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Sex + Relationships

Her Gay Best Friend: the Tangled (Inter) Web – a Beginner’s Guide to Online Dating

We need to talk.

It’s a little frustrating isn’t it? The superficial dialogue. The forced chemistry. Getting your hopes up week after week only to have them dashed against the rocks again and again and again.

No, I’m not talking about the most recent episodes of Glee. Although looking back, what I said seems strangely apropos…

But I’m talking about something that’s even more exhausting, with marginally fewer musical numbers to distract you from the amount of mind-numbing agony you’re in. That’s right. I’m talking about dating.

Sure, for some girls dating is a seemingly daily self-esteem boost (as well as a cost-effective way of getting fed on a college student’s budget). But I can see it in your eyes. You’re tired of it. Tired of worrying about where to find guys, how to tell if he’s interested, how to work thoughtful questions into the dinner conversation while eating your meal as attractively as humanly possible.

Honestly, I’m tired of it too.

But in this hi-tech world of new-fangled whatchamacallits and doodads that make our grandparents defecate in terror, we’ve got some other options. Besides a future as nuns.

Options like the Internet! It’s magical, it’s fantastical — hell, you’re using it right now! And people just like you (who don’t have the patience to sit through an hour of dinner only to realize they’ve ended up with a dud) paved the way for dating to enter this more efficient and less degrading medium.

But you know as well as anyone that you can’t always trust what you find online. I mean, just the other day I found an online review that called Sex and the City 2 a work of cinematic genius. And let’s be honest here — the only genius in that movie was whoever decided Kim Cattrall shouldn’t be topless again.

So how do you make sure that you’re being safe in the rough and tumble world of Internet romance, and that you’re getting the most out of your online dating experience?

Why, with your brain of course. And with these little pearls of wisdom from your favorite Carnegie Mellon undergrad.

Yes, I mean me. Don’t be rude.

1. A picture’s worth a thousand words.

You’re no stranger to the challenge of choosing a suitable profile picture. Lord knows you probably checked your Facebook right before reading this (and will again right after). Well most dating sites are no different. You sift through your murky past of photos and choose one that best represents you to an online community of lovelorn strangers.

But, as your parents probably told you many times in your childhood, you shouldn’t trust a stranger just because they look nice. And as I’ve told you many times at parties, you shouldn’t trust a stranger just because they have nice teeth and muscles.

It seems that when asked for a recent picture, some shady individuals decide to Alanis Morrissette the word “recent,” and choose pictures from years (and pounds and wrinkles) ago. Yes, it’s very possible that the buff lacrosse player you see in the picture may have since gotten kicked off the team for poor grades and stress-eaten his way to a size XXL.

But even if the picture is up to date (and weight), a cute guy may not be all that he seems. Take a moment to think about the picture he chose, and what it means about him.

For example, he may look spiffy in the webcam pic he chose for his profile, but more often than not a webcam pic is a subtle way of saying, “I’m not outgoing enough to end up in social situations where people take pictures.”
 
Worse yet are pictures taken in the mirror, which say, “Not only am I never in social situations where people take pictures, but I’m not smart enough to figure out the self-timer on my camera.”

Is that the kind of man you want to date?

2. Also worth a thousand words: A hundred words.

You can only know so much about someone from the picture they show you. And so it only makes sense that dating sites often give you an opportunity to write a bio spelling out your interests, hobbies, and (depending on the site) sexual fetishes for prospective suitors.

Yet it’s often the case that it’s not what a person says that tells you the most about them, but rather how they say it.

Take a look at this bio and see if you can read between the lines.

Name’s John. I’m a student. I’d almost given up on the whole dating thing, but I figured I’d give it one last shot online. Couldn’t hurt, right? Not really into parties or clubs, I’d rather have a chill night in. Not a big sports guy, but I definitely stay active. I like music, movies, reading. Looking for a girl who I can relate to.

Does this guy seem like he’d make a nice companion? Maybe. If you don’t mind boring pessimists.

I know what you might be thinking. “Just because he doesn’t like parties and has had a rough time dating, he’s boring and a pessimist? Way to be judgmental, Scott.”

But if you read between the lines, you’ll see what I mean. Take a look.

Name’s John. (I already said my name in my profile, but I don’t know how else to start. Now I’ll give you some more generic information.)I’m a student. (After a few failures)I’d almost given up on the whole dating thing (even though I’m really young and have years of potential dating ahead of me), but I figured I’d give it one last shot online. Couldn’t hurt, right? (Pity me.) (I’m really negative, so now I’m going to tell you what I don’t like instead of what I do like.)Not really into parties or clubs, I’d rather have a chill night in. Not a big sports guy, but I definitely stay active (If you call walking to class and taking the stairs active). I like music, movies, reading (and all other nonspecific interests that apply to pretty much everyone). Looking for a girl who I can relate to (just like every other straight man that exists).

See how useful literary analysis is? And you thought those four years of high school English were a waste of time.

3. Don’t hang around with the trash.

The Internet is essentially like a small virtual world. There are virtual stores for you to shop in, virtual books for you to read, and dating sites like singles bars and clubs where you can meet men. And just as there are bars where men are shady, unattractive, and smell a little like vomit, there are dating sites that are a little more questionable than others.

These sites attract an unsavory bunch, and should be avoided as diligently as that guy on the soccer team who doesn’t like condoms or the case of gonorrhea he got last month. You shouldn’t even bother reading the personal ads on sites like Craigslist if you’re looking for a healthy, functional relationship with a normal individual.

The following ad from Craigslist illustrates my point.

Title: College guy looking for a date

Body: Sup? 20 year-old college student here. If you are reading this, then you haven’t been paying attention to what your friend Scott has been saying.

Shame on you! I always pay attention when it’s your turn to talk.

Like I said, you shouldn’t even bother reading the ads on shady websites like Craigslist. That’s how a girl gets tempted into dating a wacko.

Do your research and find out what sites have gotten positive reviews from users (Match.com is a safe bet, but it may be a little early for eHarmony). That way you can make sure you end up in a forum with people who are looking for the same thing as you, and who are less likely to lure you back to their house, make a suit out of your skin, and do a dance in front a mirror with their wiener tucked in.

Just remember: there’s no shame in online dating. Just keep your eyes out, your guard up, and only use Craigslist if you need an apartment or couch.
 
God knows I don’t want to come across a you-suit in a thrift store.

Scott Rosenfeld is a junior at Carnegie Mellon University pursuing a double major in Professional Writing and Psychology. Originally from the D.C metropolitan area, Scott grew up with a great passion for the written word. From the time he first read Dr. Seuss, he realized the overwhelming power of human language, as well as the limitless joy of making up words for the sake of rhyme. On campus, Scott keeps busy working as the prose editor for the Oakland Review Literary Journal and an editor for the Thought: Undergraduate Research Journal. He was also recently elected to the position of editor-in-chief for The Cut, Carnegie Mellon’s music magazine, for which he has worked as the copy manager for the past year. As editor-in-chief, he hopes to buy all of his staff a thneed. Because a thneed, he feels, is something that everyone needs.
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