Two months ago, I decided to try online dating. Over the course of this experiment, I created a grand total of 16 profiles on 16 different sites. I probably received messages from over a hundred guys altogether. Many were just looking for a hookup. Some turned into great friends. And a special few turned into fleeting relationships that burst into flames in record time (and not in a good way).
Oh yeah, and I’m still single.
The 16 services that I joined covered just about every kind of “dating” – no-strings-attached hookups, casual dating, relationship-seeking dating, and even cash-for-goods arrangements. Sadly, my overall impression of the experience as a whole is that most people on these sites are really just looking for sex, no matter what their profile says or what they tell you upfront. Obviously, this isn’t true for every single person in online dating, especially since I did meet a (small) handful of good people – and I was being highly selective. But it really did seem like the majority of messages I was fielding were not from people who honestly wanted to get to know me as a person. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with looking for casual sex, it’s just that after a while, I was feeling more and more objectified. It became clearer how much I really just wanted to feel truly appreciated – as a person with likes, dislikes, and goals. Not just a body or a pretty face.
Maybe I should just get a bunch of cats and be done with it. Let’s be serious, that actually sounds really appealing. And it’s probably for the best.
But if there’s one thing I love about dating above all else, it’s that it teaches me so much about myself and the world that I couldn’t have discovered on my own. So, here are some things I’ve learned from my experiment; may it inspire you to go forth and date (or collect cats).
1) If you start talking to a guy, and he offers a lot of affection up front, it is a huge red flag. I cannot stress this enough. If someone is saying things like, “I think you’re the one for me,” and “We’re two people looking for love, and I think I found it,” on the second day of communication, it is not a good sign. This person is either soliciting you for sex or actively trying to string you along for giggles. No good can come of this.
2) Something possessed me to re-download Tinder last week. Since October, they’ve updated the app and made some small changes. One of these is in the screen that pops up when a match occurs – it used to give you the options of “Start Chatting” or “Find More Matches”. Now, the options are “Send a Message” or “Keep Playing”. This little change reinforces my suspicion that Tinder users are largely treating the app as a game or a hookup finder, not a means of meeting real potential dates. I think this is true now more than ever.
3) Not every guy who opens with a horrible pick up line is actually bad news. Take this guy for example:
That actually turned out to be a really funny repartee, and I’m glad I gave him a chance. We joked about the details of our fake breakup for like two days.
4) When someone gives you a true compliment (“I like your smile!” vs. “You’re hot”) or comments on something they read on your profile, it’s a good sign. It shows that they took a few moments to think about what they wanted to say to you, and also that they actually cared to learn something about you.
5) Just because someone is a match for you online doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a match for you in real life. People are more than words on a screen and answers to a series of questions, no matter how sophisticated the matching algorithm is. When you meet someone in real life, there’s a chance you might not get along in person even though you like the same things. There is no simple explanation for why – maybe it’s not based on logic. But I do know this: when a guy who has a bookcase full of classics shows absolutely no interest in your work when you tell him that you’re a writer, it’s a bad sign.
I keep hearing that online dating is becoming more commonplace – 1 in 4 successful couples meet online these days, etc. Here at the end of my experiment, I went about deleting some of my profiles. On my way out, eHarmony offered me some final pulls. They reported some unfounded claim that a shockingly small number of people are truly “happy”, promising that eHarmony lovers are actually happier than other people. Now, I don’t know about you, but I think happiness is about much more than meeting someone on a website. Whether it’s curling up and watching Netflix, going to a bar with your best friends, or even getting a whole bunch of cats – you don’t need to be in a relationship to be happy. And if I had to learn that just to tell the story, I’d gladly do it again any day.
Here endeth the lesson.