I Might Settle for You

According to a recent surge of advertising, online dating is reaching new heights of success.  One Match.com ad claims that 1 in 5 new relationships are started through such virtual means. While this stat is exaggerated, there is definitely a burgeoning interest in the world of internet mate-matching.  Though, hesitance is still prevalent, and there are plenty of reasons.

I was an early bird to the world of virtual communication with strangers.  Many in my generation (unofficially named after The Simpsons) were. Logging into a gardening chat room with a couple friends and telling someone asking for advice on planting tulips that you wanted to “press your lightsaber into their darkside” was just our version of having a laugh in the early 2000s. Today communicating online has never been more serious. Drunken Facebook status updates and books of Sarah Palin poetry compiled from sent e-mails are just a couple examples of how things can go terribly awry.

Maybe that’s part of the reason internet dating hasn’t really evolved to the point it should have by now, everything is logged. Do you really want to put your face out there and catalogue your person into a biography and a set of stats?  How dehumanizing! At the same time, places like eHarmony, Lavalife, Plentyoffish, OKCupid and a bajillion gay dating websites seem to be doing quite well.  So, what’s preventing the rest of us from getting out there?

(Pic via Darrell’s Blog)

Many people are still waiting for that special kind of feeling to come around. Banter, the tingle of excitement that someone new and interesting brings to your daydreams, discovering weird things about a person that you’re oddly fine with, the second time you have sex… There are great things to be experienced when you meet a prospective partner with whom you share a unique chemistry. After all, life is easier when you have someone around to motivate you to live it; and in the end, does it really matter where you meet that individual?

There are always bars; though how often does that work out? There’s the workplace; but how many times can you shit where you eat? The subway pickup is generally ill-advised… So, what about the internet?

In an age where information technology links us all together, where some of our most important interpersonal interactions are non-verbal, one would think it would be easy to meet someone online. Somebody who lives up to your intellectual and media-induced superficiality should just be a click away. I figure that if I can order groceries online, if 99% of the parties I know about are through Facebook, if I can work from home through it, why can’t I date here? That’s what computers are supposed to do, make things simpler for us apparently highly evolved primates.

However, in regards to meeting people, it’s not yet the case.  In fact, it’s just about as difficult, just in a different way. This is partially because many who have not journeyed down the Yellow Net Road fear the ability of others to lie online. As someone who has travelled it, I can confirm that those concerns are at least somewhat warranted. Still, that’s not the whole problem.

Much like the invention of the dildo, which came about to treat women’s hysteria, online dating can be a wonderful thing for the single people of the world. We just need to learn how to use it right. I will admit that my expertise on the subject would lead me to say that there are a lot of duds to sift through currently. I may even be one of them. Though, there are definitely some gems out there. A friend of mine met a girl a while back on Lavalife.  They ended up moving in together and dating for three years. They found love… on the web. I’ve also heard many other success stories through acquaintances as well as coming close myself. So, it is possible.

Beyond the shame of “giving up on the real world”, a lot of the negative stigma comes from the fact that many use the internet to disguise what may be important aspects of themselves. Whether it be cleverly angled photos to mask that extra arm flab or just writing about themselves as if they’re someone fictional, people aren’t always proud of who they really are.

In juxtaposition, I hear from many of the girls I know who dabble in online dating that men are often disgustingly open. They will message women initially with things like “Hey baby, wanna fuck?” or “I’m hot. You’re hot.  Why aren’t we going out?”.

Here is my favourite Tweetette, sharing some of her experiences:

While this may be an honest portrayal of what many men want, women already know that the male gender is generally out there for one thing. It becomes too honest when one is so direct. That being said, we’re not all like that. While everyone should be open about what they’re looking for, it’s more easily expressed on your profile – i.e. by stating that you’re only looking for “short-term/casual dating” – and as one clever Lavalife ad portrays, it is in fact possible to say what you’re looking for:

Without getting into stories of kidnap and flat out misrepresentation of ones’ self, there are other legitimate reasons to be wary of meeting strangers on the interwebs. A recent BBC article exposed almost outrageous numbers relating to people in the UK being scammed out of money by partners they’d met online. The piece identifies 592 victims between 2010 and 2011 and claims to project 200,000 scammed in total. Again, I’m doubtful of the numbers, but dater beware: There are sharks in this sea.

In addition to the fear, there are standards to consider. If I were to average my view of the perfect girl on what the internet tells me is available, she would be fat. Not that there’s anything wrong with chubby chasers and/or people who like ass. My personal preference just happens to lie in the opposite weight class. My friends often criticize me for being overly shallow. They also say I have strange taste – “Potato sack torsos on skinny legs” is one comment that comes to mind. The truth of the matter is that everyone has their own preferences and there’s very little we can do about it.

Perhaps I take the advice of those close to me too much, but in that vein (and direct opposition to my instincts) I recently set out to attempt to change my ingrained mating inclinations. It started in the winter when I was seeing someone who met my “checklist”: Sarcastic – check, Slim – check, Has a penchant for rock music – check, Pro-choice – check! The only problem was that I didn’t really feel it. However, after an extended conversation on the matter with one of my friends, they convinced me that I’m always looking for reasons to flee from relationships. So I stuck with it. It ended a month later…  During the summer, I attempted to take the physicality aspect of my inclination out of it. That just straight-up (literally) didn’t work. Folks, be as shallow as you should be. The point I’m trying to make here is that no matter where you meet someone, at a party or on your laptop, they’re going to have to live up to what you want in a partner.  If they don’t, you won’t stay happy.

To answer the earlier question of ‘Why not date online?’, you can – just be cautious about it. Even moreso, be cynical. We all control our online existence. We untag pictures, delete posts after we’ve thought about them awhile, use pseudonyms; the internet is a world we create from the vainest place possible, our sense of self. As long as more people continue to experiment with dating sites as a viable tool to meet new people, I believe that the levels of honesty and appropriate directness will improve. Everyone has strange tastes and standards and with enough of the single “market” exploring online means, even with partial legitimacy, those masking their fears of personal inadequacy will start to see that such practices lack purpose. They will not find what they’re looking for when it comes time to meet in-person, and will probably be equally disappointing in the eyes of who they are meeting.

As for me, I will continue to be as revealing as I am in real life; as are more than a third of the people I’ve communicated with virtually. The experiment hasn’t resulted in that wonderful opportunity yet, but that applies to both worlds. I don’t want to end up in some sort of catastrophic web of lies, so I’m going to keep being honest without being a sleaze.  Hopefully the rest will soon follow and allow the world of analogue love & lust to enter the digital.

About Seamus Gearin

Séamus once found a $100 bill and gave it to the first person who passed by. He's regretted it ever since.