There was a time when I thought online dating was great. Really, what could be better? A sea of single people waiting to meet someone else and I get to choose what they can know about me. I can pick the best picture of myself, make myself mysterious…people will like me for me because I’m showing just what I want. And to be honest, I did have reasonable success with it early on, meeting a girl that I ended up being with for two years. After we broke up, I tried it again with no success. My perspective had changed, and so did my belief in online dating.
Online dating to me is the worst way to go about meeting someone special. It basically strips away all that is special about meeting someone new and replaces it with standard page templates and canned responses. Dating involves several interesting experiences all rolled into one; you miss these with online dating.
Chance. One of the things I love most about dating is the aspect of chance. You never know where you’re going to meet that special someone, and I find that incredibly exciting. It may be at the grocery store that we first meet. Perhaps it’s through a mutual friend. Maybe you accidentally walk right into each other on the street. That first meeting is something that is incredibly special to me…I love the storyline and imagine telling my kids about how I met their mother. I may not even know if she’s single; she may even have a boyfriend yet somehow we end up together. There’s always something romantic about these encounters and I love people hearing the stories of how they met. Online dating completely strips this experience away from us. There’s no such thing as a chance encounter online, only a catalog of people that you already know are single.
Impulse. Another exciting part of dating is the impulsiveness of it all. Someone walks by and you find yourself drawn to him or her. You have no idea why, and maybe this person isn’t even your type, yet your impulses tell you that this person is for you. The truth is that most people cannot describe what they want when you ask them, and this is not limited to dating. Product researchers have learned time and time again that you can ask people what they want and deliver exactly that, only to have the very same people decide that they don’t like it. We typically have an idea in our head of who we want to date, but who we will date is something different. When you search an online dating site, you’re excluding a lot of people who you might actually consider dating in real life. Just because you prefer brunettes doesn’t mean you won’t date a blonde (most of the time), and how young is too young really? Two years? Five? You may not even notice a person’s age in person. I’ve always said that I hated tattoos on girls and was disgusted by smoking, so my searches online would be for non-smokers who didn’t have tattoos. My last girlfriend turned out to have three tattoos, including one that took up her entire upper left arm, and smoked like a chimney. I never would have even been presented with her on an online dating site yet in real life, we hit it off almost instantly. And despite my saying I’d never date a girl who smoked, I found myself swept up into this relationship.
Activity. One of the most important parts of meeting someone new is, to me, that you must be active to do it. Prospective dates won’t often come to your door while you’re at home. If you want to meet someone, you should be going out and doing different things: taking classes, exploring hobbies, seeing shows. Online dating is passive and, in fact, you need to be tied to a computer (likely inside) to do it. In my mind, it encourages you to withdraw. The more time you spend in front of the computer, the more likely you are to find someone, right? It’s a little like ordering from a catalog instead of going to the store. You’ll never develop better social skills by sitting in front of a computer; it’s social skills that you need to develop to meet more people. Most of us spend way too much time in front of a computer, why add to it?
Honesty. This is one of my biggest complaints about online dating: the amount of lying that goes on. You can’t be sure that the person in the photo is actually the person you’re talking to until you meet. Many people use old photos that show them thinner, happier, or in better shape. Then you meet in real life and it’s clear that this is not the person you were expecting. This isn’t to say that people don’t lie in person, just that it’s harder. Your out there, you look the way you look, you sound the way you sound, and everything is spontaneous. It’s easy to sound classy and interesting via email when you have the benefit of Internet searches and spell check, it’s much harder in person. I find the real-life interaction to be a much more honest one, and therefore more enjoyable.
If you want to meet someone, get out into the world and away from your computer. Create a life for yourself outside of your apartment or house walls. That’s where other people are so that’s where you’ll find them.