January 2010

He Says / She Says: Online Dating

Author: Keith Kelson & Jean Wharton | Photographer: Anne

This month’s topic is a doozy: online dating. While the Internet is semi-useful in everyday life, having to resort to online dating sites is a cry for help. Especially if you’re a man. That’s one surefire way to get weeded out of the gene pool.

Women can use online dating sites without being ridiculed, but it’s not something I’d recommend. After all ladies, if he’s using an online dating service, is he really someone you’d want to meet?

I may come off sounding like a grumpy old man, but I have to point out that grumpy old men tend to be right 95 percent of the time. I say, if you’re using the Internet to find true love, you really need to step away from the mouse and get out and meet some people in real life.

Don’t be suckered by those heartwarming ads—you know, the adorable commercials showcasing the happily married couples that supposedly met online at one of the gazillion dating Web sites that promises to find you true love. My personal favorite is the one that uses Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be” for background music. Now, of course I’d never actually suggest that anyone use their service unless radioactive zombies were running amok snacking on people, but I really like that song.

Some people will point out that none other than the world famous Dr. Phil himself is okay with being associated online dating. I would be, too, if some company backed a dump truck filled with money up to my house. I might be mistaken, but I think Dr. Phil also endorses kitty litter, pimento spread and those little pine tree-shaped air fresheners that you hang on your car’s rearview mirror. While kitty litter and an air freshener that makes your car smell like a pine forest are useful products, being a shill for pimento spread and online dating is reason enough to distrust Dr. Phil. Well, that and the fact that he’s a mental health “professional” with a television show.

I’m always amazed when people are willing to toss aside what has literally worked for centuries for the latest and greatest fad to come down the interstate. What’s so revolutionary about using a computer for dating? Online dating is the cyberspace equivalent of putting your picture and phone number on a supermarket’s community bulletin board. Truth be told, the supermarket’s community bulletin board would probably yield better results given the horror stories I’ve heard from people who have actually paid money to use those dating websites. Why pay to meet people in cyberspace whom you would avoid at all costs in real life?

Maybe it’s the lure of the computer’s efficient and logical approach to finding your perfect match. We’re constantly reminded that computers are perfect and efficient. Newsflash: Computers are built and programmed by human beings, and humans are rarely efficient or logical. Just ask Mr. Spock and he’ll tell you that Captain Kirk and the rest of the crew on USS Enterprise were some of the most illogical beings he had the misfortune of working with. The same holds true for the cats who program computers for a living.

I don’t know about you readers, but whenever I meet a computer programmer, I always marvel at how socially competent they are and how they have love lives that even a rock star would envy. I’m kidding, of course. Most of those cats are terrified of women, so I would be more than a little hesitant if I had to put my love life in their hands. I mean, if they knew anything about dating and finding true love, would they be programming computers for a living? That’s another surefire way to make women avoid you.

Long before computers or the Internet, people met the old fashioned way—by being set up by friends or family members or simply striking up a conversation with someone of the opposite sex. Now it may seem quaint and perhaps even ancient by today’s gigabyte-driven society, where people are more concerned with how many “friends” they have on Facebook, but I’ve found that the old ways are best. The electronics stores may be filled with really cool useful gadgets, but when it comes to finding love, stick to interacting with people without using cyberspace.

After all, if you’re a woman looking for love, it’s been proven that your social network of friends, family and even co-workers is far more effective than any dating Web site will ever be. There’s nothing wrong with letting folks know that you would like to meet someone. Chances are there are more than a few prospects that you might have overlooked.

Men have to be a little more proactive. Sure, you can try to use your social network like women do; but when men are trying to find love, they have to remember that finding love is just like fishing. You don’t question what kind of bait the fish responds to or what motivates the fish. Give the fish what the fish wants if you want to catch that particular fish, dude.

But maybe my advice would resonate more if I had a catchy song like Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain” or “Super Freak” by Rick James playing in the background.

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If I think long and hard, I can remember life without the Internet. Many CH2 readers may not have memories back that far (nor do they know a life without cell phones, iPods or personal computers). But even more readers have years of Internet-free memories (and also possess the skills to look something up in the phone book, use a dictionary and even handwrite a letter). I can remember the first time I used America Online, hearing that fuzzy dialing sound as the computer took me to the “information superhighway.” Once I was there, I sort of remember scratching my head and asking, “Now what?”

I am dependent on the Internet in a multitude of ways. I would be clueless as to how I would make airline or hotel reservations without the Internet. I love reading maps and looking at guide books, but when I’m looking for the fastest route to a new destination, I am very rarely found pouring over the atlas with pen and paper. I love milling through the Sunday Times for hours, but we don’t get the paper delivered to our house daily, and when I want to go to the movies, I check show times online.

On an Internet dependence scale of one to 10, one being a person who is able to check and send e-mails and 10 being blog-following, twitter-updating, YouTube-posting, stock-trading, message board reader who has multiple online identities, I’d say I’m about a six and a half.

Being a six and a half means that I have lost more than my fair share of hours doodling around on the Internet, but honestly, sometimes it overwhelms me. The sheer amount of information, opinions and personal accounts available on every subject is enough to flare up anyone’s attention deficit disorder. Of all the areas of our now exceedingly fast lives that the Internet has revolutionized, dating has to be one of the most radical.

But not everything the Internet has to offer is beneficial and, in my opinion, online dating is one of the areas that needs careful scrutiny. The problem is that many users with an eight or higher level of Internet dependency lack the selective scruples to safely date online. Let’s not forget that I am a single girl, so clearly I’ve dipped a toe (albeit a tentative one) into the online dating pool. So, in this case, I speak from some experience when I say it is not as easy as the cute match.com ad makes it look. Nor is it as easy as my married friends think.

First of all, you have to present yourself in a very flat way, with very little room for miscalculation. There are pictures to post, questions to answer and self descriptions to elaborate on which all leave you very exposed to interpretation and judgment. A typo or grammatical error could alienate the more scholarly online dater. A strong political or religious stance might scare off the less assertive, but no less sweet, interesting and attractive searcher.

I don’t care what anyone says about their hobbies, interests, hopes and dreams in their profile, it’s the pictures people care about most. I understand that makes me sound shallow, but anyone who tells you different is just being polite. That’s why a quick perusal of any one of the dating dot-coms reveals shirtless fellas and glammed-up ladies. No one with a legitimate desire to have their online dating experience work out well is going to post an unflattering picture to their account. For reasons unbeknown to me, there are countless pictures of guys standing next to their cars and boats and sitting on motorcycles. Apparently, for some women, mode of transport is important, and they want to know upfront what the guy’s got parked in the garage or docked at the marina; but I venture to guess that most girls online aren’t pictured next to their Hondas.

On the subject of online dating, I may come off sounding like a hater. I know the success stories are out there (please see the November issue for my opinion of what deems a relationship successful). There are dating sites dedicated to even the most specific subculture; it boggles the mind. If it wasn’t working for somebody, the digital dating scene wouldn’t be booming, as it appears to be.

Online dating is to relationships as browsing is to shopping. It’s nice to look in the windows of your favorite shop, imagine getting everything you want, and enjoy some time laughing with a friend at a ridiculous item, but rarely do you try something on or make a purchase. Hey, the Match.com ad told me, “It’s okay to look.” There’s someone out there for everyone, right? That’s what single girls have to believe on a Saturday night when, donning mascara, tight jeans and high heels, they hit the town with friends. Maybe the Internet dating scene is easier? That’s what people said in the ’70s about personal ads in local papers.

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