So, I've decided to give this online dating thing a try. Plenty of my friends have tried it, many of whom have been successful at finding quality, non-psycho men who are now long-term boyfriends, life partners, and even husbands. This fact gives me hope that I, too, might find some interesting people who, at worst, might stare at me while I eat food with them and, at best, might become romantic partners whom I could share my life with. However, being naive to this whole process until now has brought me to ask some interesting questions:
First, what *can't* you do online? In a society that increasingly relies on the internet to do all sorts of things that once seemed outlandish (e.g., choose your favorite wedding package at a Sandals Resort), I wonder if there is any life activity that will remain untouched by cyberspace access. If I can buy everything I need from amazon.com, get campusfood.com to deliver me a late dinner at work, and get a college degree over the internet, I guess it seems silly for me to have to go to a bar/coffeeshop/party/etc. to meet a flesh-n-blood man.
Second, does online dating spare me any of the "hassle" of traditional dating approaches? It seems that the appeal of online dating is that it takes some of the "work" out of the whole process. You know, you don't have to go to a sweaty club and have some nasty guy hit on you or grind up on you on the dance floor (please see "gazelle" discussion in Tranny Got Pack post below for more info on this). You don't have to flirt inappropriately or make some big scene to get someone's interest. Instead, you get a bunch of pictures of strangers who apparently fit your search criteria for "the perfect match" so you can pick and choose at your leisure. But, I don't think that having access to all of these people at your fingertips really makes dating any easier. First, you've got a-holes like Dr. Phil preying on people who are lonely and can't seem to find their "someone," telling them what to do, how to do it, why they are still single, etc. What the hell does Dr. Phil know about dating, anyway? Apparently he is a clinical psychologist, but I'm pretty sure his dissertation was *not* entitled "Mind. Find. Bind.: How to find your perfect online dating match." Then, you've got all this winking crap. I don't respond well to men who wink at me in person, much less over the internet. It actually kind of creeps me out. (Although, at least this way you know the guy is actually winking at you and doesn't just have a nervous twitch or something caught in his eye!) And God forbid you have the chat option, where people can just try to chat with you whenever you're logged into the website. I might be old-fashioned, but I'll just stick with the standard emails of interest, thank you. As far as I can tell, there's still a whole lot of awkward conversation and bullshit that goes along with this whole online dating thing. Not to mention the creepy/stalker factor. Maybe that's not such an issue for men (I don't know), but if the scary 52-year-old guy holding a creepy black cat and the I'm-going-to-masturbate-to-your-picture-later look on his face winks at me one more time, I'm going to end this shit before I even really begin! (Sadly, I'm not making this up, either.)
Third, are profiles of these potential "matches" ever really accurate? I might be privy to some classified information as a social psychologist, but I'm pretty sure that everyone embellishes their profile. EVERYONE overestimates how awesome they are. If you ask a group of people to estimate the proportion of work that they did towards the completion of a group project, the sum of those proportions is ALWAYS going to be more than 100%. So, if everyone thinks they're better than they are and doing more than what they actually do, how is anyone else supposed to know if a person would be a good match based on a profile they wrote? What I also know as a social psychologist is that other people are better judges of our personalities than we are (I say this realizing that there really is no true, objective measure of one's personality). That is, 4 other people who rate me on a variety of personality characteristics will have more consistency in their observations of me than I will in estimating my own traits. What this means is that we never really know what type of person we are...at least in thinking about how others are going to perceive us. So, perhaps the best and most honest approach would be to have good friends write profiles for us.
Then there's always the issue about what to write. You have to come up with some cute, catchy title for your profile, which more times than not, is not terribly interesting. I figured out that you're basically screwed no matter what you write. If you put the standard "Hey, look at me"-type title, it seems desperate or bland. If you write something more catchy, it might come off as corney. Then it's on to your profile. Instead of filling in information for fields like "favorite things" or "interests," it might be more informative to have people complete questions like "What the fuck did you do to screw up your last relationship?," "Most annoying habit(s)," and "Relationship baggage." Yes, everyone likes to watch movies and is "laid-back"...I get it. (I'll admit, I think I wrote "easy-going" in mine...) That's not terribly informative as I wade through cyberspace bachelors. What I do want to know is the "dirt," the things that will be big, red flags to alert me to stay away and avoid wasting my time...or worse, getting my heart broken.
Fourth, do we ever really know what we want in a match? Or better yet, what we need? If everyone knew what to put in their search criteria in order to find their perfect partner, match.com would be bankrupt. I don't doubt that we know what we *want*, but these things may not necessarily be the things that we *need.* I can certainly say that my search terms would never have included some qualities and characteristics that I now know I need based on my experience with standard, old-fashioned dating. I might be a traditionalist, but I think that this at-your-fingertips list of eligible bachelors prevents us from meeting people who would probably be our best matches simply because our search terms are wrong. This approach also makes it easy to think that your perfect match can be labeled or categorized easily based on hair color, interests, or religion. I might be a "tall, dark, and handsome" kind of gal, but maybe my perfect match is short, blonde, and quite average--I might never know this if my search is too constrained. So, I've decided to take the inclusive approach...cast a wide net. But, I do have my standards. Here's what seems to make sense right now:
a) Minimum college education. Progressive, egalitarian men, tend to be educated, although I have certainly met men who prove me wrong on this assumption.
b) No more than one spelling/grammar error in the profile. If you don't know the difference between their/there, than/then or can't figure out how to use spell check, then I don't want to date you.
c) No mention of princes/princesses, white horses, chivalry, etc. Benevolent sexism is soooo last century. I know plenty of men with whom I could be barefoot & pregnant, thank you.
d) Absolutely no pictures of you with your shirt off, flexing your big biceps, or posing in front of your car.
e) If you can't think of more than 4 sentences to write about yourself, then I doubt you'll have more than that to say to me on a date.
With all of these questions in mind, all I've got to say is "It's a jungle out there." Suddenly I realize why my non-feminist friends questioned me so severely when I decided to become un-engaged...
"You DO know how hard it is out here, don't you?"