative to Sleeping tonight at 10pm!
- Realtors: “WAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH” George Hearst III: “NONONOO SSSSHHH IT’S OKAY, it’s okay…here. Here’s a pacifier.” Kristi: “#oops.”
- Open Mic web series premiere tonight @ Lark Tavern
- Trust Me, You’re Going to Want to See This