Friday, July 9, 2010

The Addictive, Compelling, Seductive Appeal of Online Dating

In a reply to a woman on a online dating site who asked what my experience has been with meeting any women who made it to Date Two, here's a synopsis of my take on the online dating conundrum and my newly invented "Dating Appeal Funnel" to illustrate how I think most of us filter our dating choices in real live:
Online I've met, serendipitously, an old girlfriend who I dated more than once.  I've also met a lovely woman who has become a friend and we compare experiences with the opposite sex online.  Outside of those two, I haven't met a single woman I've dated more than once over a period of two years (during which I have to admit I have not 'worked it' very hard!).  I have been on many dates that, from the first moment, turned out to have been a waste of time because the woman could not resist the temptation to engage in 'false advertising' on her online profile and no longer looked like her decades old photos.  I've been on a few more in which the woman had posted recent pics, but thought I looked older than my photos  (In the latter cases, as they were both attractive and in their early 30's, I also suspect my interest in making it to Date Two led to them 'smelling desperation' and helped to ensure 'click-delete' after Date One!)  
OFFline, however, I have little difficulty meeting women with whom we move through several dates.  Why the distinct difference?
Online is just not suited to what human beings need in terms of being first and foremost visual-social creatures.  Versus dogs, who start with sniffing, then assess size, opportunity, dominance and willingness, humans start with visual cues about confidence, sensuality, warmth, attraction, size, shape, grace, sociability, etc., then get close enough to check for a pheromone match and voice cues, humour and intellectual clues, etc.  Only AFTER checking these factors do we move into more complex 'personality profile' attributes (background, culture, interests, etc).  Online dating attempts, unsuccessfully, to lead us through this experiential sensory pyramid in reverse. 
Double-click for a larger view.
Online dating generally results in wasting a HUGE amount of time because, on the basis of a few thumbnails and some heavily biased self-selected profile information, we have to send out dozens of contact attempts, only to face 'click-delete' on the majority.  On the few that result in a response, we have to invest even MORE time in back and forth banter, arrange a meeting, and only then finally experience, in the first few moments of meeting for the coffee date-'chemistry check', what we would have already have learned about the other person if we'd met in real life at the office, in public, or at a wedding, etc.  
Adding to our drive to use online dating is a simple, but only recently understood 'hook', oxytocin, also called "the love hormone".  It is the hormone that floods new mother's brains and ensures bonding, but it also spikes in the brain when we hug someone, or socialize with friends or family.  It rises when we go on Facebook or text message friends.  It is also very addictive.  Whenever we check our online dating profiles in the slim hope that someone has fallen in love with us based upon our thumbnails and interests, our brain begins to suck in oxytocin.  It GULPS the hormone when we discover a new admirer.  ("Dr. Love" FastCompany.com article link)
So, the appeal of the online dating 'promise' is addictive and compelling.  The experience, for anyone mature enough to be discerning, is frustrating and disappointing.  As I've described it in many posts on this blog, online really has to be treated as what it currently is (before two way video becomes more common): identical to getting on the subway to go to work in the morning.  You might, on any given trip, see someone you think looks interesting at a distance and maybe, just MAYBE, you will see them at the same time at the same place on another day and might meet their eye and establish contact... but probably not!
 Romantic Love is an Addiction, Girls.  FIGHT IT!

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