The old theory goes that if you see an ad in the newspaper that reads “Box of Free Cats,” no one will want them. Yet, if you see an ad that reads “Cats: $5 each,” people will be interested.
I've always viewed Online Dating as a box of free cats. Even though many advised that I try Online Dating, I was always put off by match.com and eharmony because these sites take away the mystery behind the opposite sex. Who doesn't love the feeling in the beginning where they wonder if someone notices them? Here, everyone is online for the same reason, and you get their life story in 2,000 characters or less on their home page (plus, a catchy headline).
Yet, I entered into a virtual singles' bar out of curiosity and quiet desperation for change. As it turns out, I've grown more confused about seeking a potential mate as well as disgusted with myself for being judgmental throughout the entire process (even if these sites facilitate judgement).
At its core, Online Dating is designed to exist as a process of natural selection where only the ridiculously hot and wealthy survive. It's almost like a catalog. You get elaborate descriptions of the individuals and a score sheet to see how you'd match up with someone, along with pictures of everything from men and their favorite pet (from my experience, usually cats) and a drunken night with friends. Although you can find yourself feeling critical and even a bit self-righteous, these feelings are encouraged on dating web sites. Without being super selective and over analytical, women and men would be in hundreds of online relationships. Even though Online Dating is supposed to make the entire courtship process easier, I find it just as confusing as dating in person.
Here are Eight Reasons Why Online Dating is just as Complicated as “Real Life” Dating:
1. Pictures of men taking pictures of themselves in the mirror.
While dating web sites are supposed to be a safe and more sophisticated way to meet people online, these types of pictures drag the whole network down to myspace quality. The men or women who take these photos might be really nice and great catches, but I'll never know because of my initial first impression. The same goes for body flex pics (men in the buff in the mirror — a double whammy!). Not only does the guy look vain, but sometimes in the pose, downright goofy.
2. No photo provided.
These kind of photos (or lack thereof) make things socially awkward for interested parties. The people who don't provide photos often write in their profile “If you're really interested in me, a photo won't matter” or “I can provide a photo if you request one.” So if you request a photo and are not initially attracted, you seem shallow.
3. The “winks.”
Let me preface this by saying I've never winked at anyone in my entire life (although the occasional involuntary eye twitch might confuse onlookers). I feel like “winks” (a virtual gesture — meaning someone is winking at you in the vortex of computer space) are the ultimate display of passive aggression. “I won't talk to you in a private forum where the pressure is off, but I can send you 12 kilobytes of nothing to your inbox.” I actually conversed with a guy in a chat and then didn't hear from him for a couple of weeks, until he sent me a “wink.” I thought to myself, “So it's already come to this? Back to strangers, not really winking at each other?”
4. Debbie Downer headlines.
So many of the men's profiles I read seem to be feeling sorry for themselves and selling themselves short. Most often I read, “Nice Guy Who Finishes Last,” or “Giving this a shot after some bad luck.” Already, I feel like I've gotten into some excess baggage before I've even corresponded with this person. I think highlighting the best someone has to offer or maybe even a thoughtful description of one's self would be better. Maybe even a favorite quote. However, there is such a thing as over-boastfulness. “Prince Charming has an address” sounds arrogant, cliche, and frankly, a false advertisement.
5. Emails that talk of “fate” and “destiny.”
In the Bible, Jesus warned of false prophets: “Many will claim to be Me.” While surely the apostles did not intend for their passages to connect to online dating hookups, strangely enough, the same quote applies. Some men have claimed in messages to me that it was “fate” and that they had been looking for someone matching my description their “whole life.” With more than one man making this claim, how am I supposed to know who's serious and who's just another faker like David Koresh (read: not Jesus)? While flattering, it's a bit overwhelming (especially in an introductory email).
6. Predefined rejections.
To me, it makes dating seem like a business or company. We've all received predefined rejection responses from jobs. They're cold and empty. So, is it better to ignore people you aren't interested in or send them a predefined response you put no thought or heart into? Even if I'm not initially interested in someone who emails me, I always feel like I want to email him back because he actually took the time to respond to my profile. In my world, this is being friendly. In the online dating world, this is leading someone on.
While you risk being stalked in “real life” dating, with Online Dating your information is out there for hundreds to possibly thousands of people to see. I had someone write to me that they googled my screenname to find my personal blog. When I tried it myself to see how he did it, I was unable to find it, which frightened me. Online Dating gives yourself a bigger venue to work with when it comes to opening yourself up to potential nutbars.
8. Online Dating is a business.
Even though it's nice to think of dating web sites as a magical castle of serendipity and knights in shining armor, it's really just a business. I noticed that once I unsubscribed, the web site started to send me more attractive matches to try to lure me back. Plus, even after I deactivated, I still received emails about people interested in me, with one saying “He chose YOU!”
The way I see it, dating will just continue to get more complicated, whether it's performed online or in “real life.” History has dictated this progression. In Jane Austen's time, women and men's relationships were set up for them (and even that was complicated). Once freewill was applied to dating, all bets were off. Even though modern courting will continue to get more convoluted, we can take vintage dating techniques and apply them into our current love lives. Personally, I'd much rather go the way of stationary and letter-writing of yesteryear, similar to the love letters F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald shared with one another. I wish they had a web site that set up dating through snail mail. After all, fifty years from now, who is going to want to read the book, The Collected Emails between Megan and her BF?